The New York Islanders rode early offense, late defense and a hot goaltender to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck scored for the Islanders, while the entire team held off a furious push from the Bruins to preserve the win. Chad Johnson made 14 of his 30 saves in the final frame, holding his former team at bay and preserving his perfect record at TD Garden.
“You could probably have given him the first star,” Clutterbuck said of Johnson, the game’s third star. “He was huge for us in the third period and made a couple of huge stops in the first two periods. It’s a pretty good return to the city for him.”
Okposo said it was good for the Islanders to “bend and not break,” while Head Coach Jack Capuano said his team’s mentality was “a little different from last year,” when holding leads.
“We knew they were going to make a push and they made a real good push,” Capuano said. “I was proud of our guys, it was a good effort. We defended pretty hard at the end. We tried to keep them to the outside. They hit a couple of posts and Chad made some big saves when he had to.”
The Islanders controlled the first two periods, outshooting the Bruins 27-17 while opening up a 3-1 lead.
Nielsen netted his first of the season at 6:21 of the first period, helping a redirected Josh Bailey feed across the goal line. Bailey’s initial shot deflected off Dougie Hamilton’s skate towards the net, but Nielsen gave it the extra juice for the game’s first tally.
The Islanders 1-0 lead didn’t quite last till the first intermission, as Milan Lucic tied the score with a sly redirection with 1:39 to play. Lucic got behind Clutterbuck on a three-on-two rush before getting a skate on a Seth Griffith pass, which tipped up and past Johnson.
Okposo re-established the Islanders’ lead 1:30 into the second period. Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg was handcuffed on a John Tavares redirection and couldn’t control the rebound, which Okposo swatted out of the air. Clutterbuck scored the eventual winner eight minutes later, finding space in front of the net before accepting a Matt Martin feed and beating Svedberg upstairs. The winner was Clutterbuck’s first of the season.
Chris Kelly kicked off the Bruins late-game push with his second goal of the season midway through the third period, but that’s as close as Boston would come.
With the win, the Islanders halted a two-game losing streak and continued their success in Boston, having won four of their last five trips to Beantown. The win did come at a cost, as Bailey (hand) did not return for the third period.
The victory held extra meaning for Johnny Boychuk, who returned to Boston for the first time since being traded to the Islanders on Oct. 4. Boychuk was a fan favorite during his five seasons with the team and the TD Garden poured on the love with a video tribute and lots of spontaneous cheering.
“It was a tough game, looking across the ice and playing against your friends,” Boychuk said. “But when you’re on the ice, it’s business. I’m glad we got the two points and we’re looking forward to the next game.”
The Islanders return home to play the Dallas Stars Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.