The Bruins were missing 26 goals from their attack on Thursday night. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, nursing head injuries, have been two-thirds of the team’s most consistent line.
The Bruins could have used their legs, not just their goals.
The Bruins dropped a 2-1 result to the Islanders before 17,565 at TD Garden. By the second period, a stretch filled with turnovers, mismanaged pucks, and scant down-low push in the offensive zone, it was clear that three games in four nights had turned their sticks into telephone poles. It was no time to be without two of their go-to forwards.
“We ran out of gas,” said coach Claude Julien. “Third game in four nights. The effort and will was there. [The Islanders] did a great job. They were obviously a little fresher than we were. They did a great job of closing in on us and not giving us much. Even when we did penetrate the offensive zone in the third, we didn’t spend much time there.”
The heaviest legs might have belonged to Milan Lucic. The Bruins moved the power forward away from David Krejci and Nathan Horton, his usual linemates. Lucic instead skated in Marchand’s spot alongside Gregory Campbell and Jaromir Jagr. On a night when the Bruins needed Lucic to assume some of Marchand’s offensive responsibilities, the left wing turned in a pedestrian, 0-0—0 performance in 15:48 of ice time. Lucic did not see shifts on either power-play unit.
The Islanders scored the only goal of the first period. With Krejci, Horton, and Daniel Paille caught deep in the offensive zone, Kyle Okposo dug the puck off the wall to start the counterattack. Mark Streit carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Josh Bailey. By using Adam McQuaid as a screen, Bailey snapped a shot over Tuukka Rask’s glove at 19:39.
But the Bruins weren’t playing like a late first-period goal would matter. Even though they were down, 1-0, they dictated the pace of play in the first. They outshot the Islanders, 16-9, and dinged the post once when Jordan Caron just missed scoring his second goal of the season. Rask made the necessary stops. The defensemen were in compact formation in front of Rask. The forwards came back hard, collapsed when necessary, and helped to clear pucks.
“The big thing for us has been starts,” Tyler Seguin said. “It’s been a huge thing this year that we haven’t been doing well. I feel like most recently in our last few games, we’ve been doing that. We’ve had some good starts.”
But the Bruins’ hiccups started on the opening shift of the second. The line of Lucic, Campbell, and Jagr, along with McQuaid and Andrew Ference, got caught in the defensive zone for nearly two minutes. On just one shift, the Islanders poured seven shots on Rask. The wretched shift set the tone for the rest of the period.
“We played a pretty solid first,” Rask said. “I don’t think that goal they got there took any life out of us. But then at the start of the second, they just came out flying. That first shift there, they spent two minutes in our own end. That kind of took some energy out of us, I think. We battled back and got the goal. Just not enough.”
The Bruins netted the tying goal at 3:41 of the second. Ex-Bruin Brad Boyes was sent off for a delay of game penalty. On the power play, Jagr held off the New York penalty killers with his trademark puck-protecting ability in the high slot. Jagr’s pass down low glanced off Andrew MacDonald’s stick and onto Gregory Campbell’s stick. Campbell spotted Seguin at the far post. From in tight, Seguin slipped the puck past Evgeni Nabokov to make it 1-1.
But the Islanders pulled back ahead at 13:12 of the second. A bouncing puck glanced off McQuaid’s stick in the neutral zone. Bailey pounced on the loose puck and pulled away. His snap shot dribbled through Rask’s right armpit and rolled over the line for the eventual winning goal.
For the final 83 seconds of regulation, the Bruins pulled Rask for an extra skater. But the six-man attack of Zdeno Chara, Jagr, Krejci, Seguin, Campbell, and Chris Kelly didn’t put a single shot on Nabokov. The Bruins didn’t have the gas to push when they needed it most.