Turns out Saturday afternoon at the Bruins' own garden, against the other New York team, was not easy either.
The Islanders hung around, got a couple of opportunistic one-goal leads -- first on the powerplay when Matt Moulson finished a nice play from John Tavares, then at even strength when Moulson returned the favor -- and Evgeni Nabokov held the fort with two desperately fantastic saves in the waning seconds.
The 3-2 Islanders regulation win leaves the Bruins 10 points behind the Short Island Smurfs with 19 games to play.
The first Islanders goal was not by the Moulson-JT combo, however; rather, a suddenly familiar source: Josh Bailey nabbed the Islanders first goal of the game for the third consecutive game, giving him four goals in the three games since he moved to right wing next to Frans Nielsen. As is his wont, Nielsen set up the play by carrying west-east across the Bruins zone, crossing up the Bruins checking line in the process. Bailey was a little lucky to convert the pass, as he partially whiffed on the shot just enough for it to slip under Tuukka Rask.
(Rask, incidentally, would leave the game mid-way through the second period after hurting his left leg stretching to stop a Matt Martin shot. Play was whistled, which was good for the Bruins, as the Islanders would've had an open shot at an unminded goal with Rask down. Tim Thomas gave up two goals on 13 shots in relief.)
Bailey's goal tied it at 1-1 in the first period just 2:26 after Milan Lucic had banged in a powerplay goal for the Bruins. That was part of a first period where the refs called soft penalties on both teams while randomly letting similar stick fouls go. The implicit message: "We're setting a standard here! We just ... don't know what it is exactly."
Moulson's go-ahead goal came in the second on the powerplay, with Frans Nielsen taking advantage of the Bruins' extra pressure at the point to walk it down low and feed Tavares, who backhanded a typically fine pass to Moulson.
The Bruins tied it on a bit of a set play, Zdeno Chara banking a long pass off the boards following a faceoff on the left side of the Bruins' half of the neutral zone. Tyler Seguin simply blew by Andrew MacDonald on the outside in retrieving the puck and taking it to the net for the move to the backhand to beat Evgeni Nabokov.
The next notable Bruins set play did not work as well. A ring around the boards from their own zone sailed all the way to the corner to Nabokov's right, and confusion over whether it was icing or not led to a 3-on-3 the other way for the Islanders. This time the JT-Moulson combo was reversed, with Tavares nicely tipping in Moulson's shot through a screen.
This, Nabby's post-game (always good) and Howie and
Yogi Butch at the MSG highlights page on the official site:
Steve Staios Trip of the Night: Daniel Paille made a nice move along the boards high in the Islanders zone, so Staios reached in and took his leg out with his stick -- though Kyle Okposo would've been right there to keep Paille from getting too far. Two minutes for immobility.
Fortunately the Islanders PK killed it, keeping the score at 2-2. It was Staios' 21st minor of the season, putting him behind only the 27 compiled by P.A. Parenteau -- who also took a bad, but weak, slashing penalty to negate a powerplay.
Parenteau vs. Chara: Bad penalty aside (and to be fair, Zdeno Chara could've gotten a penalty for his retaliatory slash the way this game was going), Parenteau had a nice, active game. The game began with Chara stepping up to lay a big check on Parenteau, but it resulted in an odd-man rush for the Islanders. Parenteau and Chara had some yappy and physical run-ins throughout the game as Claude Julien had Chara out against the Tavares line all afternoon.
The Islanders staff noticed, as Scott Allen even brought up the running PAP-Chara battle during his traditional second-intermission "smaht hahd" interview.
Grabner Flu: Michael Grabner was a late scratch with the flu, so Nino Niederreiter returned to the lineup to play 11:47 and record one shot, two hits and one shot block. He lined up with Casey Cizikas and Kyle Okposo.
AARP Entertainment: Seeing Staios battle ex-teammate Brian Rolston (who assisted on Lucic's powerplay goal, of course) along the boards. No canes were broken in the exchange, but several clouds received a tongue-lashing.
Faceoffs: Since we talked faceoffs (always a topic that gets a little more attention than it deserves) with the late game draw against Washington earlier this week, it's only fair to note this: John Tavares took the critical own-zone draw in the final minute ... and lost. Bruins scoring chances resulted.
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The Bruins have an argument that they were hard done by on the game-winning goal, as Andrew MacDonald -- who you'd think would've confirmed the icing by touching the puck -- somehow received an assist on the play. Apparently the linesman never thought anyone touched it, though several players stopped.
Take the breaks when you get 'em. The Isles were outshot 27-17 through two periods and gave up Seguin's tying goal to put things on a knife's edge. In the third shots were better, 8-7 Isles, with the game still entertainingly tight.
But with the first line scoring and the Nielsen-Bailey line scoring and the powerplay scoring and the PK killing four of five Bruins powerplays and Nabokov making some critical saves with the game on the line: Well, that's a recipe for stealing a win.
Tomorrow: The Isles return home to try it again Sunday afternoon vs. the Devils.