Despite a terrible first and mostly uninspiring final two periods, the Isles were within a puncher's chance to claim something from the game until the final minutes. The backbreaker was a go-ahead and ultimately game-winner conceded in the final 10 seconds of the second period. Once the Bruins got their insurance goal with 2:34 left in regulation, the Isles pulled their goalie for a sixth attacker but mounted nothing.
Of milestone note, John Tavares scored his 200th NHL regular season goal. Thomas Greiss was fine in goal until the final tally. But mostly it was a "passenger" kind of afternoon, with few forwards finding any notable space in the Bruins zone, and making poor decisions in their own.
First Period: All That Work Deserves a Power Play Somewhere
Other than a couple of shifts that created pressure and decent rebounds, the Islanders were overmatched throughout the first period as the Bruins sustained good forechecks and forced lots of turnovers. Even when openings did emerge, the passes were off, most notably when Thomas Hickey had a lane to send Kyle Okposo alone through the neutral zone but instead sent it too far, too soon, for icing.
Greiss kept the Isles afloat as they were outshot 14-5, while the Islanders offense rarely mounted shots from anywhere but well outside.
Despite all their miscues, the Isles weren't scored against until some misfortune late in the period. Lee Stempniak drew a penalty on Hickey that upon further review was pretty perplexing: Hickey didn't actually do anything other than look bad as Stempniak turned him inside out on a move down the right wing boards, eventually falling from the misdirection of his own move.
But it looked bad in live play, and with the Bruins dominating play the officials must've felt like there should be a penalty somewhere, so up went the official's arm for the first penalty (holding) of the game at 17:44 of the first period. The Isles penalty kill looked uncharacteristically messy -- much like the team's whole first period -- and Loui Eriksson scored 45 seconds into it as he swooped around the top of the crease to tuck the puck in past Greiss.
Second Period: Got it Back, Gave it Back
The second period opened, as it really needed to, much better for the Isles. They were creating good looks right off the bat, with Josh Bailey hitting the crossbar after a give-and-go with Okposo, a Johnny Boychuk shot trickling toward the gaping net before being rescued by alert Bruin Kevan Miller, and Anders Lee hitting the post after beating Tuukka Rask through the legs on a breakaway.
After that, things settled down into the familiar slog between these two teams. But good forechecking by fourth -line wingers Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin and a pinch by Travis Hamonic kept the puck in the Bruins zone through a change to the first line. By the time Okposo and Bailey were on for Clutterbuck and Martin, Okposo was tripped and sent airborne on a wraparound attempt that bounced off the side of the frame and right to Tavares, who was "just trying to find quiet space" as he scored on a nifty upstairs backhand from a tough angle.
"Aww, sick. You know Johnny, that what he do."
Kevan Miller returns to form by assisting an opposition goal, helped hugely by Krug and Chara.— StanleyCup ofChowder (@cupofchowdah) March 12, 2016
Good to have you back, Kevan. Not.
Greiss had to make a few more outstanding saves to get the Isles through the period, and it almost worked. Though the Isles had a few more chances -- they outshot the Bruins 12-11 in this frame -- you knew that the new #1 would be a big reason if they ended up getting any points out of this game.
Alas, they were caught running around late in the period, David Krejci was allowed to complete a full Comeau-esque zonal orbit, and he found David Pastrnak -- who'd backed off to elude Frans Nielsen's coverage -- at the doorstep to beat Greiss with nine seconds left on the clock. From 1-1 after 40 to 2-1 with 20 minutes to break down the Bruins defense in their own building.
Third Period: Nope.
As you might expect with the Bruins holding a one-goal lead, the third began with a slog. The officials woke up a bit when Hickey dumped Patrice Bergeron in the corner for his second penalty of the game. Thankfully, the Bruins took offense as if it was some kind of assault, with Brad Marchand confronting Hickey and Zdeno Chara confronting Travis Hamonic for stepping in. Hamonic drew a little uppercut jab by Chara right in front of the ref, which by NHL officiating roulette was enough to throw the big man in the box and make it a four-on-four.
The whole sequence was so filled with "old time hockey" cliches you could practically smell the excess testosterone in the air, looking for an outlet.
When your older sibling hits you and you look at your parents like "well...." pic.twitter.com/xgIIYBWl9T— connor (@ConIsles) March 12, 2016
As the Bruins went into safe mode, there wasn't much work for Greiss in the third. The Isles chances were limited to diagonal tip-in attempts with a forward rushing the net, but none connected to truly test Rask. The Bruins were doing well to block the shooting lanes from the point, too, resulting in some frustrating dumps to the sideboards or the back of the net.
The Isles had a few shouts for a penalty here and there, but this fairly clean contest had clearly been designated a playoff rules game. With 2:34 left, Pastrnak sealed it on a shot Greiss would probably like back. The Isles D tried to get a change as they broke out through the neutral zone, and the quick counterattack allowed Pastrnak to gain the line and shoot inside the near post from the right wing circle.
It was the second goal of the game for Pastrnak, who like many Bruins forwards had an excellent game.
The Sum of Things
"We've been playing catch-up all night."
--Tavares during the second intermission
"They make it hard on you, they get in your way. There's some obstruction, but that's how it is this time of year."
Think the Isles have had a busy schedule lately? It only gets busier. They have two consecutive days without a game only one more time between now and the end of the season on April 10.
Things resume Monday night at home with the Panthers -- who are battling the Bruins for tops in the division -- followed by Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
So, once again, games in hand are nice. But you have to cash them in. And set your alarm clock on time.