The Islanders are making a habit of bouncing back from a loss to advance in the playoffs.
With a 4-0 win over the Capitals on Thursday night in Toronto, the Islanders clinched a spot in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second year in a row behind a pair of goals from Anthony Beauvillier. If the Flyers eliminate the Canadiens on Friday, the Islanders will face Philadelphia in the second round. If Montreal comes back to win the series, the Islanders draw the Bruins.
Beauvillier’s two-goal performance was his second this postseason in a series-clinching game, mirroring his two tallies in the Game 4 win over the Panthers in the qualifying round. He joins Bobby Nystrom and Mike Bossy as the only Islanders to score twice multiple times in potential series-clinching games in a single postseason.
“When we’re playing the right way, you can feel it on the bench, it’s contagious.” Josh Bailey, who assisted both Beauvillier goals and added an empty-net goal, said on a Zoom call. “As for Beau, it’s been a lot of fun to play with him. He’s really stepped up his game, been a big leader for us, scored some big goals.
“I think that second goal, just paying the price, getting to the net, he’s doing a lot of things well, it’s been a lot of fun to play with him.”
With six goals Beauvillier is now in a three-way tie for most goals in this postseason, along with Colorado’s Nazem Kadri and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat.
“It’s not really something you focus on,” Beauvillier said of leading the league. “Just try to go out there and play our best, try to help your team to win. That’s my main focus these last couple weeks and it’s been working. It’s going to be the same focus moving on, it’s really not something I’m thinking about.”
The Islanders built a 2-0 lead on Beauvillier’s goals through the first two periods, which included their first power-play goal since Game 2. Taking the fewest penalties they have all series, the Islanders made their most disciplined game count.
After five straight games with the same lineup, the Islanders were forced to make some adjustments as Cal Clutterbuck was ruled unfit to play ahead of Game 5. Derick Brassard was scratched while Michael Dal Colle and Ross Johnston, who made his NHL playoff debut, were inserted into the lineup.
“Those guys were hungry tonight,” Casey Cizikas said of Dal Colle and Johnston. “You want to be in the game, you want to be playing in the playoffs. To get your opportunity here, you’re going to give it everything you have and those guys stepped up.”
Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom returned to the lineup for the first time since Game 1, when a hit from Anders Lee sent him into concussion protocol. Backstrom made his presence felt with some pressure on net, but the Islanders refused to miss a second opportunity to close out the Capitals. Semyon Varlamov saved all 21 shots he faced.
A little less than halfway through the first period, Varlamov was forced to make back-to-back saves on Richard Panik at the doorstep before Capitals fourth-line center Nic Dowd got called for hooking Cizikas at 10:02. Seconds into the power play, Beauvillier banged home a loose puck for the 1-0 lead.
Forty seconds later, the Islanders were incorrectly called for too many men on the ice, which led to a dangerous opportunity from Jakub Vrana but Varlamov made the save. The Islanders went back on the power play at 14:12 after Lars Eller hooked Mat Barzal, but their second man-advantage was not as effective as they posted just one shot.
At 9:33 of the second period, Beauvillier took a feed from Bailey and crashed the crease before flipping a backhander past Braden Holtby to put the Islanders up 2-0.
A little more than a minute into the third, Varlamov robbed Backstrom with a glove save to keep the Capitals off the board. Nick Leddy and Bailey both registered empty-net goals to close out the game.
“Any time you get a chance to close a team out, you want to get it done,” Bailey said. “Last game hurt, we talked about it and tried to tweak a couple things, really just make sure we were ready to go from the drop of the puck. I thought a lot of guys stepped up and did what needed to be done.”