Hey, hands off our Cuban!
Tim Thomas kept the Bruins alive for two periods, enough to enable the Bruins a fairly lucky 2-0 lead through the first 39:58 of the game. But on an Islanders powerplay with two seconds left in the second period, John Tavares sent one of his magical behind the net passes to Matt Moulson, who did well to corral it and score, and a game that felt like "one of those games" transitioned to "They deserve this, they can do this." It was the first time this season the Bruins lost in regulation after holding a two-goal lead.
Picking up where they left off, the Islanders swarmed the Bruins at the beginning of the third, and Michael Grabner swept home a rebound just 1:28 into the period. The Isles, who outshot the Bruins 41-28, didn't even let up a little until Jack Hillen had scored the go-ahead goal 4:30 later.
There was so much to like about how the Islanders controlled play virtually all night. So much to like about Tavares, about Grabner and Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, I don't know where to start. So just watch the highlights.
The Bruins had won 10 of 12 against the Isles coming into this one. Last meeting, the Bruins jumped the Isles and Nathan Lawson early. That didn't happen tonight. It was back and forth and a bit of a coach's nightmare for the first few minutes of the game, but after that the Islanders steadily took control even while giving up a couple of goals.
That makes the Isles' current run now at 10-3-3.
Notes from Comeback Country
- One of those goals, incidentally, was on a Bruins 5-on-3 created by -- get this -- little Frans Nielsen crosschecking Zdeno Chara to the ice. Either Frans had done some serious weight-lifting, or Chara embellished that one to milk a two-man advantage. (Still a penalty though.) I would deduce that Grabner shares my view of that sequence.
- Justin DiBendetto took a bad penalty early, on one of those contact on an icing calls. He also drew a penalty soon after. That youngster's Sim-like traits are uncanny.
- The 30-30 Club Chase: Moulson's goal was his 29th, Grabner's his 28th. Catch up, JT, catch up!
- Matt Martin: Another home run pass from Josh Bailey to Martin streaking up the wing. Martin made a nice move on the defenseman and had a lane to send it across to Kyle Okposo (two assists) for the tap-in, but Thomas made one of his many, many outstanding saves on the play.
Tavares's Second Office: I've never seen a player make so many precise passes from behind the net to the far side doorstep. It's crazy.
- A statement about the hit in Montreal, or about NHL supplementary discipline? Zdeno Chara, a former Islander remembered fondly by many, was booed more than I can ever remember since leaving the Island. This seemed strong than your average friendly ex-player boo. Was it a reaction to that hit (many fans here thought it was uncharacteristic), or a reaction to the league's handling of it?
- Another game, another 26 saves for Al Montoya. I thought he was really patient, really square tonight. Rebounds controlled short. Defense there to help out quickly. One goal was short-side, but it was on a one-timer on the 5-on-3. We're nowhere near past the Small Sample Size Caveat territory, but...well I mean he has to falter before you can think he's only a stopgap. At .927 and 2.01, certainly his is the best 12-game stretch of goaltending the Islanders have received all year.
- The pairing of Bruno Gervais and Milan Jurcina is still scary, as both were caught counting men while Nathan Horton outmuscled Tavares on Horton's goal. I thought the pair got better as the game went on though. Jurcina ended up being pretty physical.
- Speaking of Horton, he dropped his gloves after throwing a chippy interference on Jack Hillen. Hillen took exception, went to shove Horton, and Horton went straight for the fight. I figure Horton was trying to draw an equalizer, since he was already going to the box. Hillen wisely -- both for personal health and team welfare -- wasn't having anything of it.
- P.A. Parenteau Automatic: Parenteau got the empty-net goal, although it actually never went across the line. Moulson broke him free with the goalie pulled, and Patrice Bergeron hooked him something fierce at the far blueline. With the goalie pulled, that's an automatic goal -- even if the ref had seen Parenteau's miss of the empty net against the Blues Saturday.
If you have NHL Network, Hillen was the call-in tonight on "On the Fly." He talked about the game, and when asked about the Isles run since mid-December he mentioned how much Jack Capuano stresses getting shots on goal from every situation.
Next Up: We do it all again tomorrow, as the Isles travel to Newark. The Devils won in Atlanta on an OT powerplay tonight, so a regulation win Saturday would have the Islanders tie them in the standings.