BOSTON – Barry Trotz, channeling Al Pacino’s football coach from “Any Given Sunday,” has been fond lately of talking about fighting for the inches needed to win games.
Missed inches cost the Islanders in Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Bruins at TD Garden as their season-high eight-game point streak (6-0-2) was snapped.
Defenseman Devon Toews was just offside to negate a potential go-ahead goal in the third period. And the Islanders, despite four good chances, could not convert for the equalizer on a four-minute power play in the third period.
“That’s a game of inches,” Trotz said. “If you’re on the blue line there [instead of offside], that’s probably defining. We didn’t take advantage of that extra inch and we got a goal called back. We turn the puck over and they get their second goal.”
The Islanders thought they had gone ahead 2-1 on Cal Clutterbuck’s apparent goal off a three-on-two rush at 4:52 of the third, but Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy successfully challenged Toews was offside.
“That’s life, we’ve got to battle through it and get back on track there,” said Toews, adding he didn’t think the Islanders did so. “Unfortunately, no. I think the score shows that. We battled, but we had a few mistakes cost us tonight. And we had chances, but they didn’t go in.”
Robin Lehner made 24 saves for the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders (30-16-6). Tuukka Rask stopped 28 shots for the Bruins (29-17-7), who got two goals from center Patrice Bergeron, playing in his 1,000th NHL regular-season game, including an empty-netter with 54.9 seconds remaining to clinch it.
“The last couple of games, you see little stuff creeping into our game,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “I wish we would’ve rebounded better off of that disallowed goal.”
The Islanders are actually in a 1-1-2 mini-skid and needed three goals in the third period to rally past the Kings, 4-2, Saturday night.
They went 1-for-5 on the power play against the Bruins – they were 0-for-8 in their previous three games –but could not net the equalizer on a four-minute man advantage after Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was called for both tripping and slashing Jordan Eberle at 11:41 of the third.
“Tuukka made some good saves,” said Eberle, whose power-play goal at the left post at 16:40 of the second period tied the score at 2. “We were 1-for-5, but I thought we moved the puck well on the power play. That wasn’t really the issue today.”
The Bruins went ahead 2-1 at 6:34 of the third as defenseman Kevan Miller was able to keep the puck in at the right point and Peter Cehlarik was able to lift the puck over a prone Lehner at the crease. The play was set up when Mathew Barzal sent the puck over the boards to set up a defensive-zone faceoff.
Barzal and his linemates, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier, were held to a total of one shot as they struggled for a second straight game.
Bergeron gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 2:32 of the second after a slow defensive reaction by Bailey forced Lehner to stretch with his left pad and stop David Pastrnak at the crease. However, the puck stayed loose as Lehner was shaken up, and Bergeron knocked in the rebound.
The Islanders survived a first period in which they were not at their fastest or their smartest in taking three unnecessary penalties to put the Bruins’ third-ranked power play on the ice for six minutes.
“We took three penalties, myself included, which can’t happen,” Mayfield said. “That wasn’t the start we wanted.”