The East Division-leading Bruins don’t lose much. But they still can’t beat the Islanders.
"It’s a tie game going into the third period against arguably the best team in the league," Mathew Barzal said. "It’s a good test for us."
And the Islanders aced it, overcoming two so-so periods with an impressive five-goal third period in Thursday night’s 7-2 win over Boston at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders (10-6-3) are 3-0-0 against the Bruins (11-4-2). They moved within a point of the Bruins and Capitals (10-5-4) and set season highs for goals and margin of victory.
"The Bruins are in a lot of ways the gold standard, especially in the East," said coach Barry Trotz, whose team previously beat them twice at the Coliseum, 1-0 on Jan. 18 and 4-2 on Feb. 13. "It’s a big win. We want to stay in the pack. In terms of the standings, it’s going to be a battle right to the end."
The Bruins’ potent top line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak totaled 10 of the 36 shots against Semyon Varlamov but were held without a point. The Islanders’ top defense pair, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, got most of the matchups against them.
"I think we honestly try to play our game," said Barzal, whose wrister from the right circle on a two-on-one rush gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 12:39 of the first period. "They’re a big, heavy team that likes to cycle and we’ve got big, heavy ‘D’ who are good at maybe stopping that."
The Islanders’ third-period barrage started innocently enough, with Anthony Beauvillier pickpocketing Trent Frederic in the low slot for a 3-2 lead at 5:41.
Jordan Eberle made it 4-2 at 10:45, leaving a furious Jaroslav Halak — who made 30 saves in his first game against his former team since joining the Bruins — to smash his stick against the post and toss the remains over the glass.
But it only got worse for Halak and the Bruins.
Did Trotz foresee a good third period coming? "I did," he said. "Not to the extent of the score. I thought it was going to come right down to the end."
Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s shorthanded goal — his fourth goal in three games against the Bruins — made it 5-2 at 12:24. Anders Lee, at 14:44, and rookie Oliver Wahlstrom, at 16:33, capped the barrage.
"A good team win tonight, from Varly on out," Lee said. "We’re chasing Boston here and this division is extremely tight. We still have work to do, but any time we can close the gap a little bit, it’s just a good evening."
The Bruins, missing four key regulars in defensemen Kevan Miller (knee), Jeremy Lauzon (hand) and Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) as well as center David Krejci (lower body), took a 1-0 lead on Nick Ritchie’s goal at 1:02 of the first period. Pelech tied it at 3:16 on the Islanders’ first shot.
The Bruins tied it at 2 on Craig Smith’s shot from the left wall that deflected in off Matt Martin’s stick at 11:36 of the second period.
Notes & quotes: The Islanders played the last two periods without Cal Clutterbuck . . . They have won two in a row on this four-game homestand and are in the midst of nine out of 10 at home . . . Casey Cizikas had the secondary assist on Pelech’s goal for his 100th career helper . . . Varlamov’s secondary assist on Barzal’s goal marked the first point for an Islanders goalie this season . . . Beauvillier scored his first regular-season goal in 20 games dating to Feb. 17, 2020, and tied Pageau with a game-high six shots.