Islanders topple Bruins, advance to NHL playoffs third round

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The New York Saints — ahem, Islanders — are marching on to the Stanley Cup semifinals.

In a game in which the Bruins were seemingly on their last legs, the Islanders were a determined force that played ferociously through 60 minutes on the way to a 6-2 win in front of an unruly crowd of 12,000 at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.

With the victory, the Isles extended their streak to an absurd 8-0 at home when competing in series-clinching Game 6’s and earned themselves another crack at the Lightning, who ended their season in the bubble playoffs last season.

The semifinal series is expected to begin this weekend in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins unraveled in the second period. Whether it was the relentlessness of the crowd, who began taunting Boston goalie Tuukka Rask the moment he stepped onto the ice, or the endless hits the Islanders landed beginning to take their toll, Boston was suddenly playing hesitant — and the Islanders ambushed.

Brock Nelson — or, Big Game Brock as we like to say — scored twice. The first came off a breakaway he created himself after pickpocketing Bruins defenseman Matt Gryzelcyk, while the other stemmed from a Boston turnover before Josh Bailey centered the puck to Nelson for a tucked backhander.

Kyle Palmieri celebrates during the Islanders' series-clinching win Wednesday.
Kyle Palmieri celebrates during the Islanders’ series-clinching win Wednesday.
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The Bruins couldn’t get out of their zone. And while the Islanders were finding ways to put the puck on net, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy was too busy pinning Travis Zajac to the ice when Kyle Palmieri netted his seventh goal of the playoffs at 16:07 to take a 4-1 lead.

Brad Marchand had two power-play goals, including one just over five minutes into the third period to make it a two-goal game. But the Islanders hung on until Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock each potted empty-net goals to seal the deal.

After both teams exchanged a handful of prime opportunities in the opening minutes, Zajac banged home a rebound from a long Noah Dobson shot at 8:52 for the 1-0 lead. The referees then broke out their whistles, you know, the ones that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy thought they’d lost.

Islanders fans cheer during Game 6.
Islanders fans cheer during Game 6.
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Anthony Beauvillier was called for tripping and the Islanders made a couple big blocks to stymie the Bruins’ power play. But Casey Cizikas was sent to the box for tripping just as Beauvillier’s infraction was about to expire, and Boston capitalized.

Bruins top-line winger David Pastrnak cunningly passed up his lethal shot and instead found Brad Marchand on the other side of the zone for the equalizer at 17:36.

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