The night began with such promise for the Bruins on Thursday.
Not only did they welcome back some fans into the Garden for the first time in over a year, they jumped all over their nemeses the New York Islanders in the first period, got the ever-elusive secondary scoring from the likes of Karson Kuhlman, Steven Kampfer and Anders Bjork and had all the chances in the world to finally drop an L on the Islanders.
But it was not a feel-good evening for the home team. They not only lost Tuukka Rask (upper body injury, left after the first period) and Kuhlman (an apparent hand injury in the third period), they blew a two-goal lead and eventually lost to the Islanders 4-3 in overtime in a game in which their best players were not that. Coach Bruce Cassidy would let them know about it, too.
“We didn’t defend well enough in front of our net, had to switch goalies so it wasn’t easy on (Jaroslav Halak) to go in a situation like that. They finished around the front of the net. We could have been harder, we could have used an extra stop. We got a point out of it. We were in position to get two,” said Cassidy, who had no update on either injured player. “Again, they played winning hockey in the third period, better than we did.”
After a wild finish to regulation, Nick Leddy’s shot leaked through Halak and Anthony Beauvillier cleaned up the loose puck 21 seconds into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 4-3 win at the Garden on Thursday, their fifth in five tries this year against the Bruins.
After Josh Bailey had tied the game at 4:33 of the third, Oliver Wahlstrom had given the Islanders their first lead of the game with 2:56 remaining in the third. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s pass got through David Krejci in the slot and Wahlstrom roofed a backhander for a 3-2 lead.
But the B’s found their work boots in time and got the equalizer on a strong shift by the third line 42 seconds later. Chris Wagner kept a puck alive down low and Charlie Coyle fed Bjork out front for his second of the year.
That effort, in part, led to Cassidy going with Bjork and Coyle to start the OT, but it didn’t last long.
“They had the best jump of anybody,” reasoned Cassidy.
The good vibes were flowing early on. A crowd of 2,191 made itself heard all night and the B’s fed off it at first.
They took a 2-0 lead on a long distance goal from Kuhlman with a screen from Coyle in front and then Kampfer blasted a one-timer on the power-play.
“We heard them from the time we stepped out for the game to the end. It’s what Boston fans are great for. They’re loud, they’re passionate,” said Kampfer. “We definitely fed off their energy tonight and we will going forward. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get a win in the first game back in the building.”
The B’s had the Islanders on the ropes. After taking a 2-0 lead, they got another power-play late in the first but could not capitalize on it. Then at the start of the second Scott Mayfield took a double minor for a high-stick on Patrice Bergeron. It would be a turning point in the game, but not for the B’s.
The Islanders successfully killed it off and then, after Brad Marchand lost the puck high in the offensive zone, the top unit was guilty of a bad change. Mayfield left the box and created a 3-on-2 with Leo Komarov and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Bjork, after changing for Marchand, was not in time to catch up to the trailer Pageau, who took a good bounce off Mayfield’s skate and scored into an empty net.
“It was a bad change and we got frustrated late on the power-play, guys that we rely on, leaders that have bene praised for years here,” said Cassidy. “Disappointed at not being able to just grind it out, change when you’re supposed to, make the plays you’re supposed to on that power-play. Obviously they’re going to get some juice off of killing the penalty, but then they kill the penalty and they cut the deficit in half on a quick strike. They need to be better in that situation. I expect better. That to me gave the Islanders some life when it really wasn’t necessary.”
That goal completely changed the game. And with the spell the Islanders seem to have over the B’s this year, one had the sinking feeling that the game was not going to end well for the B’s. It did not. And now there has to be concern for their No. 1 goalie, to boot.