The Bruins have played 14 games this year and come up empty exactly twice. They have the New York Islanders to thank for that.
In a rarity for this Bruins’ team, the B’s lost both the third period and the special teams battle to the Islanders, falling 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night. The B’s previously lone regulation loss was on Jan. 18. Same rink. Same team.
The Islanders’ Mat Barzal broke a 2-2 tie on the power play at 5:30 of the third, with David Pastrnak in the box for hooking Barzal. After several clearing attempts from the Bruins went for naught, Anders Lee made a backdoor pass to a wide open Barzal, who buried it past Tuukka Rask’s blocker for the 3-2 lead.
The B’s were given a chance. They got a power play with 6:33 remaining, but for the first time this year they allowed a shorthanded goal, one that put them in a hole from which they could not climb out of. After Nick Ritchie and David Krejci collided at the offensive blue line, the Islanders took off on the rush and Jean-Gabriel Pageau made it 4-2 with his second goal of the game and third this year against the B’s.
Playing their third game in four nights, the B’s didn’t not have enough gas in the tank to make one of their patented comebacks. They were outshot 42-30 and struggled all night trying to break pucks out of their end, sometimes because of the Islanders’ strong forecheck, other times because of their own unforced errors.
“I don’t think we had our legs tonight. I don’t think we were making the best decisions,” said Patrice Bergeron, who had a goal and an assist. “We’re playing a great team, a team that’s hard on the forecheck and they got a lot of turnovers out of it and created a lot of chances off that forecheck.”
The loss snapped the B’s five-game win streak and 10-game point streak. Their power play has also gone suddenly called. It went 0-for-2 on Saturday and is 0-for-10 in their last four games.
“We’re a lot of one-and-done,” said Bergeron. “When we’re good, we’re retrieving pucks and on the puck, we keep the puck in their zone, the penalty kill gets tired and that’s when you get your looks that are opening up. We’re going to look at it. I can’t really comment on tonight, I’m going to have to look at it. But over the last four games, we can maybe shoot a little more, retrieve pucks better, take what’s there. Sometimes we may be forcing some plays.”
After being slow out of the gate in their two games against the Rangers, the Bruins had a good start on Saturday on the Island.
The B’s hemmed in the Islanders in their end, so much so that they were able to make a full change of their forward lines. Bergeron, from behind the Islander net, spotted Brad Marchand coming down the slot and sent a beautiful backhand pass right to him. After having his nine-game point streak snapped on Friday, Marchand buried his ninth goal of the season past Semyon Varlamov at 8:41.
That goal served as a bucket of ice water to the Islanders’ faces, for they woke up and tied the game at 11:36. The B’s failed to clear the zone and Ryan Pulock’s centering pass from the right boards got through Kevan Miller and Bergeron to a pair of Islanders at the top of the crease. Both Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Leo Komarov had whacks at it, but it was Pageau’s stick that swiped it past Rask to make it 1-1.
The Islanders continued to play well, and took the lead on a bad goal at 15:16. Jordan Eberle took a shot from the right wing that seemed designed to create a rebound with teammates rushing down the middle of the ice. Rask looked to be attempting a directional save to send the rebound toward the far boards, but the puck went off his right pad and through his five-hole for the 2-1 Islander lead.
The B’s, outshot 15-7 in the first, were able to survive the rest of the period down just a goal, but would have to play the rest of the night without Jakub Zboril, who suffered an upper body injury and did not return. Coach Bruce Cassidy did not have an update after the game.
The second period started much like the first, with the B’s buzzing the Islander zone before New York pushed back. The best early chance may have gone to Craig Smith, who had his spot picked in the far corner but was just off the mark.
The Bruins got a power play at 7:37 when Adam Pelech cross-checked Pastrnak, but they could not get their usual attack going on the advantage.
But the B’s chances started to come. Nick Ritchie later had a great opportunity to tie it when Jake DeBrusk sent him in on a breakaway with an aerial pass. Ritchie lifted it over Varlamov’s shoulder, but it hit the crossbar and bounced out.
The Bruins eventually get the equalizer before the second period was out. With Brandon Carlo joining the rush up the middle of the ice, Marchand made a cross-ice feed to Bergeron and the captain buried it past Varlamov’s blocker at 16:51 for his seventh of the season.
That sent it into he third all tied up. Considering their history, the B’s had to like their chances. This time, however, the third period magic was nowhere to be found.