- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
The Boston Bruins were sent home on Wednesday night, and the New York Islanders are the third team to reach the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Tonight, the Colorado Avalanche — the top team in the regular season — will try to avoid a similar fate as the Bruins. But the Avs’ task isn’t easy: they have to win in Vegas, where the Golden Knights pummeled them in Games 3 and 4 of this series.
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Game 6: Colorado Avalanche at Vegas Golden Knights | 9 p.m. (Knights lead 3-2)
Colorado is one of the fastest and most skilled teams in the league. But the Avs will suffer their second straight second-round elimination if they can’t beat Vegas tonight. Though the Avs are typically lauded as one of the best-built teams in the league, a loss in this series could trigger questions about whether the Avs are built for the playoffs, and if the team needs more “grit” or “jam.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are looking to capitalize off the home crowd yet again and clinch a spot in the NHL’s final four for the third time in four years. As Vegas stormed back to win three straight games in this series, the team is leaning into a familiar mindset.
“It’s been a while since we were the underdog, but we’re back at it in this series,” Jonathan Marchessault said. “We’re playing the best line in the NHL, the best team in the NHL, and we’re playing like there’s no tomorrow. We’re surprising the world of hockey right now by being up 3-2.”
About last night
New York Islanders 6, Boston Bruins 2 (Isles win 4-2)
Nassau Coliseum is an iconic hockey building. It’s in its last year of existence before the team moves to the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park, and the Islanders are sending the old barn out with a bang. Fresh off being criticized by Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy for thinking they’re the “New York Saints,” the Islanders made the Bruins pay with a three-goal outburst in the second period. New York put on a clinic of how to play with a lead, limiting Boston to just five shots in the third period.
The Isles get a rematch with the Lightning in the semifinal round, where once again, they’ll likely be underdogs. The Bruins now face an offseason of tough questions. Veterans Tuukka Rask and David Krejci are both unrestricted free agents. Rask was not 100% healthy for Game 6, as the Bruins also dealt with injuries on the blue line.
“Opportunities when you can win and have a really good team, they don’t come around that often,” Brad Marchand said. “That’s what makes it tough. We felt like we had a really good group this year.” Full recap
Three stars of the night
Brock Nelson, C, New York Islanders
He’s developing a reputation as a big-game player. Nelson scored two more goals on Wednesday to pace New York. Over the last two years, only Brayden Point and Nathan MacKinnon have more playoff goals than Nelson’s 15.
Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins
Many players on the Bruins saw their production dry up against the Islanders. Not Marchand, who ended the season on a six-game point streak that included Boston’s only two goals on Wednesday night.
Travis Zajac, RW, New York Islanders
The veteran beat Charlie McAvoy on a rebound in front of the net to score the opening goal of the game.
He and Kyle Palmieri are rewarding Lou Lamoriello’s faith in them, as the former New Jersey GM acquired both Devils at the trade deadline.
“I can’t say enough good things about those guys, not only as players but people,” Josh Bailey said. “I think two additions that have really went a long way for us in the room, on the ice. Just great people. They’ve really added another element to our team and a big reason why we’re here talking right now.”
Stat of the day
Talk about consistency: Lamoriello has reached the semifinals/Conference finals in five different decades as a GM, first with the Devils (1987-2015) and now with the Islanders (2018-present).
1980s: 1 (1988)
1990s: 2 (1994, 1995)
2000s: 3 (2000, 2001, 2003)
2010s: 1 (2012)
2020s: 2 (2020, 2021)
The NHL announced the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, for the league’s best defenseman: Adam Fox (New York Rangers), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche). The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Fox and Makar are both on their entry-level contracts, and just two years removed from playing college hockey, where they were also both Hobey Baker finalists. If Fox wins, he will be just the second player to win the Norris in his second NHL season. The other? A Hall of Famer named Bobby Orr.
Social media posts of the day
Bruce Cassidy isn’t going to hear the end of his New York Saints comments for a while, is he?
Islanders fans did plenty of their own trolling, too, both before the game and during it.
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