The struggle is over when it comes to the Boston Bruins (23-12-6, 52 points) taking down the New York Islanders (27-12-4, 58 points) this season after a series of losses in their first five meetings of the East divisional rivals this year.
The Bruins lost the first five times they faced the Islanders, including a pair of extra session defeats, and the third periods had been disasters pretty much all season.
The Islanders had outscored the Bruins 10-1 in the third period over those first five meetings this year, but that all changed on Thursday night. None of those games took place with the new guys in place as Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly and Curtis Lazar were all added at the NHL trade deadline and they all made a difference in a 4-1 win for the Bruins.
Best of all the Bruins outscored the Islanders by a 2-0 score in the third period, a development that is much more in the team identity of the Black and Gold over the years. After it was all over many pointed to Thursday night’s effort as the best B’s game of the season, and it was difficult to argue against the point.
The urgency brought on by it being crunch time with less than a month left in the regular season and the new talent infusion brought in at the trade deadline is clearly taking the Bruins up a notch.
“A good, solid game. I thought we didn’t let our foot off the gas. We were able to extend the lead. I liked our game all-around. We really had no passengers tonight,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s really what you want to see: Everybody kind of helping the team win, and I thought we got that tonight.”
After Tuukka Rask stayed healthy and made 22 saves in his first healthy, full game in over a month, rookie Jeremy Swayman (3-1-0, 2.26 goals against average, .922 save percentage) will be getting another look against the Islanders on Friday night in the rematch at TD Garden. Daniel Vladar will be the backup to Swayman for the game so as to avoid pushing Rask into emergency service should a backup be needed during the game.
Ilya Sorokin (11-3-1, 2.17 goals against average and .915 save percentage) is expected to get the start for the Islanders and after Semyon Varlamov (41 saves in the loss) took his first loss of the season against the Bruins in six tries this year.
–Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo has been downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week with his upper-body injury and isn’t expected to return to game action for the Boston Bruins anytime soon. Carlo had just returned on March 30, from a month-long absence due to a concussion suffered after a Tom Wilson headshot. The good news is that Carlo’s current upper body injury isn’t related to the concussion, which could have been very problematic. Matt Grzelcyk is out with an upper body injury and has at least resumed skating. Trent Frederic has missed the last few games with an illness that isn’t COVID-related but returned to regular practice on Wednesday. Boston Bruins winger Ondrej Kase remains on IR with an upper-body injury. While Kase has been skating, his return date is not known.
— A red-hot Craig Smith has four goals and 11 points along with a plus-5 rating in nine games during the month of April and has piled up six goals and 16 points in 14 games since the middle of March.
Smith’s 1.68 assists per 60 minutes and 2.4 points per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 action are both career highs for the veteran winger after being a mainstay on the third line for the Preds.
— Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller will end up being out on Friday for the second straight game after it was initially thought he was going to play against the Islanders. The good news is that it isn’t a knee issue for the stay-at-home defenseman, but his warrior presence is greatly missed when he’s not out there.
“[Miller] is just such a hard player to play against, and he gives us so much energy and confidence back there,” said Brad Marchand. “He really just controls the D-corps back there and makes a lot of guys feel comfortable back there. He calms them down when things aren’t going great. He’s a real leader in our group. He just has such a presence on the ice. Guys [on the other team] don’t want to go anywhere near him.”
He’s day-to-day with his undisclosed injury, so it’s possible that Miller could be ready to play this weekend.
–Both Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly scored their first points for the Bruins in Thursday night’s win over the Islanders. Reilly picked up an assist when his point shot bounced off Brad Marchand’s back before ending up in the back of the net. Hall scored a goal on a partial breakaway in the third period that served as the insurance marker for the Bruins when they extended the lead.
“That was a key moment,” said Cassidy. “It was a game-changing play. He was involved in a couple of plays in the game where good players can make a difference. So, when he has a chance to do that hopefully he makes an impact and the rest of the shifts he goes out there and does his job.”
—Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal as a member of the Islanders on Sunday in a win against the Rangers and has been a Bruins Killer all season while with the New Jersey Devils.
–Barry Trotz called the Thursday effort “unacceptable” for the Islanders after watching his team get stormed in the first period while giving up a season-high23 shots on net to the Bruins and is clearly looking for a better response from his team after a 4-1 loss.
“They came out and set the tone, we had some guys that didn’t want to accept the challenge,” said Trotz. “We weren’t hard enough for this game. We were looking for a little easier game and it wasn’t. Full credit to the Bruins, they came in, they played the right way.”
So, the Bruins should be prepared for the Isles’ best, which has been what they’ve seen most of the five in their six meetings thus far this season.
–Josh Bailey left Thursday’s game in the second period and did not return. He’s a game-time decision for Friday night as is Cal Clutterbuck, who took an awkward head-first tumble into the corner boards after a collision with Charlie McAvoy. Trotz indicated that Michael Dal Colle and Leo Komarov will be in the lineup on Friday night.
–Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock scored his first goal of the season in 42 games played for an OT game-winner against the Rangers on Sunday. Pulock now has one goal and 15 points this season and felt a little weight had been lifted off with the game-winner.
“Obviously for me, throughout my career I’ve been able to score a little bit,” Pulock said. “To go through a little slump like that is tough, and as the games wore on, it got tougher. I knew I just needed to get that one and obviously it came in a big moment. I’m excited about that.”
–Veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn joined the Islanders for practice on Wednesday and will travel with the team to Boston after being dealt to the Isles from the Ottawa Senators earlier this week.
Boston Bruins Lines
New York Islanders
Travis Zajac-Mat Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Michael Dal Colle
Kyle Palmieri-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Leo Komarov
Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy-Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene-Noah Dobson