Islanders’ Mathew Barzal scores first goal of playoffs in loss

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If there were a time for Mathew Barzal to score his first goal of the postseason, the game-tying tally with 5 ½ minutes left in regulation of a swing Game 3 to force overtime was a pretty poetic script.

The ending may have been ruined by Bruins top-line winger Brad Marchand, who scored in overtime to hand the Isles a 2-1 loss at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night. But it was a monkey off the star center’s back after he had gone eight games in the playoffs without a single goal.

“I thought he had lots of jump to his game,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the loss, which put the Isles behind 2-1 in the series. “He was dangerous. We had some guys going tonight and he was one of them.”

The 23-year-old Barzal, who is competing in the third playoff run of his career, now has one goal and four assists this postseason.

Mathew Barzal celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period of the Islanders' 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins.
Mathew Barzal celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period of the Islanders’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins.
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In overtime, Barzal had a prime opportunity to end the game when Jordan Eberle forced a turnover in the offensive zone and put it on net. The puck rebounded right to Barzal’s stick for a shot in front. But Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask stayed in front of both opportunities, as he often did Thursday.

It took every NHL team that competed in the 2019-20 bubble playoffs some time to get used to playing in an empty arena, where you could hear every word on the ice and momentum was hard to come by when goals were met with silence from the stands.

Now, as the world continues to dig itself out of the coronavirus pandemic, NHL teams are having to readjust to playing in front of screaming fans — all while still following the COVID-19 protocols implemented by the league.

Trotz had mentioned prior to Game 2 that it was becoming difficult to communicate with his players on the bench while wearing a mask. Both Boston’s TD Garden and Nassau Coliseum are nearly back to full capacity, as the latter welcomed 12,000 fans for Game 3 on Thursday night.

Asked after practice Wednesday if he expects the mask mandate on the bench to change, Trotz said it was being mulled over by the NHL.

“It’s been brought up to the league,” he said. “I know they’re looking at it. It is getting harder. I’m watching games and the coaches are wearing chinstraps right now because the players can’t hear you. We’re yelling as hard as we can and, during the playoffs, the masks do muffle it a bit. When it’s time for us to take them off, the league will give us an indication. But it is a little tougher.”

Trotz and his coaching staff were still wearing facemasks behind the bench Thursday.

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