On a joyous day on which the city opened up fully for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit over a year ago, the Bruins made sure they didn’t mess up the script.
In a fun back-and-forth Game 1 of the best-of-seven second-round series with the New York Islanders, the Bruins broke open a tie game in the third period with a pair of goals to capture a 5-2 victory on Saturday.
Showing up to the Garden wearing a blue floral suit that was every bit as loud as the crowd would be, David Pastrnak netted a hat trick to lead the way.
Charlie McAvoy broke a 2-2 tie at 6:20 of the third period to give the B’s a 3-2 lead. The Bruins had just killed off a too many men penalty (their third of the playoffs), with Nick Ritchie serving the two minutes. He stayed on the ice after it was killed and, after the B’s controlled the puck in the offensive zone, he parked himself in front of goalie Ilya Sorokin. David Krejci teed it up for McAvoy, who whistled it past the helpless Sorokin.
Then, with 4:10 left in regulation, Pastrnak completed the hat trick. Catching the Islanders on a change, Pastrnak used a Taylor Hall middle rush as a screen to beat Sorokin for the insurance goal.
Hall added an empty-netter to finish it off.
The crowd was the star of the night in the early going. It was the first time a full house was allowed in the Garden for a Bruins game since March 7, 2020, and the fans made sure they were going to be heard.
Over an hour before puck drop, the people who made it up to the balcony were already raucous and the buzz only grew as game time approached. The standard “No Smoking” warning was booed. Ditto for the “Two beer per customer” announcement.
AJ Quetta, the Bishop Feehan High School player who was paralyzed in a game during the schoolboy season, was introduced as the night’s honorary banner captain and the spine-tingling roar from the stands was reminiscent the one Zdeno Chara received before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final when he suited up with a shattered jaw.
Even the powerful voice of anthem singer Todd Angilly had to compete with the fans as they belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” with him.
Then finally, it was time to play hockey and it was pretty much what was expected of this series. The Bruins punched, the Islanders counter-punched. And when the B’s tried to break out of their zone, the Isles made it tough on them. That’s how the visitors got on the board first. Off a defensive zone draw, Pastrnak jumped on the puck and tried to create a break for himself up the right wing, but the Islander defenseman held the blue line, sent it back deep and, after the Isles cycled a bit, Charlie McAvoy had to hook Brock Nelson going to the net.
On the ensuing power play, the B’s failed to clear the zone a couple of times — Brandon Carlo had a rough first period — and Anthony Beauvillier deflected a Noah Dobson shot past Tuukka Rask at 11:48.
But the B’s got it back before the period was out. With 32.3 seconds left in the first, Andy Greene was called for high-sticking Charlie Coyle and the B’s wasted no time. After Patrice Bergeron battled to win a faceoff in the right dot, Sorokin kicked out a David Krejci shot right to Pastrnak on the left wing. Pastrnak waited patiently for Sorokin to over-commit to the short side and then Pastrnak beat him to the far side with 23.3 seconds in the period.
The B’s held a 18-8 shot advantage in the first, but that was misleading, allowed too many quick odd-man rushes and decent scoring chances.
They played better overall in the second but could not shake the gum-on-the-shoe Islanders. Pastrnak gave the B’s their first lead of the game at 11:08 with his second goal of the game. After some heavy pressure by the B’s top line, Brad Marchand fed Bergeron for his patented snap shot at the right side of the slot. He didn’t seem to get a lot on it, but it produced another fat rebound for Pastrnak, who buried it into the half empty net.
But the Isles would not go away. They tied it up at 12:34 on a long Adam Pelech slapper. Mat Barzal had just whiffed on a Leo Komarov pass on what would have been an easy backdoor goal, but the Islanders recovered the puck. Jordan Eberle fed Pelech at the the middle of the blue line and, whether not not Jeremy Lauzon screened him, Rask appeared to react an instant late, allowing Pelech’s shot to beat him over the glove arm.
The B’s kept up the attack and held a 30-12 shot advantage after two, but the only count that mattered was the 2-2 score. The B’s also lost Craig Smith to a lower body injury in the second and he did not return.