BOSTON — Coming off their worst defensive performance of the season, the Islanders produced one of their best. Thomas Greiss turned aside 32 shots Monday afternoon as the Islanders blanked the Bruins, 4-0, in a com plete turnaround from an awful night in Raleigh on Saturday.
“Saturday was embarrassing; there’s no other way to put it,” said Casey Cizikas, who set up Nikolay Kulemin’s two second-period goals to get the Islanders’ offense going. “It left a sick feeling in all of our stomachs. We needed to come out and play a strong game, and we did that.”
After Greiss was pulled with 6:07 to go in Saturday night’s 7-4 loss to the Hurricanes, the Islanders faced a Bruins team that plays a similar style: lots of pucks and bodies to the net.
In Carolina, the Islanders had their E-ZPasses out for the onrushing Hurricanes forwards. On Monday, the six defensemen were much more aware of their sticks and of the Bruins forwards trying to create havoc in front of Greiss.
The first period was a snoozer, with only 10 total shots on goal, seven by the Bruins. But that opening 20 minutes allowed the Islanders to understand that they could make an impact in their own end.
“It was boring, but a boring first period on the road is good,” Jason Chimera said. “We hung Greisser out to dry the other night and today we really buckled down for him, supporting each other all over the ice.”
Chimera and Cizikas did the dirty work along the wall to set up Kulemin’s first goal at 13:18 of the second, with the Islanders’ big winger alone in front of Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.
Josh Bailey followed with a quick shot off the wall that caught Rask drifting from his post at 15:00. Kulemin made it 3-0 when he sprung Cizikas for a breakaway, followed up the play and snapped one home at 18:38.
Rask was pulled early for the second time in less than a month against the Islanders. Chimera scored shorthanded with eight minutes to go for the final result, the Islanders’ first shutout of the Bruins in Boston.
Greiss made 48 saves in a 4-2 win here Dec. 20, when the Islanders also built a 3-0 lead but had to fend off a furious Bruins rally. On Monday, the Islanders were the aggressors through much of the third, buoyed by particularly effective work from Alan Quine, Anthony Beauvillier and Chimera.
With Andrew Ladd and Cal Clutterbuck out with nagging injuries, Shane Prince and Stephen Gionta stepped in and provided some jam. Johnny Boychuk returned after missing Saturday’s ugly loss and helped stabilize the defense corps.
Considering the inconsistency of this Islanders season, perhaps a bounce-back from Saturday’s free-for-all shouldn’t have been a total shock. But if the Islanders are to end their maddening alternating of good and bad games, Monday was a positive step.
“Every guy played with structure from the first minute tonight,” Thomas Hickey said. “We’ve all got pride, we’ve all got an understanding of what we need to do. That’s the group of 23 and the group of six [defensemen]. We know the importance of being prepared and executing, especially given the situation we’re in.”