The Bruins passed the first of many difficult tests to come over the next month.
Facing the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference (and one that had already played after the All-Star break), the Bruins outlasted the Islanders with a 5-2 victory Thursday in the final regular-season meeting between the teams at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, the Bruins had to survive a dominant second period from the Islanders that saw New York answer back with goals from John Tavares and Michael Grabner. A Kevan Miller goal in the final seconds of the period gave the Bruins a 3-2 that they would build on in the third with Torey Krug’s 10th goal of the season and an empty-netter from Milan Lucic.
The teams will meet again next Saturday in Boston.
Here are four more things we learned Thursday:
CLAUDE SHUFFLES RIGHT WINGS
After Reilly Smith took the opening shift of the game with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Claude Julien went with a reshuffled look up front with his top three right wings switched. Smith was put on David Krejci‘s line, which moved David Pastrnak down to Carl Soderberg’s line. Loui Eriksson, moved up to Bergeron’s line.
As such, the lines were as follows:
Krejci’s line got a couple of goals out of the switch, as Lucic sent a pass through a defender’s legs to the front of the net, where Smith redirected it up and past Jaroslav Halak in the first period. Smith would later pick up assists on Patrice Bergeron‘s power-play goal in the first period and Torey Krug’s third-period goal. Lucic added an empty-netter late in eh third.
Bergeron’s line generated chances, but it surrendered both of New York’s second period goals.
SMITH GETS BACK TO SCORING
As you may remember, Smith returned from last year’s Olympic break to dreadful results, as the second-line right wing scored just one goal over a 21-game span to begin the stretch run of the season.
This season, Smith returned from the break and broke another slump. Having not scored a goal in the last 11 games, Smith got a chance at more offense when Julien put him on Krejci’s line. The moved paid off, as Thursday’s game marked Smith’s first multi-point effort in 21 games.
It wasn’t all good for Smith, as he got a high stick to the face from Johnny Boychuk in the third period that drew blood but went uncalled.
PENALTY KILL STILL KILLIN’ IT
The Bruins killed off a first-period David Krejci hooking penalty and a third-period Carl Soderberg holding penalty to hold the Islanders 0-for-2 on the power play Thursday.
In other words, it was more of the same from Boston’s penalty kill. With Thursday’s showing, the Bruins have now killed off 40 of their opponents’ last 42 power plays.
RASK MAKES SAVE OF-THE-YEAR CANDIDATE
When Rask allowed John Tavares’ second-period goal to put the Islanders on the board, it wasn’t pretty. Rask yielded a big rebound on a lazy chip from center ice and was not in position to stop Tavares from batting in his own rebound. The play presented tough judgement call of whether to come further out of the net and try to glove the puck or go down and get in front of the puck. Rask chose the latter and it burned him.
What came shortly before that play, however, was one of the best saves Rask will make all season. With the Islanders buzzing around his net, Nikolay Kulemin backhanded a puck out in front to Michael Grabner, who was celebrating what he thought was a goal until Rask blocked the puck from crossing the goal line with his paddle.
Rask made a season-high 43 saves Thursday. He has now allowed two goals or fewer in his last five starts.