For the first time in four games at Nassau Coliseum this year, the Bruins got something out of their trip to Long Island — just not everything they wanted.
After the two teams traded power-play goals in regulation, the New York Islanders prevailed in a shootout to take a 2-1 victory Tuesday night.
If you’re counting, that’s one goal in their last two games and zero 5-on-5 goals in the last 125 minutes of play.
But the under-manned Bruins were at least heartened by the fact that they gave as good as they got before the skills competition decided the final result. There were points in the game when Islanders did what they wanted, turning pucks over on the forecheck and thwarting Bruins’ breakout attempts at the Boston blue line. But the B’s also had significant portions of the game when their game-plan of playing below the Islanders’ goal line tilted the ice in their favor. They had a 33-27 shot advantage.
While the third period was their worst of the hockey — they were outshot 9-4 — the B’s were not felled by the fatal mistakes they’d committed in the third periods of the three previous games here.
“I thought we were the better team. We didn’t have much luck around the net,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team is now 0-3-1 on Long Island this season. “Certainly they had a few opportunities. With (Mathew) Barzal we had a few issues with duplication on zone entries, but other than that I liked our team’s effort from start to finish. It was a pretty tight third period. We had issues with our third periods here the last three times, so we played better. We didn’t generate a lot, but didn’t give up a lot either. So we kept ourselves in the game. We had a few opportunities to win it in overtime and didn’t. As a coach, you’re never displeased when your team plays a strong, structured hockey game, we just couldn’t finish enough plays. Or one more play.”
Anthony Beauvillier and Jordan Eberle scored in the shootout against Jaroslav Halak while only David Pastrnak could get one by Semyon Varlamov. Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand were thwarted.
The Bruins survived the third period, then had numerous chances to win it in overtime, including one on which Marchand hit the post. But they could not close the deal and had to settle for one point. And that one slim point is currently the difference between the Bruins now being in fourth place in the East Division to being outside the playoff sctructure looking in.
The last time the B’s were at Nassau Coliseum, they played one of their more uncharacteristic third periods when the Islanders walked all over them en route to a 7-2 blowout. The first few shifts of the game had that same feel to it, as they kept the B’s hemmed in their own end.
But the B’s started to push back midway through the period. The heavy Charlie Coyle line spent a shift inside the New York zone, the ice began to tilt the other way and the B’s got some chances. Jack Studnicka set up Nick Ritchie nicely but Ritchie hit the post.
Late in the period, the B’s got the first power play of the game when Anders Lee tripped Coyle coming out of the Boston zone with 1:11 left in the period and they cashed in on it.
Stuck in a six-game scoring drought on the power-play (0-for-12), the B’s won several puck races on the advantage to keep the play alive and Pastrnak scored his 11th of the season.
With Varlamov playing out of his crease, Matt Grzelcyk tried to hit Marchand with a backdoor pass for a one-timer. The feed was off the mark, but Marchand quickly recovered the puck and passed it up to Pastrnak near the right point. With Varlamov scrambling to get back in the cage, Pastrnak simply put the puck on net and beat the unsettled goaltender with 27.7 seconds left in the period.
“That was big for our power-play. We’ve been going through some tough times he last couple of games,” said Pastrnak. “We just said that we have to move more and fill each other’s spots and just try to be on the move. That’s when we recover pucks…It’s a good PP goal and hopefully it carries over.”
After killing off a Coyle penalty early in the second period, the B’s got a gift of a power play when Oliver Wahlstrom was called for a highly questionable boarding penalty against Jarred Tinordi. On the ensuing PP, the B’s did just about everything but score. Varlamov’s best save came with the inside of his paddle on what looked like a sure David Krejci goal on a backhander.
But after the B’s could not create any distance between themselves and their hosts, the Islanders tied it up late in the second period on a power play of their own when Marchand got his dander up over a hit.
This time Wahlstrom earned his boarding penalty, delivering a heavy blow on Connor Clifton into the side boards. Immediately incensed, Marchand jumped Wahlstrom and delivered a couple of gloves-off blows. Both players went to their respective penalty boxes, but Marchand got the extra two.
And at 16:18, Brock Nelson took a Jean-Gabriel Pageau feed in the slot and beat Halak to tie the game.
The B’s held a 24-16 shot advantage through two periods, but the Isles were right there with them on the scoreboard. And as they’ve always done against the B’s this year, they Islanders found a way to prevail in the end.
Pastrnak feels like the B’s are on the cusp of an offensive breakout.
“The Islanders are good defensive team and it’s just a game like that. You’re going to play a low-scoring game,” said Pastrnak. “Obviously we haven’t scored many goals lately, but at the same time, I think the opportunities are there. We missed a couple empty-netters. Ritch hit a post, the goalie made a great save on Krech. I don’t think it’s frustration. I think it’s a good thing we’re getting the chances and we just have to execute on them and bury them. Obviously you’re going to go through times in the season like this where you’re not going to score five goals a game. It’s too bad. I think we played an overall great game. But we lost in a shootout and it feels like we lost 7-1 again.”