All it took was one moment for it all to click for the New York Islanders.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau batted home the game-winning goal with 4:09 remaining in regulation to lift the Islanders to a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday evening.
On a day in which they spent a majority of the time chasing the game, getting outshot 27-17 by Boston, the lone tally came when Adam Pelech’s slapshot from the left point was tipped up by the stick of Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. Hovering in front of Tuukka Rask’s goal, Pageau waited for the puck to come down to around the mid-torso area before batting it into the back of the net.
“It was obviously nice to score that goal,” Pageau said. “It was a great play by Pelly to get the puck to the net… we showed a lot of character and we stuck with it.”
It awarded Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov with a well-earned shutout victory, his second in as many starts this season as he set away all Boston attacks. The 32-year-old netminder was forced to miss Saturday’s 5-0 loss to the Rangers after taking a puck to the jaw during warmups from teammate Cal Clutterbuck.
The 120-consecutive minutes of shutout hockey is a new Islanders team record to start a season.
“I just think he’s really calm,” Trotz said. “I think that’s the No. 1 thing that he’s really calm in these situations. You look around the league, when goalies are playing really well, you’ll find there’s a calmness to them.”
He had to be on-point from the very start, as the Islanders spent much of the first period playing on their heels as they were outshot 11-3 in the opening 20 minutes, including a hit post in the opening minute by Brad Marchand. Had it not been for the veteran goalie, this game would have been over much earlier than it was.
They would find their legs in the second to outshoot Boston 7-6, but threats on Rask’s goal were minimal even with five power plays on the night that didn’t generate much momentum in New York’s favor.
“We’re not going to be perfect every night but I wanted to get the response from the group,” Trotz said of his team’s ability to follow up their 5-0 loss to the Rangers on Saturday. “It wasn’t our best game but we weren’t as bad as the score would indicate. It was all a lot of individual stuff, it was a mindset that bothered me more than anything. I thought our mindset was better after the first period.
Both clubs had Grade A chances in the third, Craig Smith hitting the post early in the third before Josh Bailey played a beautiful pass to spring Anthony Beauvillier on a breakaway, but Rask was up to the challenge.
“It seems like every time we play them it’s pretty tight,” Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “They play a structured game, a heavy game, kind of playoff hockey and we like to play that way too.”