For the second time in two weeks, the New York Islanders threw everything they had at Tuukka Rask and came up short.
The Islanders unloaded 40 shots, but the Bruins goalie proved to be the difference he and the Boston Bruins edged the visiting Isles 2-1 at TD Garden in a gritty affair.
“I’m really proud of the effort we had in here tonight,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We played a solid game against a good hockey team. We had some chances but we need to find a way to score some goals here right now.”
Islanders goalie Chad Johnson was impressive as well Saturday, stopping 34-of-36 Bruins shots, but with 7:34 to play, Loui Eriksson won a battle in front of the net and slid the game-winner underneath Johnson’s arm.
“We played a really decent road game and Chad played well for us tonight,” Anders Lee said. “It was a pretty solid game back and forth. They were able to pop one in and in a tight game like that, it’s going to be hard to come back from."
The shots (40-36 Islanders) and hits (32-31 Bruins) were indicative of how close the game was played, but a first-period fight signified how heated Saturday’s game was. Ryan Strome and Torey Krug dropped the gloves 1:53 into the game, setting the tone for a nasty, chippy battle.
“These are two teams that are battling hard,” Capuano said. “Those are two guys that don’t do that much, or engage much, but that just goes to show you how hard both teams were battling."
The Islanders did not come away unscathed from Saturday’s contest, as Cal Clutterbuck and Michael Grabner both left the game with injuries and did not return. Calvin de Haan took a skate to the head in a third-period collision as well.
John Tavares put the Islanders ahead midway through the first, as the team’s traded power-play goals. Tavares started the scoring play with an unsuccessful point shot, but Frans Nielsen corralled the loose puck behind the net, skated into the slot and put his own attempt on Tuukka Rask. Rask kicked out the rebound to the far side while Tavares skated in undetected to knock home the rebound at 9:06.
The Bruins answered back just over four minutes later, as Patrice Bergeron netted his 14th of the season. Bergeron stunned Chad Johnson with a shot off the collarbone and while the Islanders’ goaltender was regaining his bearings, a failed clearing attempt wound up back on Bergeron’s stick and he made no mistake on his second chance.
From there, the goaltenders took over, combining for 47 saves on 48 shots in the final two periods. Rask gave up his fair share of rebounds over the course of the contest, but the Islanders were unable to pull the trigger.
“He’s played well against us in both starts,” Johnson said. “They are a hard team to score on. It starts with Tuukka and then their defense is there to help them clear pucks out. He played really well tonight.”
The Islanders have little time to digest the loss, as they head to Buffalo for the second game of a back-to-back Sunday night. Puck drop is at 5 p.m.