By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins may have established themselves as the early-season Kings of the Third.
But a Mat Barzal power-play goal and J.G. Pageau shorthanded breakaway in the third period proved to be too much to overcome Saturday, with Boston’s win streak crushed at five (and point streak snapped at 10) by way of a 4-2 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Bruins winger Brad Marchand got things started in this contest with his ninth goal of the campaign, scored at the 8:41 mark of the period, but the Islanders quickly countered with Pageau’s first of the evening just 2:55 later and a Jordan Eberle score less than three minutes after that.
The Eberle goal was an ugly one for Rask, too, as it appeared that he cheated to prevent a potential rebound and instead allowed the puck to just squeak through him.
Eberle’s look was an undeniably stoppable shot for Rask, and one that the Bruins simply couldn’t afford to give up when considering the limited energy reserves with this being the second leg of a back-to-back, as well as the team’s third game in four nights, all of which have been on the road.
It also didn’t help that the Bruins also lost defenseman Jakub Zboril to an upper-body injury after the first period of hockey. (The Bruins are saying it’s unrelated to the hit Zboril took from the Rangers’ Jacob Trouba in the second period of Friday’s contest at Madison Square Garden.)
Patrice Bergeron knotted things up at 2-2 through 40 minutes of play, but despite a 14-shot barrage in the third period from the Bruins, including a late-game power-play opportunity, it was the Barzal and Pageau goals that held up as the third frame’s only tallies.
Rask finished with a season-high 38 saves in the losing effort, while the Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov captured the victory behind a 28-of-30 effort in the New York crease.
Unable to find their footing, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy put his forward lines in a blender throughout the night, which led to a decrease in action for both Anders Bjork (a forward-low 8:16) as well Jake DeBrusk’s second-lowest nightly total of the season (12:37).
“I don’t think we had our best legs, energy tonight,” Bergeron admitted. “It is what it is. The schedule is what it is for everyone, but tonight was one of the nights where the energy wasn’t the greatest.”
And the Bruins were unable to find a boost on their man advantage, which went 0-for-2 in this contest, and has now gone four straight games without a goal (0-for-10 over that stretch). Cassidy said that the unit struggled in terms of movement — both with the puck and with their feet — on the way to that fourth straight 0-for effort, while Bergeron stressed the need for more purpose.
“A lot of one-and-done,” Bergeron said of the team’s power-play struggles. “We’re gonna look at it. But over the last few games, I think we can maybe shoot more, retrieve pucks better, take what’s there, and that’s it. We have to improve and keep getting better.”
With their Feb. 15 meeting with the Devils postponed, the Bruins will have yet another extended break before returning to action against New Jersey on Feb. 18. The Bruins are 1-0-1 against the Devils, who have not played a game since Jan. 31, this season.