The New York Islanders concluded a 1-2-1 road trip with a 3-1 loss to the Bruins in Boston, in a game where their opponent took two major penalties but also scored the only power play goal of the game.
Tuukka Rask was very strong for the Bruins in stopping 30 shots, including several big ones while the game was still tied or within a one-goal margin, and the Bruins skaters blocked 21 more to frustrate the Isles.
The first period belonged almost completely to the Bruins, who allowed only four shots to reach Tuukka Rask while putting 11 on Jaroslav Halak. That included one unsuccessful Isles power play, which would be a theme for the night, but things were still scoreless at the first intermission.
The Isles were much better in the second period, at times forcing Bruins turnovers while at other times merely accepting the inexplicable gifts the Bruins were giving them. But Rask was very strong in the middle frame, stopping 14 shots, and Halak gave up a stinker to Brad Marchand for the only goal of the period.
Marchand’s goal came on the power play after a too many men call against the Isles, but the goal wasn’t a traditional 5-on-4 consequence: rather, just a rush down the left wing and low shot to beat Halak.
The period also included a fight by Jake DeBrusk, who took some sort of exception to a pretty benign check by Casey Cizikas on star 19-year-old Long Beach native Charlie McAvoy, leading to a 10-minute misconduct and instigator for DeBrusk.
Both DeBrusk and Marchand would feature in the third period’s theater.
First, the Dr. Jekyll side of the certified cheap shot artist Marchand revealed itself for approximately the 792nd time in his career when he went full stride across the rink to take a run at John Tavares. Tavares didn’t see him coming, and Marchand’s rush caught Tavares with arms to the head, something you imagine the league will review with the chronic offender.
Tavares said he's fine. Asked about the hit: "The video speaks for itself. Don't have much to say about it."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 10, 2017
That came in the first minute of the third and drew a major penalty on Marchand, which you’d think would be a great chance to tie and overcome the shot block- and Rask-fueled frustrations of the previous period.
But Ryan Pulock -- who had another strong game next to Nick Leddy in Johnny Boychuk’s absence — received two minutes for retaliatory crosschecking on the incident. And Calvin de Haan was whistled for a pretty weak tripping penalty as he simply battled for position on a loose puck.
So there wasn’t much power play to speak of — and even some time killing a dangerous 4-on-3 with Pulock and de Haan both in the box — despite Marchand’s five-minute penalty.
Soon after Marchand’s penalty expired, DeBrusk doubled the Bruins lead on a nice spin and shot from the slot after he took the puck out from behind the Bruins’ net.
One of the Bruins’ other “perpetual line crossers,” in the parlance of our times, gave the Isles a chance to get back in the game. David Backes took exception to a clean Thomas Hickey check, and crosschecked Hickey as he was prone on the ice. Andrew Ladd took exception to that, wrestled, dropped a glove, tried to get Backes’ helmet off, but at some point Backes did the casual purposeful-but-oh-no-accident head butt.
That meant a major and game misconduct for Backes, with head butting generally frowned upon.
But the Isles couldn’t cash in on the five minute power play, though Anders Lee’s 17th goal of the season came right after it expired, with the Isles still moving the puck around the Bruins zone in power play style.
That left a little under four minutes to try to get the equalizer and repeat the late point-salvaging drama they exhibited in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
And a little more pressure from the Isles did follow, including the first stretch with Halak pulled for a sixth attacker. But with the attackers running out of steam, the Bruins pounced and Danton Heinen scored an easy empty-net insurance goal from center ice with 42 seconds to go.
Rask was very good, the Bruins blocked everything. This is the kind of game I wouldn't be mad about losing if it wasn't for this death march division.— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) December 10, 2017
Ladd: "They did a pretty good job of boxing out and they blocked a lot of shots tonight. You have to give them credit, but it's on us to do more." #NYIvsBOS— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 10, 2017
So the Islanders have lost two straight -- one in overtime — with Pulock in next to Leddy during Boychuk’s injury. I hope they don’t let the coincidence of the record dissuade them from thinking this means Pulock should get more time. Still, they clearly also like Adam Pelech (who played) and Scott Mayfield (who was scratched) and want them all to get time. It seems as with Boychuk’s injury, that rotation is just going to continue unless otherwise forced by health.
The Isles return home Monday for a meeting with the Capitals, in another Metro death match.