The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders were scoreless after one period of play in Game 4 but there was plenty of action and entertainment in what became Saturday Fight Night at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders had combined for 282 hits in the first three games of the East Division Final and it almost seemed inevitable the individual battles that have been developing through that physical play were going to boil over at some point. Combine that with the fact the Islanders did not want this game to potentially be the last NHL game in the Coliseum and that point arrived in the first period of Game 4. There were two fights, a cross-check to the face of Boston Bruins forward Curtis Lazar from Islanders forward Mathew Barzal, and 29 combined hits.
Star players like Barzal, and before him, Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall were getting into it, with Hall actually dropping the gloves with Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield 7:28 into the period. As NHL on NBC analyst Pierre McGuire pointed out after Hall got into his first fight since 2011, Hall and Mayfield have been battling each other hard all series and it finally boiled over.
Not even two minutes after Hall and Mayfield traded blows, Boston Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi and Islanders forward Matt Martin went toe-to-toe at 9:23 of the opening frame. This fight was the result of a hard hit on Barzal by Tinordi seconds earlier. That hit led to Barzal getting frustrated and cross-checking Laxzar when Lazar came to hit him right after that.
Ironically on Friday, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked if he thought the officials in the series have done a good job of letting the players play and be physical. While Cassidy didn’t agree with penalties called on Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand resulting from scrums, he did agree that the physical play was being allowed and has made for a grueling series for the players and an entertaining one for fans.
“I do think they have allowed this to be what we expected, a physical series between the whistles and two evenly-matched teams battling it out every shift,” Cassidy said.