The Islanders were victimized by the Bruins fourth line, which potted both goals, and their own power play, which came up empty on six opportunities. That hurt, because it was a tight game, with overall shots just 19-18 for the Isles.
The regulation loss means the Isles fall two points behind the Bruins, and four behind in the regulation/OT win tiebreaker with just eight games, but one game in hand, left on their schedule.
First Period: Playoff atmosphere
The Islanders came out with good energy, generating pressure and generally doing a lot of Ho-Sanging around the Bruins zone.
Just as the initial push settled down and some visiting Bahhhhston fans were creating a wee bit of noise, John Tavares opened scoring with a beautiful individual effort at the midway point of the first period.
Taking what should’ve been a non-threatening handoff in the Isles zone from Josh Bailey, Tavares worked his way up ice, backed off two defenseman, deked the high forward David Pastrnak and sent a sizzling wrister by Anton Khudobin.
The Isles’ 1-0 lead lasted only 36 seconds.
Riley Nash intercepted Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone to create a two-on-one against Adam Pelech, and Nash used the alotted time to beat Thomas Greiss short side.
The Isles’ young D -- Thomas Hickey was scratched — were nearly victimized on the same type of play a couple minutes later, this time with Pelech being stripped in the neutral zone.
Then the Isles came oh so close in a scramble where Khudobin was out of the net and four Bruins were filling the crease to keep Casey Cizikas and Jason Chimera from converting.
The game’s first penalty came with six minutes left in the first period, a very soft “sometimes we call this, sometimes we don’t” holding call on Nick Leddy while defending David Krejci. (As if to underline the “sometimes” aspect, MSG helpfully aired a replay of Joshua Ho-Sang being held by Adam McQuaid less than a minute prior.)
Sure enough, the Bruins converted late on that damned power play. But David Backes had popped Greiss in the head on the play — Alan Quine had done much less last night in Pittsburgh when a defender sent him into Marc-Andre Fleury — but the officials waited for Doug Weight to challenge the call on the ice to overturn the goal.
The Isles got a power play of their own via too many Bruins on the ice, but they generated little.
Second Period: This power play may be an issue
So that had things at 1-1 entering the second period, which was marked by more failed power plays on both sides. The Ho-Sang-sparked second unit continued to move the puck well but, if not pass up good shots, still somehow fell short on their best looks.
With four minutes left, Stephen Gionta threw a hard hit on Pastrnak when the youngster turned his back, and Pastrnak retaliated with a left-handed stick-in-glove slug to Gionta’s head, drawing a two-minute minor. Isles partisans wanted more than that for targeting the head, but it was so utterly clear that Playoff Rules* were already in effect.
*Playoff Rules, if you’re unaware: Allowing random acts of shocking violence while occasionally calling tacky holding and procedural penalties to give the impression that the law is still being enforced, thus leaving both teams and fanbases equally enraged and questioning why they bother. Equity is achieved!
Once again, nothing generated on that power play. And that would haunt them four minutes into the third period.
Third Period: All on the Line
A good shift of sustained pressure by the Bruins wore the Isles top line down and caught them in transition when Dominic Moore gained the zone and found Nash streaking down the right wing, where he sniped his second goal of the game.
Then Andrew Ladd took a lazy tripping penalty behind the Bruins net, putting the Isles in danger of falling further behind. But the Isles killed that off and Ho-Sang drew a tripping call to give the home team another power play chance.
That power play was better, but still no paydirt.
On to power play number six, after Travis Hamonic was tripped behind the Isles net with 8:15 remaining. That one, too, was a little better but was symbolized by Tavares ringing a shot off the crossbar as Khudobin desperately stacked the pads.
Nikolay Kulemin remained out from his injury suffered last night in Pittsburgh, so Gionta slotted in his place. Shane Prince also returned to the lineup and got second power play unit point duty, bumping Alan Quine from the lineup:
Dennis Seidenberg returned to the lineup after two games as a healthy scratch, bumping Thomas Hickey. That left these pairs:
The Isles are home again Monday night, hosting the Nashville Predators, who are fairly assured of a playoff spot but are in a dogfight for a seed in the Central or one of the West’s wild card spots.