Mathew Barzal was a game-time decision Thursday, but he made a notable impact for the Islanders, despite their 5-4 double-overtime loss to the Flyers.
Following the loss Thursday, in which Barzal recorded a goal and an assist with a team-high nine shots, the Islanders’ first-line center revealed he was somewhat worried after Claude Giroux’s high stick Tuesday in Game 5 gashed his right eye, because his vision was blurred for a second.
“When it happened during the game, I was a bit worried for a few minutes there, just my vision wasn’t all there for a few minutes. Docs stitched me up and I was pretty close to coming back out, maybe if there was a second overtime in Game 5,” he said on a Zoom call. “But I was still a little impaired and slept on it, woke up the next morning feeling really solid. We did a little team stretch and felt good. Morning skated today and vision was 100 [percent] and was ready to go.”
Barzal made himself noticed from the puck drop, laying a big hit on Tyler Pitlick early in the game. After the game, Barzal said he wasn’t necessarily looking to be physical, but he did want to throw himself in the tougher plays in order to get his head back in it after a scary injury.
“I think anytime you come off a freak accident like mine was you want to get yourself right into the game and get some contact,” Barzal said. “Just to have that reassurance that you’re all good and everything is fine.”
On a second-period power play, the 22-year-old Barzal got one of the first shots off on a three-on-two rush before Anders Lee buried the rebound to give the Islanders their first lead of the night, 3-2.
After Michael Raffl tied the game 3-3 roughly 10 minutes later, Barzal capitalized on some stellar pressure from Derick Brassard and ripped the puck past Flyers goalie Carter Hart to take a 4-3 lead into the third period.
“I thought his line created quite a bit,” coach Barry Trotz said of Barzal and the first line. “He had obviously really good legs and he was dangerous and he scored a big goal. After two periods, that was a huge one for us, I thought we came out in the third and we were on top of it.
“We just got to fight through a little adversity. One thing that you do as a team is when you fight through adversity, you grow, you grow as a group. This is part of our process. This is a very good hockey team we’re playing and we’re pretty evenly matched.”
The Islanders are 1-3 in overtime games so far this postseason.
Their lone overtime win was a 2-1 victory over the Capitals in Game 3 of the first-round series, in which they took a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Islanders have lost all three overtime games against the Flyers this series.
The double-overtime loss was the third longest game in Islanders history and the 64th longest game in NHL history.