He came dressed like a shower curtain, then washed away the New York Islanders.
David Pastrnak’s flamboyant arena entrance on Saturday was somehow exceeded by his audacious performance as the fashionista scored three times to drive the Boston Bruins to a 5-2 victory in Game 1 of the National Hockey League’s East Division final.
The 25-year-old winger’s hat-trick goal with 4:10 remaining was the most poignant moment on a memorable night for hockey, as the TD Garden was filled with fans for the first time since the coronavirus erupted 15 months ago.
There was a lot of built-up hat inventory for the 17,400 fans to unload when Pastrnak cut to the middle of the ice on a two-on-two, used teammate Taylor Hall’s moving pick and wristed in his fifth goal in three playoff games.
“I was trying to enjoy the moment, looking around the crowd,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters on Zoom. “It’s been a long time since we had a full house here at the Garden. Obviously, we want to play well for the group and for each other, but also for the fans that have continued to support us and came out tonight. I think it was just a good moment to look around and see a lot of joy.”
The downpour of ball caps on the ice was only the second-biggest fashion statement of the night after the Bruins tweeted out a photo of Pastrnak arriving for work in a tighty-whitey suit boldly detailed with navy blue foliage lifted from an English country garden: vines and flowers and birds.
Thoughts on David Pastrnak's pre-game drip tonight?
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 29, 2021
If it’s true that you dress how you feel, the suit should have been a warning to the Islanders because when a player as supremely skilled as Pastrnak is feeling that confident, he’s capable of anything.
“It’s more like motivation, right?” the Czech said of his suit selection, which was topped by a wide-brimmed black hat. “You need to play good. I like fashion. The thing I’m going to say is it’s a boring one today that I decided (to wear), compared to what I was going to wear. I still have a couple of crazy ones in the closet. Hopefully, I’m bold enough to wear them. I love fashion, and as long as I feel good, I don’t really care what other people think.”
We think he looked pretty awesome, even in his work clothes.
Best players win
Coached by Barry Trotz and managed by Lou Lamoriello, nobody embodies “team” like the Islanders do. They’ll have more games to prove they’re the best team in this series. But at the top of the lineups, the Bruins indisputably have the best players. And they were the difference in Game 1.
Pastrnak and linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand combined for six points and 19 shots — that’s on-goal, not attempts (18 Islanders skaters combined for six points and 22 shots). But Boston’s second line was also excellent, with David Krejci’s three assists including a gift empty-netter for Hall.
And the Bruins’ outstanding young defenceman, Charlie McAvoy, broke a 2-2 tie at 6:20 of the third period with a one-timer from the point through Nick Ritchie’s screen.
“I thought our forwards played great tonight,” McAvoy said. “I thought they attacked with tons of pace and our skill was on display. Lots of great chances and looks. When we’re moving like that, when we’re attacking and using each other, I think oftentimes we’re able to carry the momentum of the game.”
It’s difficult to identify a weakness in the New York lineup, but also hard to find a game-breaker to match Pastrnak, Bergeron or Marchand. Islander Mat Barzal had another quiet night and has no goals and three assists in seven playoff games.
Hall of Fame company
Here’s how special Pastrnak is: his second Stanley Cup playoff hat trick leaves him in Bruins’ history behind only Phil Esposito (four), Johnny Bucyk and Cam Neely (three each).
“It felt like 22 players playing their first NHL game, you know?” Pastrnak said of playing in front of a full house and full-throated crowd. “Everybody looking around and so many people. It’s a different sport with them in the building. Definitely kind of warms your heart and kind of reminds you why you play this sport.”
Getting to the goalie
The loss was hardly the fault of New York goalie Ilya Sorokin, whose team was outshot 40-22. But the 25-year-old Russian rookie, who replaced starter Semyon Varlamov during the Islanders’ first-round win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, looked vulnerable after entering the game with a 4-0 playoff record and .943 save rate.
Varlamov struggled to locate several pucks lying around him and spring-loaded rebounds all game, including on Pastrnak’s second goal that made it 2-1 in the second period.
The Bruins just knocked down the goalie the Islanders were riding.
(Over) rating Taylor Hall
Picked up on discount from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, the 29-year-old Hall, who had never won a full playoff series until Boston eliminated the Washington Capitals last week, has four points in six post-season games for the Bruins.
With five shots on target and three other misses from excellent shooting positions, Hall could have matched Pastrnak’s hat trick on Saturday but instead settled for one empty-net point. Kind of the story of his career so far – except Hall actually has only seven goals in 20 playoff games.
But as a complementary player, like a Phil Kessel to the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Hall is positioned to succeed on a strong team that isn’t asking him to be the go-to guy. His line with Krejci looked excellent, although its third member, Craig Smith, left the game with a lower-body injury after a hit from Cal Clutterbuck.
Game 2 of the series is Monday in Boston.