But Casey Cizikas did.
The veteran energy centre from Toronto skated onto a loose puck and buried a breakaway winner in overtime as the Islanders beat the Bruins 4-3 to tie at 1-1 an East Division Final that will be a test of survival if the teams continue to hammer one another like they did Monday.
Cizikas’ first National Hockey League playoff goal since he scored in 2015 against the Washington Capitals, who were coached then by Islanders bench boss Barry Trotz, came about an hour after Matthews and Marner and the Maple Leafs face-planted again.
But as the Montreal Canadiens moved on to the North Division Final against the Winnipeg Jets, we were left wondering after the Islanders-Bruins slugfest how in the world any Canadian champion is going to stand up against the six monsters still playing south of the American border.
Boston and New York look formidable – and may not be as good as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights.
With fans back in American buildings, this looks as good as playoff hockey gets.
Cizikas registered six hits before he scored the knockout blow at 14:48 of overtime, and combined with linemates Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck for 20 pelts. The Islanders outhit the Bruins 48-47 and, honestly, the official scorers were not including dirty looks, foul language and bad breath. The game was that physical.
“Both teams are pretty veteran groups, so these type of games, I think everybody's comfortable in,” Trotz said. “There's two teams that play very similar styles, have good character on both sides, have a lot of the same elements. It's a physical game. So you've got bring some backbone and you've got to bring some courage.”
RIDING THE ROLLER COASTER
Here’s the game in a sentence: TD Garden was bonkers, Bruins led 1-0, Islanders led 3-1, Bruins scored twice in the second half of the third period to tie it 3-3, TD Garden was even louder, and then the Islanders won in OT when Boston defenceman Jeremy Lauzon’s cross-ice pass at the New York blueline hit a teammate’s skate and bounced into Cizikas’ path. Everybody hit everybody (would be the second sentence).
Trotz, who won a Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018 and is coaching in the playoffs’ second round for the seventh straight season, called a timeout after Brad Marchand’s screened shot beat Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov to make it 3-3 with 4:54 remaining in regulation time.
Trotz explained: “Had to call a timeout and just said: 'Listen, you've got to forget about everything that we've done to this point because we've done a hell of a job. Let's make sure that we take care of business. All we have to do is get the next goal. And they did.
“That was a helluva hockey game, two good teams going nose-to-nose. That's the type of series I expected going into it, and I expect the same going back to the island (for Game 3 on Thursday). They had a lot of momentum from the crowd. We fought through that, and that showed a lot of character for our group.”
Shots were 35-22 for Boston when Trotz called his timeout, 17-7 for New York the rest of the way.
CASEY AT THE BAT
You’d think after waiting six years for a playoff goal -- and two months since his last regular-season goal -- Cizikas would have a lot to say about outskating Lauzon and whizzing a wrist shot over goalie Tuukka Rask’s right shoulder.
“I knew that D-man was going to be tracking me hard,” Cizikas said. “Just skated as fast as I can and I get a shot off, and I was able to beat him.”
Upon further prodding, the 30-year-old career Islander admitted of his scoring drought: “You definitely think about it. You want to contribute, you want to score goals. But at the end of the day, that's not our line's goal. We want to create havoc out there, we want to create momentum for the lineup.”
They did that, too.
“This is sort of a character win for us, and there's no one that has bigger character in the dressing room,” Trotz said of Cizikas. “He gives you everything's he's got, shift in and shift out, total team guy, great teammate, all that. I can guarantee you when he came in, our room exploded with guys hugging him and all that. That's what makes this group really special. Everybody's a hero in the room.”
Boston isn’t really the big, bad Bruins anymore but the penalties they took Monday hurt them. David Pastrnak, a hat-trick hero in Boston’s 5-2 win Saturday in Game 1, unsuccessfully attempted to high-jump Varlamov in the second period. His goalie-interference penalty allowed Josh Bailey’s bank shot to tie it 1-1 on the power play. When Bruins defenceman Brandon Carlo received a cross-checking penalty for engaging Leo Komarov after a whistle, the Islanders power play made it 3-1 on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s goal.
Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk could also face an NHL player-safety review for cross-checking Islander defenceman Scott Mayfield in the back of the head. That one wasn’t called.
Struggling New York forward Mathew Barzal drew a second assist on Pageau’s goal and was far better Monday than he was Saturday. But he still has zero goals and four assists through eight playoff games after leading the Islanders with 45 points during the regular season – 10 more than his nearest teammate.
Asked Monday morning about Barzal’s surprising struggle, Trotz offered a 95-second oral dissertation on how top players succeed in the playoffs.
“You look at different series as they've gone along and the top players get really (tough) matchups,” he said. “They have to really fight for their inches to have any success in the playoffs. I think in the regular season, there's more room. There just is, so they're able to create. And Mat has been able to do that. He's done it in past playoffs; he's been able to create and put up pretty good numbers. This year, it's a little different. I think. . . those players have to fight for the inches, and if you're not willing to fight for those inches, then you don't get those inches and you don't get those opportunities. So he's got to dig in. This is not about, you know, who he's playing with. It's about Mathew just digging in a little bit, and not getting frustrated. I know he's not. He's been team-first.
“I like his demeanor. In terms of in the past, he could go off the rails, just because of the maturity. I think he's matured the last couple years. So his demeanor in these playoffs, he knows he's going to get (physical attention). Even on line changes, guys are giving you a stick in the ribs, giving you a little whack behind the knee. He used to react to that. It doesn't affect him right now. But the next step is, 'Okay, it's not going my way right now, and how do I find a way?' I think it's just fighting for the inches, being really firm in your battles. To get offence now, you've got to win battles. I don't have a lot of issues with his game. Would I like him to produce a little bit more? Absolutely. And he will, he will. He's a proud player, he's a good player, and I have a lot of trust in him that he's going to be able to do that.”
Here endeth the lesson.