UNIONDALE — Conversions from Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier and the immovability of goaltender Semyon Varlamov lifted the New York Islanders to a 2-1 shootout victory Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum over the Boston Bruins for their sixth-straight win and their fourth-consecutive over their temporary division rivals.
The result ensures that the Islanders remain on top of the Eastern Division while their home point streak stayed alive for a 14th-straight game dating back to last season — the fifth-longest in franchise history. They also are on an overall point streak that was extended to nine games.
Varlamov’s heroics kept the Islanders in contention despite being outplayed for much of the game’s first two periods. The veteran netminder stopped 32 shots on the night, including several highlight-worthy saves during a Bruins power play in the second period that could’ve put the game out of sight.
He outdueled former Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak, who had a much stronger showing than the one he had just two weeks ago when he was beaten seven times. He allowed just a single goal in regulation on 27 shots.
After largely dominating the first period that had the Islanders defense skating in circles, the Bruins’ vaunted first line finally broke through via the power play following an Anders Lee trip.
With 27.7 seconds left, David Pastrnak managed to sneak a wrister from the right point past a stumbling Varlamov, who lost his position after overcommitting on a previous shot.
Boston further bossed proceedings in the second period, outshooting the Islanders 12-8 for a second-straight frame and coming up with golden opportunities — specifically on an Oliver Wahlstrom boarding penalty that was called despite his check happening nowhere near the boards.
After working the puck around the zone, a save from Varlamov saw a rebound on the doorstep for David Krejci, who had a yawning net. But his attempt was batted out of mid-air by a desperate Varlamov, who was sterling to keep the Islanders’ deficit at one during the penalty kill.
“That was a big save in the right moment. A key save, I would say,” Varlamov said. “The score was 1-0 and if they score that goal, it’s 2-0. I was kinda out of position, the puck bounced back on his stick. The net was wide-open so the guy was shooting on an empty net. I had a chance to stop it with my stick and it was kind of a lucky play.”
“It gave our bench a real boost,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We were fortunate, we had lots of desperation, but we got a big save… That was a huge turning point in the game.”
Wahlstrom was called for another boarding penalty just five minutes after his first offense, though his awkward hit on Connor Clifton prompted illegal retaliation from both Brad Marchand and Craig Smith, giving the Islanders a man advantage.
They made the Bruins pay as Mathew Barzal listed down the left-wing, found Jean-Gabriel Pageau behind the net for an instantaneous pass to Brock Nelson, who one-timed it past Halak to tie things up 3:42 left in the second.
The Islanders nearly got the go-ahead goal five minutes into the third when Halak fell down while the Bruins turned the puck over in their own zone. Barzal had Anders Lee in front of the wide-open goal, but the pass skipped over his stick.
After allowing 24 shots in two periods, the Islanders gave up just four in the third to get to overtime.
“Every time we match up against them, it’s pretty tight,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “Every time, it’s a tough game. They’re tough, they’re physical, they like to play on the forecheck. We like being in those games, those playoff-type games. We’re comfortable there and that’s how it’s going to be.”
The result offered a happy recap for Trotz, who was coaching in his 1,700th game on Tuesday night, becoming just the third head coach in NHL history to do so.