The Boston Bruins balanced out their home winless record with a perfect standing in road games, beating the New York Islanders Friday night by a 5-3 score (including a late meaningless goal by Thomas Hickey) to collect their third win and a 3-3-1 record overall.
Joonas Kemppainen scored his first career NHL goal and the B’s got tallies from four other players- Brett Connolly, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and David Krejci- plus some solid if unspectacular play in net from backup Jonas Gustavsson.
It was also a strong game from the Boston defense, who played well on the whole as a unit, limiting mistakes and making the defensive plays that they needed to preserve the win.
Boston took the lead on Connolly’s second marker of the season, a scorer’s play that he made as he put on a burst after Brad Marchand put the puck out front from the corner and Connolly zipped past Islanders captain John Tavares in the slot to wire the shot into the net past a surprised Jaroslav Halak.
The lead didn’t hold for long as Marchand was sent off for a hooking call and Justin Bailey converted a rebound to tie the score at 1 goal apiece on the power play. 1:19 later, former Bruin defender and enduring fan favorite Johnny Boychuk (playing career game 400, btw) beat the Boston forward to the puck along the right wall and threw a shot on net that Casey Cizikas redirected into the net past Gustavsson. Ryan Spooner was defending him but allowed the Isles’ fourth line center and top defensive forward to gain body position as he cut to the net for his first goal of the year to make it 2-1.
Boston battled back in the second frame after Claude Julien shook up the lines and put Spooner on the bottom unit with Kemppainen and Tyler Randell. The move paid dividends as Kemppainen, who had been mediocre up until the midway point of the second period, made a sharp play to force a turnover on an attempted Islanders breakout, getting the puck over to Spooner. The skilled center tried to get a shot on net, but the puck hit a defender and bounced right to Kemppainen who was alone in the slot and fired a short-side shot that slipped past Halak to even the score.
Pastrnak later gave Boston the lead back with a tremendous play to corral a Loui Eriksson pass in his skates, kick the puck to his stick, then rifle a bullet shot into the twine for his second goal of the season.
Spooner would score to make it 4-2 in the third when he and Kemppainen did good forechecking work to force a turnover. As Spooner took the puck to the net, he tried a return pass to the Finn, but his attempted feed hit an Islander skate and skittered into the open side.
Krejci put a shot into the empty net to put the game out of reach and extend his streak of points in every game thus far with his fifth goal and 12th point.
Zdeno Chara- The Boston captain played his 1,200th career NHL game against the team that drafted him in 1996. He’s well past his prime, but even so- he played with snarl and toughness tonight, going off late in the second period when he absorbed a hit by Matt Martin but then got elbowed by Cal Clutterbuck, who flew in on the backside and knocked his helmet off. When he plays like that, Chara inspires his young, but hard-working team to dig down a little deeper and stand a little taller in the face of adversity. He’s had a tremendous career and will one day reside in the Hockey Hall of Fame when all is said and done.
Joonas Kemppainen- Right after I tweeted about him being too soft on the puck, he finished a check in the offensive zone, then stripped the Isles of the puck, putting Spooner’s deflection home a couple of ticks later. He added an assist for good measure, getting his first NHL points and playing a more energetic, inspired game alongside Spooner.
Loui Eriksson- At times his skating looks labored, but he’s such a smart player who manages to be in the thick of the action. He tallied a couple of helpers tonight, but it was his solid 200-foot game that caught my eye for much of the night. He was strong on pucks, made good decisions with and without the puck and showed why he’s a savvy veteran and the second highest scoring (to Patrice Bergeron) player from the 2003 NHL draft’s second round.
David Krejci- He only had the empty-net goal to show for what was a solid performance from Boston’s leading scorer. He was particularly effective in puck support tonight and made some nifty plays that didn’t result in goals but reminded everyone that he’s on pace for a career-best year.
Adam McQuaid- Strong game from Darth Quaider. He fought Matt Martin in the opening period after the Isles took the lead, and played capable defense. On one memorable play in the second period, he was a step behind the Islander forward, but stayed with him and broke up the rush/prevented the shot. He also assisted on Krejci’s empty-netter.
Ryan Spooner- He belongs in both Up and Down sections in this one…his play in the first period was not encouraging, but after Julien demoted him, the 23-year-old pivot got some home cooking going with Kemppainen. Up until tonight, his 5v5 play had been a major bone of contention in the early going of the new season, but he salvaged that a bit in the final 40 minutes by taking pucks to the net and being rewarded with a goal and helper.
Brett Connolly- What a snipe. He used his speed and hockey sense to score his second goal of the year. If there is more where that came from, he’s on the way to justifying the deal Peter Chiarelli made for him by surrendering a pair of second-round picks.
Jonas Gustavsson- He gave up three goals tonight, but was superb in the second by not allowing any of New York’s shots to get by him, opening the door for Boston to re-take the lead. He’s a bit scrambly at times, leaving fat rebounds and is an adventure when he roams from his crease to play the puck, but in two wins, both on the road, he’s done what his team has asked of him.
Spooner- Dropped from the third line, needs to bring more to the table at even strength or he could find himself doing more than just going down to the fourth line. With Alex Khokhlachev heating up in Providence, I wouldn’t put it past the Bruins to do some message sending. Thing is- he’s such a skilled and talented player- we saw what he’s capable of last season. That’s the Spooner the Bruins need back.
Brad Marchand- His lazy, undisciplined hooking penalty in the first period cost the Bruins a power play goal against. He’s got to do a better job than just putting his stick in the hands of an opponent rather than move his feet to force a turnover, especially with how fast a skater he is. He gets credit for working the puck to the front of the net on the Connolly goal, but his penalty was unacceptable in that situation and he’s got to learn from that.
Seven games in, and it looks like this is going to be an up-and-down season for this team. There are some things to be encouraged about on the defense- Torey Krug continues to log a lot of ice time and play well in all situations even if he’s snakebit and still looking for his first goal. Colin Miller and Joe Morrow are noticeable in their ability to skate pucks out of danger and make the crisp outlets. We also have to live with the inevitable mistakes they’ll make, but the raw material is there.
The B’s are a better team on the road right now than at home, but they’ll take it- it beats being poor at home AND in the role of visitors.