The Boston Bruins did a nice job of bouncing back from a tough loss to halt the losing skid at three games with a plucky 2-1 road victory against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center in a late afternoon game Sunday.
Ryan Spooner and Patrice Bergeron tallied for Boston, while Tuukka Rask played his best game of the season in making 36 saves to preserve the two points in a game made interesting thanks to a late 5-on-3 goal by old friend Johnny Boychuk.
The Bergeron line featured a tweak as Brad Marchand was moved down and Matt Beleskey brought up to play the left wing with Brett Connolly remaining over on the right. The BeBes- Bergeron and Beleskey- showed some okay chemistry together and generated some good moments up front. Beleskey plays with a lot of passion and energy, and on one memorable 2-on-1 in the third period, he made a superb pass over a sprawling Islanders defender and over to Bergeron who got his blade on it and put it on net, only to see Isles goaltender Jaroslav Halak in fine position to make the stop.
Boston opened the scoring with a 5-on-3 power play goal to extend the consecutive games with a score on the man advantage to seven when Spooner ripped a one-timer into the net from a David Krejci feed. Bergeron had started the play when he took the puck and walked down the middle of the offensive zone between the circles to back the defense in before dishing to Krejci, who wasted little time in taking advantage of the added time and space to find Spooner all alone off to the side of the right post. It was Spooner’s third goal and ninth point of the season.
Bergeron made it a two-goal game in the second period when he put a shot to the front of the net that appeared to be deflected in by Marchand but was later changed to Boston’s assistant captain when reviews showed the puck hit Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy and changed direction past Halak.
The story of the contest was Rask, who played the kind of shutdown game the B’s have come to expect from him. He did seem more active at times than he should have in leaving his crease to play the puck, but none of those adventures cost him. He gave up just the one goal to Boychuk late after Kevan Miller took a careless-looking high stick penalty to Casey Cizikas and then Joonas Kemppainen gloved the puck off of a face-off, giving the Islanders 1:47 of 5-on-3 play, that they took advantage when he launched a Johnny Rocket that clanged in off the post. It was the only power play out of seven chances the Islanders got, so the maligned penalty killing unit got a confidence boost, but a perfect game on the PK would have been even better.
The Islanders launched a concerted attack late, but Rask stood his ground and the Boston forecheck made some nice plays in the neutral zone and Islanders end to prevent the home team from getting Halak out for the extra attacker earlier. The B’s did a nice job overall of containing Isles captain and superstar John Tavares from getting much going in this one.
The B’s will get a few days of rest through Veteran’s Day before taking on the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at the TD Garden.
Tuukka Rask- Boston’s. No. 1 goaltender brought his A-game tonight and had no real chance on Boychuk’s howitzer of a shot. His glove save on Cal Clutterbuck during a shorthanded breakaway in the second period was a crucial stop that could have had a devastating impact on Boston’s psyche, but he effortlessly snagged it to keep it a 1-0 game. Rask made the defense look better than it was today, which is what you’re going to get with a player of his caliber in net. However, this team is simply not good enough to rely on Rask’s heroics as we have seen on other occasions throughout the first calendar month.
Patrice Bergeron- It was an active game for him with a goal and an assist, seven shots on net, more than 21 minutes of ice time. He stepped up with he game-winner in the second period as Boston got a much-needed win, their first in seven days.
Frank Vatrano- For the second straight game, he impressed with his speed and hustle, pushing the offensive pace and getting some quality shots on the net. He didn’t find the twine, but he didn’t look like a kid in just his second career NHL game and showed some good stamina for playing the second of a back-to-back game. The adrenaline he’s feeling is no doubt still pumping in his veins after scoring in his first big league game Saturday night.
Joonas Kemppainen- He blew it by taking the penalty late for handling the puck on the face-off, but made up for it with a solid game defensively and a game-saving defensive zone draw that he won cleanly after Beleskey was sent to the box for a slash with 1.7 seconds left. Thanks to Kemppainen or “Kemper” as he is called, the Isles didn’t even get a chance to get a shot off.
Ryan Spooner- The even strength play has been at times rocky, but when the B’s go up a man, Spooner’s high-end skill and creativity come out. His goal was a bang-bang play, but he did what scorers do well- get to the one spot on the ice where no one else is and bury the pass when it came to him. Even if his overall game and play has not been perfect, Spooner is producing points, so as long as he can keep doing that, the coaches will work with him on the little things.
Johnny Boychuk- What more can I say? He is still missed and the reaction by the Islanders faithful when he scored brought back memories of how he used to bring the Garden crowd to their feet.
Torey Krug- He played a season-low 16:25 and made one memorable gaffe that could have proven costly when he sent an errant pass while on the power play that resulted in Clutterbuck’s breakaway. He later took a needless cross-checking call against Clutterbuck in the third period, Boston’s fifth penalty of the day. Krug has been Boston’s best and most consistent defensemen all season, but this was not his night and it showed in the box score.
Kevan Miller- You try not to pile on, but the free agent defender’s play has been more down than up. He struggles with handling pucks under pressure, does not have the mobility to win a lot of races to loose pucks, and took that sloppy, undisciplined highsticking penalty late in the contest which helped contribute to Boychuk’s power play goal. The Bruins have room for one or the other other Adam McQuaid or Miller, but employing both of them on a regular basis will prove costly.