With a playoff berth in reach and a chance to hold on to the Northeast Division lead, the Boston Bruins had a decent start to Thursday’s game as they outshot the New York Islanders 16-9 through the first 20 minutes. But the Black and Gold fell flat once Josh Bailey scored his first of two goals late in the first period.
Despite Tyler Seguin tying things up with his 14th of the season at 3:41 of the second (on the power play), the Bruins had trouble keeping their foot on the gas pedal and building off that momentum. Then when Bailey scored his second of the night – on a goal that Tuukka Rask wants to have back – at 13:12, the Islanders took advantage of a team playing its second of a back-to-back to take the 2-1 victory in front of another sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TD Garden.
Need any more evidence that the desperation wasn’t there? Well consider the last 1:23 of the third period with Tuukka pulled. In a scene similar to last Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens in Montreal – where they had a 6-on-4 power play for the last 60-plus seconds – the Bruins could not generate any pressure on Evgeni Nabakov and the Islanders defense was winning a majority of the battles for every loose puck.
Luckily for the Bruins, Thursday was their last back-to-back of the season. But with eight games left, they are still searching for a spark and that killer instinct.
“You kind of get tired of saying the same thing. You know it’s [the] schedule. I think everyone’s got a pretty tough schedule, and I’m not walking away trying to be too negative,” said Seguin. “I think they’re a young team and they had the most energy there in the third.”
Thursday’s stretch was also the third game in four nights for the Black and Gold, and they started off well. For a good part of the first, they were winning the second chance battles and had a good amount of energy going less than 24 hours after holding on to a 5-4 win over the New Jersey Devils Wednesday night.
For the last 40 minutes, however, the young Isles were clearly the better team. And it’s a reason why they find themselves tied with the Ottawa Senators for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I thought the first period was the best first period in a long time,” head coach Claude Julien said about his team’s start. “And the rest of the game, although they were the better team for most of it, I just felt that I could see our guys trying, we just ran out of gas.
“Third game in four nights and the effort [and] will was there, but they did a great job of closing in and not giving us much, and even when we did penetrate the offensive zone in the third, we didn’t spend much time there. They did a great job and I give them a lot of credit. They’re on a roll right now, they’re feeling – something they haven’t done in a long time – and they came in a determined group. We just didn’t have enough in the tank to battle that I think.”
With the Bruins now trailing the Canadiens by one point in the Northeast following Montreal’s 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, the team will need to look for solutions if they want to jump their hated rivals in the standings. With eight games left and no back-to-back’s, there is little time for the Black and Gold as they look to find that killer instinct, something the Habs and Pittsburgh Penguins have found lately.