Islanders remain on roll with 3-1 win over Bruins
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- In the span of a week, the New York Islanders have gone from playing the type of hockey that endangers jobs - on and off the ice - to producing the kind of winning efforts a team needs in order to reach the playoffs.
The Boston Bruins can only hope their emergence from the doldrums is as painless and as productive.
John Tavares, Andrew MacDonald and Thomas Vanek scored in the second period to lead the Islanders to an impressive 3-1 win over the Bruins Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The win was the second in as many nights for the Islanders (6-5-3), who have begun to click in a fashion that was unimaginable just days - or even 24 hours - earlier.
“The challenge is to always play consistent hockey,” MacDonald said. “You can have a good game and then a bad game, but that’s not what you want. You want to play consistent all the time. For us, I think it’s a good stepping stone moving forward. We have an opportunity to feed off these last two games and continue the way we’re playing.”
The Islanders appeared to be creating the wrong kind of momentum over the previous week, which began last Saturday with a 5-2 loss to struggling Philadelphia at the Coliseum. Less than 24 hours later, general manager Garth Snow sent popular left winger Matt Moulson to the Sabres for Vanek.
In Vanek’s first game Tuesday night, the Islanders blew a one-goal third period lead and lost to the Rangers, 3-2. Afterward, Islanders coach Jack Capuano threatened to recall a defensemen from the club’s top minor league affiliate, Bridgeport.
New York seemed headed for another disheartening loss Friday, when it fell behind 2-0 and 4-2 in Ottawa. But the Islanders stormed back, forced overtime and won 5-4 in the shootout.
Despite arriving back home after 2 a.m. Saturday morning, the Islanders displayed plenty of enthusiasm and energy against the Bruins, who were the better-rested team after traveling to Long Island Friday afternoon.
“The last six periods have been pretty good for us,” Capuano said.
After the defensive-minded Bruins - who entered Saturday having allowed two goals or less in nine of their first 12 games - controlled a scoreless first period, the up-tempo Islanders dictated the flow of the game during a second period in which all four goals were scored. New York has scored at least two goals in every game this year and has collected three goals or more nine times.
“I think it’s just a lot more fun [when] you’re playing with the puck, you’re making it tougher on them, making them have to really earn every inch of the ice - every possession they get, every opportunity they get,” Tavares said. “Those are things that can be frustrating [and] difficult on teams.”
The Bruins (8-5-0) have endured plenty of frustration themselves over the last seven days, a stretch in which they’ve lost three of four and needed a shootout to edge Anaheim on Thursday.
Prior to that, Boston had won seven of its first nine games, but Bruins coach Claude Julien said Saturday he’s been displeased for some time with the play of the defending Eastern Conference champions, who begin a season-long five-game homestand on Tuesday.
“Sometimes you think you’re working hard, but you’re not,” Julien said. “Talent alone is not going to win you hockey games. The effort, the compete level, is what brings the talent out. And right now, we haven’t done that.”
Tavares and MacDonald scored 6:58 apart in the second period before a power play goal by Dougie Hamilton a little more than two minutes later pulled the Bruins within 2-1. But the Islanders, who squandered two-goal leads in home losses last month to Columbus and Vancouver, extended the lead to 3-1 a mere 41 seconds later on Vanek’s first goal for his new team.
The Bruins had 12 shots on goal in the third - three fewer than they had in the first two periods combined - but didn’t register a serious threat against backup Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin, who had 26 saves in recording his first win of the year.
“Just shows the character we have in the room and knowing that we’re not satisfied - the standards are set higher for us,” said Capuano, who last season directed the Islanders to their first playoff berth since 2007. “To me, it’s about the details and we’ve addressed that over the last couple weeks. (We‘re) starting to see it now and that’s what we want moving forward.”
Chad Johnson, who was making his second start of the year for the Bruins, had 28 saves.
NOTES: The Islanders scratched LW Eric Boulton, RW Colin McDonald and D Brian Strait. McDonald has missed four games with a hip injury while Strait missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... The Bruins scratched D Johnny Boychuck, RW Jordan Caron and LW Loui Eriksson. Boychuck didn’t make the trip because of an undisclosed injury suffered during the Bruins’ win over Anaheim. Eriksson was sidelined for the fifth consecutive game with a concussion but skated Saturday morning for the first time since suffering the injury on Oct. 23. ... The Islanders, who were 0-2-1 in the second game of their first three back-to-backs this year, have 14 more sets of back-to-back games remaining. The Bruins, who have had just two back-to-backs thus far, have 15 back-to-backs left. ... The shootout win on Friday was the first in which the Islanders never led in regulation since Feb. 7, 2012, when they beat the Flyers 1-0. ... The Bruins’ shootout win on Thursday was also their first overtime game of the year -- the latest in a season the Bruins have gone without an overtime game since overtime debuted in 1982-83.