An offensively inept team missing its top scorer cannot afford to make mistakes and dig a 2-0 hole for themselves before the end of the first period when the worst team in the Eastern Conference comes to town. Unfortunately, that is exactly where the Bruins found themselves on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders.
Tuukka Rask’s collision with Brad Marchand behind the net led to an easy goal for Anders Lee just minutes into the game, and Thomas Hickey buried a shot past Rask’s glove side to increase the Islanders’ lead to two with 14:20 left in the first period. Another flukey goal from Nikolay Kulemin in the second period sent Rask packing with just ten saves on thirteen shot in the game, an unlucky night for the starting goaltender who has been otherwise near perfect this season.
The Bruins mounted a competitive comeback in the third period on goals from Anton Blidh and Dominic Moore. The two goals highlighted an all around well played game from the fourth line- Jimmy Hayes included. Blidh’s goal- a poor angle shot that bounced off Islander defenseman Nick Leddy- was his first in the NHL and a reward for his energetic play through seven games with the Bruins. The second goal was Boston’s best moment of the night; Hayes bounced a shot off New York goaltender Thomas Greiss’ pads, and the rebound found its way to Zdeno Chara. Moore’s tip made the score 3-2 with 12:48 to go in the game. The Bruins were not able to finish the comeback after Anders Lee’s second goal of the game increased New York’s lead to 4-2.
With David Pastrnak out and the coaching staff not ready to immediately let Frank Vatrano play upon his call up to the NHL, the Bruins were playing at a disadvantage. Pastrnak’s 19 goals on the season stand at least ten more than anyone else on the team; while he’s having a breakout year, most of the team is struggling offensively. Boston’s team defense and goaltending has been excellent this year, good for eighth in the league with 2.41 goals against per game. But in games where the defense or goalie is unlucky, the offense needs to be expected to carry the team more.
The Bruins begin a four game road trip against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, and hopefully David Pastrnak and Frank Vatrano will return to the lineup during the trip to boost the team offensively. Vatrano’s shoot first tendency should help provide some secondary scoring once placed on Austin Czarnik or David Krejci’s wing.