Early in the first period, the New York Islanders killed an extremely important 5-on-3, which set the tone for the remainder of their game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night at TD Garden, but they eventually fell by a 3-2 margin.
“I felt like we came out pretty good,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought shots were pretty much even and they had that 5-on-3 that we killed. We played real well tonight. There weren’t many shots on both sides there in the third. (Bruins goaltender Tim) Thomas was huge on a few saves, but again, first period, Ricky (DiPietro) made some big saves to keep us in the game.”
As Capuano alluded to, special teams started strong. At 7:03 of the first, John Tavares was called for hooking and Trevor Gillies called for roughing, forcing the Islanders to play two full minutes with a two-man disadvantage.
Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck against Travis Hamonic #36 of the New York Islanders at the TD Garden on April 6, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
“Our penalty kill over the past, I don’t even know how long, has kept us in games and has given us that momentum,” goaltender Rick DiPietro said. “Unfortunately, we went into that first intermission giving up that goal with .01 seconds (left). We didn’t let it get us down, we continued to work hard and our guys played great.”
Once again, Hamonic didn’t look out of place playing against the opposition’s top offensive lines. He dominated defensive zone coverage and made a few game changing moves behind the Islanders blue line as he played a team leading 26:23 and was one of just two players (Wishart) with a positive +/- rating.
In the second period, special teams continued to play a factor in the Islanders-Bruins matchup.
Michael Grabner tallied twice, putting up a power play goal as well as a shorthanded goal. The PPG put Grabner at 32 goals this season, reestablishing the 23-year-old forward as the league’s leading rookie goal scorer. Then, his sixth shortie of the season put him at 33 goals, tying him with Evgeni Malkin’s rookie goal total from the 2006-07 season.
“It’s almost like when you chip a puck out into the neutral zone, (Grabner) has a chance to track that puck down and make something extra exciting happen,” Capuano said. “That’s what happened tonight.”
Throughout the game, DiPietro made some unbelievable saves, especially on the 5-on-3, but after an unfortunate rebound, Shawn Thornton scored with one-tenth of a second left in the first period to send the Bruins ahead 1-0.
The Bruins may have had a 1-0 lead at the start of the second period, but that lead was just the start. Grabner scored his power play goal at 3:24 to level the score at one, while DiPietro earned his first point of the season with an assist.
“I noticed they (the Bruins) were on a change,” DiPietro said. “One of the guys was putting pressure on me and I tried to bank it off the boards. I wanted to pass it hard and as soft as I could so it wouldn’t go all the way to the goalie. Blake (Comeau) made an awesome play there and Grabs (Grabner) buried it.”
Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders celebrates a goal against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on April 6, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Then at 7:51, Dennis Seidenberg scored to take back the Bruins lead and Gregory Campbell increased the Bruins goal differential 3-1 when he scored at 9:09.
Grabner’s sixth shorthanded goal of the season (14:26) closed the goal margin 3-2.
“We had a little turnover and Bails (Josh Bailey) just chipped it out and (Grabner) made a great move on Thomas there,” Capuano said. “But, you know, (Grabner) has just been working hard and when you work hard in practice and you do the right things, it pays off for you.”
The Bruins worked extremely hard in the third period, applying the most pressure they had all evening, but that didn’t matter. Both teams remained scoreless in the third period, allowing Grabner’s shortie close out the evening.
“It was nice to get a couple goals,” Grabner said. “Obviously it would be nicer to have a win in the bag. I’m just not going to change my game. I think the team worked hard tonight.”
Campanale debut Matt Campanale was the ninth player to make his NHL debut with the Islanders this season. In 8:21 TOI, Campanale was unable to put a point on the board, but he did end up on the score sheet. At 8:34 of the third period, he lifted the puck over the glass, earning a penalty for delay of game.
“Everyone was telling me to get on the score sheet somehow,” Campanale said. “So I guess a two-minute penalty will do, (since I) couldn’t get a goal.”
The senior at the University of New Hampshire said he noticed a difference between the college players and the professionals almost immediately.
“I have to say the strength of the guys,” Campanale said. “The guys are a lot bigger here. It’s just a lot different from college. There are a lot smaller, so it is easier. But that is probably the biggest difference.”
Regardless, the rookie defenseman enjoyed his experience.
“It was a lot of fun,” Campanale said. “I mean, it’s definitely an extremely high level compared to the American League (AHL). I felt like I did all right out there. It was just a great opportunity.”