Elmont, NY. – The Boston Bruins‘ offensive struggles continued in a 4-1 loss at UBS Arena on Long Island, NY., Thursday night against the New York Islanders. The Bruins have lacked scoring depth off-and-on all season, but the latest stretch with Brad Marchand serving game number four of a six-game suspension and Patrice Bergeron out with injury the previous three games, the offense has been more challenging than usual to come by. Bergeron returned for the Islanders game, but it wasn’t enough to reverse the trend.
Third-period defensive zone breakdowns did in the Bruins in the long run. Linus Ullmark (25 saves) could only hold off the onslaught for so long before the Islanders broke through.
A Noah Dobson wrist-shot from the blueline at 5:50 of the third period proved to be the difference-maker.
“They (New York) won the slot battle,” said Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. “Clearly, the third period, they got pucks to the front of the net, got second chances, kind of pushed us out of the way there.”
“We didn’t manage the puck. The second goal was a bad turnover; we didn’t get into shooting lanes,” added Cassidy of Dobson’s eighth goal of the season, which came when defenseman Derek Forbort wrapped the puck around the defensive zone before the winger could get there.
The Bruins controlled the first period, outshooting the Islanders 13-6. They had numerous good looks at goal, but Ilya Sorokin was aided by the crossbar and some timely back-checking early.
Taylor Hall carried a Craig Smith pass out of the Bruins defensive zone and skated past Islanders forward Casey Cizikas along the boards before tossing a shot from the goal line that made its way past Sorokin (26 saves) at the post. Smith and Mike Reilly assisted on Hall’s 11th.
“I feel like I have enough speed that they (defenders) have to play the angle at the shot, about 10 feet before I scored there,” said Hall of the tough angle shot. “I hesitate a little bit, and I just beat him to his (Sorokin) post.”
“It was actually a pretty good shot,” added Hall.
“I was trying to come into the game being more of a shooter, more of an attacker. It was good to get a lead there. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t hold it,” said the former MVP.
The Bruins opened the scoring in the first period for the third straight game. All three times they held that lead into the second period.
Unlike the previous two games, the lead evaporated in the second period. An Erik Haula Tripping penalty led to the Islanders having a power-play at 10:28 of the second.
Bruins nemesis Jean-Gabriel Pageau poked a loose puck past Ullmark at 11:30 to tie the game 1-1. Ullmark made the stop on a Dobson blast from the blue line but couldn’t locate the rebound before Pageau squeezed his way between Forbort and Brandon Carlo to backhand the tying goal into the Bruins’ goal.
“I was focused on their heavy guy in front, Anders Lee. He’s the one who puts pucks in around the net there. I was boxing him out, felt like I was doing a good job,” said Bruins defenseman Carlo. “The rebound we had no idea where it went.”
Carlo, nor Ullmark, could locate the puck, and Pageau had the inside step on Forbort.
“He (Ullmark) didn’t know where it fell either; I didn’t see it at all,” said Carlo.
The Bruins had multiple bids in the second, but again Sorokin was nails. Carlo fired off a shot that Sorokin padded away, Hall tried the rebound, but Sorokin made a spectacular leg save at the top of his crease.
Hall hit the crossbar on a cross-ice Charlie McAvoy pass, but then Dobson struck.
Dobson’s shot hit the post and bounced off Ullmark’s back and into the Bruins net. Brock Nelson was credited with the assist on the go-ahead goal after stealing the puck from Forbort behind the goal.
Dobson’s goal shifted the momentum in the Islanders’ favor early in the third but the two teams traded big hits and big saves.
Pageau throttled Carlo with a hit near the Bruins bench while the defenseman looked for an airborne puck. McAvoy dumped Lee with a hit in the neutral zone.
Ullmark then stopped a Lee bid in front at the period’s midway point.
In the slot, Islander forward Cal Clutterbuck hammered Bruins winger Trent Frederic and earned an Interference penalty on the hit 10:14.
The Bruins power-play had two good chances by Smith, but Sorokin blockered the first one and then had the second one saved by his stick shaft to preserve the lead.
Matthew Barzal provided the cushion the home team needed at 13:52 when he fired in a rebound from the right side of the Bruins net. Keifer Bellows snapped a shot off from the right face-off dot that Ullmark stopped. Bellows tried the rebound, and Frederic popped him. The rebound fell to Barzal at the bottom of the left circle for his 12th goal.
“We have to be able to execute at a level to stem the pushes that they (opponents) have,” said Cassidy. “We spent the first five or six minutes in our own end because we couldn’t execute the breakout, or support the puck or be strong on it. that gives them some juice.”
“We have to get the blocks, force them off-net, or clear those rebounds, or control the rebounds if your the goaltender,” added Cassidy.
Brock Nelson closed out the game with an empty-net goal at 18:47. Nelson caught a Zdeno Chara pass just outside the Islanders zone before firing the puck the length of the ice to send the 16,518 fans to the exits with 1:13 remaining.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for New York. The Bruins are 0-2 at UBS Arena this season. The two teams will conclude their regular-season series on March 26 at TD Garden.
On Saturday, the Bruins travel back to Ottawa, ONT., for a tilt against the Senators. The Islanders will host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at 2:00 pm.