‘You can’t win them all.’ That was the sentiment from New York Islanders enforcer Zenon Konopka following Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum. The team set the bar high for themselves, especially since setting a season-high four straight wins on Tuesday night. Of course there will be ups and downs from here on out, but the loss hits hard.
“When we play the way that we’re supposed to, we’re a pretty good team,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “To me, that’s one of the better hockey teams, one of the better coached teams, systematically strong structured. I thought in the second and third periods we did a lot of good things. We had success when we did those little things.”
But the same slow starts that characterized many losses earlier in the season could be one attribute to the end result. By the end of the first period, the Islanders had fallen behind 3-0 and from there it was hard to come back.
“(Boston) is a real good team, a good defensive team,” Konopka said. “You can’t take shifts off and we did. It’s something we’re going to have to learn from and put it past us. We really need to learn from this, that we have to show up for 60 minutes.”
Even though it was difficult, the Islanders never gave up. They took 21 shots in the second period and 11 more in the third, outshooting the Bruins by 13 during the final 40 minutes of play. Despite the shot differential, the Islanders were only able to put three goals past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
“I know personally, on the bench, I didn’t think for a second that the game was over,” Josh Bailey said. “It ended up being that first period that killed us, but we had still had a good feeling. Earlier in the year we would have been pretty dejected and think the game was over that early. It’s good to have that feeling, but you still have to find a way.”
When he got the call, Al Montoya did a great job, making saves on all seven shots he faced in the third period to hold the Bruins off the score sheet; he let up just one goal in the second period after replacing Nathan Lawson between the pipes at 7:12. In all, Montoya made 15 saves.
“I got more comfortable as the game went along,” Montoya said. “We didn’t get the bounces right off the bat, but at the same time, I felt really good going out there making the saves that I had to. The D really picked it up, really tightened up and took away those second opportunities.”
Shawn Thornton #22 of the Boston Bruins battles for the puck with Andrew MacDonald #47 of the New York Islanders during the third period of an NHL hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum on February 17, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. Bruins won 6-3. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
And John Tavares scored the only goal of the third period at 12:57, closing the gap 6-3. He was set up beautifully when Isles defenseman Jack Hillen’s shot on net found Tavares around the paint for the redirection.
Bruins center David Krejci established a 4-0 lead just 55 seconds after the puck dropped in the second, but it wouldn’t put the Islanders on their heels. Tavares scored his first goal of the contest just 55 seconds later as he came down the right side and sent the puck top shelf.
Rookie forward Tyler Seguin scored to give the Bruins back their four-goal lead (5-1) at 2:48. But finding a loose puck after a blocked shot, Bailey was able to net a goal in his second straight game to close the gap 5-2 at 5:36.
At 7:10, the Islanders took an unnecessary bench minor for too-many men on the ice and the Bruins converted. Milan Lucic scored a power play goal just seven seconds later to bring the score 6-2.
But the outcome was really a result of the start. The Islanders fell behind early when Blake Wheeler scored 1:52 into the first period as a shot from a few feet out made its way through the crease.
Then 7:03 into the first, Mark Recchi scored the type of goal he’s known for, the gritty ones from inside the paint. After being called a goal on the ice, Lawson challenged the play for a kicking like motion and the play went to video review, but was ultimately upheld.
Gregory Campbell brought the Bruins ahead 3-0 when he scored at 9:04 of the first.
In the end, the game didn’t turn out the way the Islanders had hoped.
“I don’t know from the past, but these guys (the Bruins) were desperate,” Montoya said. “We were too, but at the same time maybe they (the Bruins) got a bounce here or there that moved the momentum a little bit. We just wanted to hang in there. At the same time, they’re a good team, they came at us and we gave them too much.”
Even though he had a two-goal game, Tavares also expressed his frustrations.
“It’s pretty simple,” Tavares said. “They got pucks out quick, and they got them in deep on us. They were moving their feet well in the offensive zone, finding those good areas and getting shots. We’ve been playing a lot better than that lately. As good as their start was, if we were better, if we started off better, it probably wouldn’t have been that result after the first.”