The Boston Bruins’ last visit to Long Island resulted in a 1-0 loss to the Islanders on Jan. 18. They turned that frustrating setback into a 10-point streak heading into Saturday’s matchup at Nassau Collesium.
The Islanders did what no other team could in the first few weeks of the season: hand the Bruins a regulation defeat. They handed Boston regulation loss No. 2 nearly 30 days later.
Let’s face it; the Bruins appeared due for their second regulation loss of the season. They played their third game in four nights following a pair of one-goal wins against the Rangers Wednesday and Friday. On top of that, Bruce Cassidy’s bunch played with five defensemen after Jakub Zboril exited with an upper-body injury.
The Bruins got off to a good start after Brad Marchand netted career goal No. 299. But they couldn’t expand their early lead, nor could they build on Patrice Bergeron’s equalizer late in the middle stanza.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored twice — including a shorthanded dagger with 5:28 left in regulation — with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle each adding their own tallies in the Isles’ 4-2 victory.
“I don’t think we had our legs tonight, and I don’t think, at times, we were making the best decisions,” Bergeron said postgame. “It is what it is. The schedule is the same for everyone. But tonight was one of those nights where the energy wasn’t the greatest.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins dropped to 10-2-2 on the season.
The power play looks powerless
Boston’s power play clicked on all cylinders before their extended five-day break after the two come from behind wins in Philadelphia. They’ve hardly looked the same since.
With a chance to even things up on their second man-advantage attempt Cassidy trotted out his top power play unit of Marchand, Bergeron, David Pastrnak, David Krejci and Nick Ritchie.
The five-forward look generated a couple of chances in the opening moments, only to see their rhythm fall wayside following a collision at the blue-line between Krejci and Ritchie. New York’s penalty kill transitioned up ice on an odd-man rush with Pageau lighting the lamp for the first shorthanded goal against Boston this season.
“I think [we’ve had] a lot of one and dones,” Bergeron said of the recent power play issues. “When we’re good, we’re retrieving pucks, we keep the puck in their zone, the penalty kill is looking tired and that’s when you get the looks that are opening up and the chances…We can maybe shoot a little more, we can retrieve pucks better, take what’s there and not force plays.”
The potent Bruins power play has become noticeably static over the last few games. They haven’t lit the lamp since their first come from behind win over the Flyers last Wednesday, sporting an 0-for-10 stretch since.
Cassidy and the coaching staff will have some extended time this week to work out the kinks. He may want to put the five-forward experiment on hold in an attempt to reignite the power play’s spark.
Catchup hockey caught up to Boston
All these come-from-behind efforts were going to come back to bite the Bruins at some point. On Saturday, they ran out of gas after Barzal scored 5:30 into the final stanza on the Isles’ lone power play attempt.
The Bruins had their legs early on. They came back from a 2-1 deficit after Bergeron evened things up his seventh goal of the season with 3:09 left in the second period. But Cassidy and company couldn’t overcome an uphill climb in the third after Barzal’s go-ahead marker and Pageau’s shorthanded tally.
With other variables in play — the third game in four nights and losing Zboril early — the Bruins looked due to finally lose a game within the 60-minute timeframe. Boston’s sloppy performance caught up to them from extended shifts in the defending end to a relatively slow night pursuing the puck.
“You always learn from losses for sure,” Cassidy said. “I’d rather win the game, especially when you battle back. We knew we needed to do some things well. They were sitting here waiting for us…”
The lesson here for Cassidy and company: extending their leads after scoring first. After all, they could use a break from all these come-from-behind efforts.
Bruins encountering the odds and ends of a unique schedule
The Bruins had a scheduled series with the Sabres postponed because of COVID last week. Now they’ll return from their recent three-game trip hoping to get a game in against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday before their scheduled tilt with the Flyers in Lake Tahoe a week from Sunday.
After their outdoor tilt in Lake Tahoe, the Bruins will hit the New York tri-state area again for another three-game-in-four-night stretch against the Rangers (twice) and Islanders (once). They won’t head back to Boston until March 3, when they host Caps defenseman and ex-Boston captain Zdeno Chara in his TD Garden return.
The Bruins last played at their Causeway St. home on Jan. 28 in a 4-1 win over the Penguins. They could go over a month without a home game if the Devils remain in the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
Even in unusual times, the Bruins could use some home cooking. They’ll have a week to settle back into their comforts, hoping to host New Jersey before flying cross-country for their next outdoor venture. At the very least, Cassidy’s bunch will receive some needed recovery time following another busy road trip.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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