Patrice Bergeron scored a hat trick as the Boston Bruins steadily picked apart the New York Islanders Thursday night to the tune of a 5-2 final in Brooklyn. It extended the Bruins’ 15-game streak without a regulation loss, and extended the Islanders misery even though they recently came off a three-game win “streak.”
For angst-ridden Islanders fans observing the team for any sign of life or defensive responsibility, it was actually not a terrible game, despite the final goals-against tally.
The Islanders were not dominated up and down, as they were in recent encounters with the Bruins, and indeed as they were in three of their last four games, including two goalie-fortified victories. Their defensive commitment was much more -- well, that it was present at all was a step forward. Jaroslav Halak finally got a game with under 35 shots faced! (Okay, it was just 34.)
You could even argue reasonably that the goals that made the difference were tough luck: Through two periods play and shots and shot attempts were even — and not of the high-event, 43-28 that has been their custom — and the Isles trailed 3-1 by virtue of a weird broken faceoff play that slipped by Halak and another shot that went in off a knee.
On the surface, everything is the same: They relied on Mathew Barzal for their offense (with a great takeaway, and setup, to Jordan Eberle for a great shot). They gave up three goals when the game was just over halfway through. Two of Bergeron’s goals came after jaw-dropping defensive miscues partly involving their most important defenseman. The Bergeron-Brad Marchand combo ate them alive, as they do most teams, though Barzal drew first blood against that line and the team that could have had him too.
But while shots were 19-18 for the Isles at the second intermission, the third period was a tepid one of quiet defeat. They opened the final frame with a fresh power play creating a great chance to get back in the game, but the first unit made quick work of wasting that with mind-boggling offside infractions. The second unit created some decent looks, but nothing resulted.
They didn’t really threaten again until their fifth shot of the period, with 5:36 left (shots were 12-4 at that point), when John Tavares finished on a setup from returning linemate Josh Bailey after really lazy or overconfident (or both) play by Charlie McAvoy. (Tonight’s Calder Referendum goes to Barzal in a sure decision over the rookie Bruins blueliner.)
With how both teams have been playing, this was an assumed loss coming in. Relatively speaking, the Isles’ performance was actually, weirdly, a small sign of hope that they might remember defense is an important thing.
But the result hurts and add to the ominous feeling as they head on a tough road trip to take them into the All-Star break.
The Isles are not back home until Jan. 30 vs. the Panthers. The intervening pre-All-Star road trip includes Saturday in Chicago, Monday in Arizona, then an uncomfortably generous two whole games before their final stop, in Vegas.