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Islanders get back on track by beating Bruins for first time since 2017

Johnny Boychuk #55 of the New York Islanders

Johnny Boychuk #55 of the New York Islanders celebrates with Jordan Eberle #7 after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period at TD Garden on December 19, 2019 in Boston. Credit: Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

BOSTON — The Islanders returned to their more typical defensive form.

So even if they hadn’t eventually earned the two points they did in a 3-2 shootout win over the Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden, it would have been a successful bounce-back game.

“The game we had against Nashville was a tough one,” goalie Semyon Varlamov said of Tuesday night’s 8-3 loss at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum as the Islanders allowed the most goals of the Lou Lamoriello/Barry Trotz era. “The most important game is the next one after that loss. We bounced back and we played very well, so it was a very important game for us to get back on track. We did an outstanding job today.”

Varlamov clinched the win by turning aside Brad Marchand’s attempt in the third round of the shootout after Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal scored in the first two rounds for the Islanders.

Varlamov was a big reason why the Islanders (23-8-2) snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Bruins dating to a 4-0 victory at TD Garden on Jan. 16, 2017. He made 27 saves, including what Trotz called the “save of the year,” lunging with his glove outstretched to rob Anders Bjork at the right post at 16:27 of the second period with the score tied at 1.

“That was the turning point for sure,” Anders Lee said. “That’s the kind of stuff you need to bail us out, which he did. He stole a goal for sure.”

Varlamov also denied Jake DeBrusk at the crease at 17:57, and Mathew Barzal rewarded him by making it 2-1 at 18:26 off a feed from defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

“We knew we needed to bounce back,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, who, along with partner Adam Pelech, had many of the matchups against the Bruins’ potent top line of Patrice Bergeron centering Marchand and David Pastrnak. “The other night, the score got away from us. I don’t think it was our worst game of the year. But we knew, no matter what, tonight was going to be important. We gave up the first goal but we bounced back well.”

Tuukka Rask stopped 19 shots for the Bruins (21-7-8), who are in a 1-4-3 skid.

The Islanders’ Devon Toews nearly ended it in overtime, but the puck rolled off his stick on a breakaway in the waning seconds.

If Varlamov’s save on Bjork was a turning point, so was the Islanders killing off the remainder of the Bruins’ power play after defenseman Torey Krug’s one-timer from the left circle off David Krejci’s feed tied the score at 2-2 at 7:24 of the third period with the Bruins skating five-on-three.

Pelech was called for high-sticking Marchand at Varlamov’s crease and Brock Nelson followed him to the penalty box 44 seconds later for shooting the puck over the glass.

“We’re five-on-three, they score right away and they’ve got almost two minutes left and the place is going crazy,” Trotz said. “Our penalty-killers were committed. We got it done.”

In all, the Islanders allowed only six power-play shots as the Bruins went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.

The Bruins took a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game at 1:58 of the first period as Charlie Coyle forced a turnover by Pulock and fed Bjork, who beat Varlamov.

Boychuk’s right-point blast tied the score at 1-1 at 3:26 of the second period.

The physical tone was set early as the teams had a combined seven shots in the first 20 minutes. At 6:55 of the second period, the Islanders held a 6-3 shot advantage.

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