The New York Islanders played their strongest 60-minutes of the season Saturday night to defeat the Boston Bruins at the Nassau Coliseum. Kevin Poulin made 26 saves to earn the victory while John Tavares, Andrew MacDonald and Thomas Vanek scored goals. Vanek’s tally was his first in an Islanders’ uniform. Kyle Okposo assisted on all three Islander goals.
The Islanders played smart team defense throughout the game, limiting the chances of a big, physical and talented Bruins team that never quite got into their offensive groove.
“We got back to doing a lot of little things well, we’re skating and we’re establishing our forecheck,” Tavares said after the game. “We’re making it tougher for our opponents and making them go 200 feet and we’re doing much better coming out of our own end.”
The first period was scoreless, but the Islanders did a good job of limiting the Bruins’ chances and you could tell right away that they were on top of things in their own zone. It took the visitors nearly seven minutes to register their first official shot on goal of the game and they managed only six shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. When they did get shots off, Poulin was there to make the stop.
“In the first period they [my teammates] were there to block a lot of shots,” Poulin explained. “I didn’t have to do much in the first period and it gave me confidence.”
Tavares broke the scoreless tie at 6:15 of the second period when he knocked a loose puck out of the air and beat Bruins goalie Chad Johnson.
The Isles took a 2-0 lead on MacDonald’s first goal of the season at 13:13. It was a hard shot from the left point that got through in part because the Islanders had two players in front of the net screening the goalie.
The Bruins scored to pull within 2-1 on a power play goal with 4:33 left in the second period. Dougie Hamilton got the goal with just three seconds left with the man-advantage and suddenly Boston was back in the game.
Instead of folding, the Islanders responded and scored just 41 seconds later. The goal came on a 2-on-1 rush and was set up by a perfect pass by Okposo. The Isles had a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Bruins had a long power play early in the third period when Tavares was called for a double minor 21 seconds into an Islanders power play. The Isles’ captain was called for hooking and then received an additional 2:00 for unsportsmanlike conduct after arguing the call. But Boston was unable to convert and the Islanders came through with a strong penalty kill.
The Islanders had trouble holding similar leads in earlier games, but tonight they clamped down and preserved the lead. Poulin came up big several times, especially in the final minutes.
“It’s about poise, it’s about confidence,” Isles’ coach Jack Capuano said after the game when asked about his defense. “It’s about gaps and it’s about sticks and again it’s about how they defend. We blocked some shots. They had some chances but our execution was good tonight especially in our breakouts.”
Overall it was a strong game for the Islanders. The top line showed improved chemistry in its third game together and they were on the ice for all three goals. Both Vanek and Tavares made passes to set each other up for scoring chances and Okposo complimented them both with three assists on the night. Defensively, the team was more consistent than they have been in some time. The Isles defeated a good team and completed a four-point weekend.
The Islanders return to action Tuesday when they travel to Washington to face the Capitals. It is the first stop in a four-game road trip.
Attendance was 14,018.
Vanek’s goal was his 500th career NHL point.
Cal Clutterbuck led all players in the game with six hits.
The Bruins won 59 percent of the faceoffs in the game, led by David Krejci who won 11-of-16.
Travis Hamonic blocked five shots and added two assists.