Bruins

Bruins pull away in third period for 5-1 win over Islanders

Bruins pull away in third period for 5-1 win over Islanders

NEW YORK -- Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask helped the Boston Bruins keep up their winning ways to start the new year.

Bergeron had the go-ahead goal in the second period and the surging Bruins scored three times in the third to pull away for a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. Tuukka Rask stopped 25 shots as Boston improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine, the longest streak of games with at least a point this season.

Danton HeinenBrad MarchandTim Schaller and Noel Acciari also scored for the Bruins,

"We knew it was coming this year," Marchand said. "We had a lot of injuries and we knew we just needed some time to come together a bit, but you see the way some young guys are stepping up. It just seems like everyone is connecting. Every line has that chemistry."

Jordan Eberle had New York's goal and Jaroslav Halak finished with 33 saves as the Islanders lost their third straight. Josh Bailey was held without a point, ending his career-high streak at 11 games.

New York was 5-8-2 in December and the latest loss pushed the Islanders out of a playoff position with Carolina picking up a point in a shootout loss to Washington and having a game in hand.

"Adversity is hitting us between the eyes right now as a group, as a staff, as players," Islanders coach Doug Weight said. "We've got to find a way. If you're going to use words like flat or a little sluggish at times in the second or third it's concerning, but it's not going away.

"We have three really big games and we have to figure it out."

After being outshot 12-9 in the first period, the Bruins held the Islanders to just 14 shots through the final 40 minutes and beat them for the second time in two meetings this season.

"We just tried to stick to our game plan and our systems," Boston's Sean Kuraly said. "Be quick through the neutral zone and hold onto pucks down low, and be a good puck possession team. I think for most of the game we did that."

It was a fluky goal from Bergeron that put the Bruins ahead 2-1 in the second. A centering pass to Marchand took a funny deflection right to Bergeron on the side of the net and the Bruins' forward banked it in off Halak at 8:28. Marchand got his 200th career assist on the play.

Marchand then got his 16th goal at 9:04 of the third after the Islanders turned over the puck and David Pastrnak led an odd-man rush to make it 3-1.

Schaller deflected the puck out of the air to give the Bruins a three-goal lead with just under five minutes left in the game, and Accaiari added an empty-netter with 2:13 remaining.

"We know they're down a few guys, so you have to force those young kids to make plays," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I don't think we turned it over much. If we did we reloaded pretty well. That was a bit of the game plan, force them to break out and go 200 feet.

"When we get buzzing we're a decent forechecking team. We have some heavy lines and even our skilled lines are good at handling the puck."

The Bruins extended their record to 12-1-2 in their last 15 contests against Eastern Conference opponents.

Boston opened the scoring with a goal off a draw in the middle of the first period. Riley Nash won the faceoff and the puck went right to Heninen, who fired the puck past Halak at 8:17.

Eberle evened the score just over a minute later after he forced a turnover in front of the net and slid the puck past the extended leg of Rask for his 14th.

NOTES: The NHL announced Tuesday that Rask was named first star for December and Bailey was the second star. ... The Bruins scratched forwards Anders Bjork and Paul Postma and defenseman Frank Vatrano. ... Forward Tanner Fritz made his NHL debut against Boston after the Islanders called him up from the AHL on Monday. ... Forward Alan Quine and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg were scratched for New York.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Thursday night.

Islanders: At Philadelphia on Thursday night.

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Rask on Game 5 loss: 'I could've stopped more pucks with my eyes closed.'

Rask on Game 5 loss: 'I could've stopped more pucks with my eyes closed.'

BOSTON -- It may not have been quite as bad as Tuukka Rask made it out to be, but the Bruins goaltender knew he wasn’t good enough in Game 5.

Rask allowed four goals on 13 shots before being yanked in favor of Anton Khudobin as the Bruins fell behind 4-1 in what wound up being a 4-3 loss Saturday night at TD Garden, sending the Stanley Cup playoff series back to Toronto for Game 6 on Monday. He was badly outplayed by Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, who made 42 strong, clutch saves at the other end of the ice.

The Bruins entered the game with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close out the Leafs, but the players in front of Rask weren’t much better, getting off to a sluggish start in the first period that ultimately doomed them despite a massive third-period push. Still, it was the goalie who faced the music most directly after the defeat.

For someone who's noticeably sidestepped personal responsibility for goals allowed at times in his career, Rask, the last Bruins player to speak to the media after the game, took it all on his shoulders.

It was pointed self-criticism and a real show of leadership and accountability from Rask, who clearly wasn’t okay with the way he played.

LEAFS 4, BRUINS 3

“I probably could’ve stopped more pucks with my eyes closed," he said. "That’s about it. It’s on me . . . 

“I felt good [going into the game]. Sometimes you track pucks better than other days. Today, as you can probably tell, I wasn’t tracking the puck very well and it happens sometimes."

He didn't get a lot of help; the Bruins allowed a couple of goals in close to the Boston net in a sleepy first period. But it was the second period where things really fell apart .

David Backes scored a power-play goal that cut Toronto’s lead to 2-1 and got the fans back into the game. Then both the Bruins and Rask faltered in the next minute.

A bit of a sloppy line change and some poor coverage on a transition play gave speedy Tyler Bozak a quality chance, and the Toronto forward managed to beat Rask one-on-one. It completely wiped out the momentum Boston had been generating leading up to its first goal, and it sucked the energy right out of the building.

That goal, scored 51 seconds after Backes had put the B's on the board, was on Rask, and it was a big part of what led coach Bruce Cassidy to pull him when he allowed a power-play goal to James van Riemsdyk just 1:19 later.

“I didn’t think [Rask] had it tonight, so we went with Anton," said Cassidy. "And then there’s always [the fact that a goalie change] gets the rest of the team’s attention, as well. So, it’s both [things].

“I don’t want to measure, or quantify what percentage of each, but clearly if I thought he was on then he wouldn’t have got pulled. I guess I’ll put it that way.”

DJ BEAN

Rask’s save percentage for the series against the Leafs dropped to a “meh” .904 after the Game 5 debacle, and it was -- unfortunately -- right on the heels of a magnificent 31-save effort in Boston’s big Game 4 road win in Toronto. That was a big performance, in which Rask was justifiably prasied for coming through in a key playoff moment, but just 48 hours later he was fitting himself for goat horns.

That’s the life of a goalie in the playoffs.

“Yeah, that’s the way it is," he said. "You play good, you kind of put it behind you; you play bad, you put it behind you. You just stay even no matter what happens."

He's clearly ready to put Saturday behind him.

"[We’re] moving on to the next one and we’ll finish it out in Toronto,” said Rask.

And as for Saturday?

"That’s hockey. Sometimes you’re awesome, sometimes you’re not.”

In Game 5, Rask was not. Now he and the Bruins will get two more cracks at reversing that in a best-of-seven series where they still have the upper hand, even after Saturday's big miss.

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Bean: Bruins can't do Leafs any more favors

Bean: Bruins can't do Leafs any more favors

Facing elimination, Mike Babcock made some moves in hopes of winning Game 5. Bruce Cassidy made one that helped him out. 

One would be correct in saying the Bruins carried the play for most of their Game 5 loss to the Leafs. With better luck regarding posts and saves Frederik Andersen had no business making, they'd have won. Similarly, the Leafs were the better team in Game 4. But the best team doesn't always win and one wrong move can go a long way. 

After Zdeno Chara held Auston Matthews' line to zero goals through the first four games of the series (Matthews' only goal of the series came against the Torey Krug-Kevan Miller pair in Game 3), Babcock shook up his lines. He took William Nylander away from Matthews and put him on the third line. 

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With Toronto's lineup more spread out, Cassidy opted to ease up on Matthews and play Chara's pair against Nazem Kadri, Andreas Johnsson and Nylander. The results of the decision contributed to a quick hole from which the Bruins would not recover. 

Freed from Chara, Matthews' line scored against a Torey Krug and Kevan Miller pairing minutes into the game. Johnsson scored against Chara and McAvoy shortly thereafter. 

Cassidy put Chara and McAvoy back against Matthews following the feared experiment, but the damage was done. Two fewer goals would have been the difference in a game the Bruins lost by one. 

Then again, there were 49 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game after the Bruins were put in that 0-2 hole. They dominated for most of the remaining minutes, but they also had some big gaffes when they had little margin for error. Tuukka Rask stunk for the most part and gave up a bad goal to Tyler Bozak seconds after the B's had gotten on the board in the second period. 

So there are other areas where the Bruins could use more. That obviously starts with an improved performance in net, but Rask is not a realistic concern. 

Saturday was Rask's first subpar performance of the series. The same cannot be said for David Backes, who has scored two power play goals in front but has been a ghost in 5-on-5 play. His linemate Danton Heinen hasn't been much better, but Heinen is a rookie. Backes is an aging $6 million player. It's fair to assume that he should be of more use to the Bruins now than he will be in the third, fourth and fifth years of his contract. 

It's also fair to assume that Charlie McAvoy's underwhelming play through five games is a sign that he's still finding his way back from the knee injury that kept him out late in the season. He came a hit post away from scoring in the third period, but he has just one point (a secondary assist on a power play goal in Game 1) all series. 

David Krejci sealed Game 4 by creating a rush on which he assisted a Jake DeBrusk goal, but he's been nowhere near the guy who stole the show in postseasons past. Rick Nash could stand to take over a game given the price Don Sweeney rightfully paid for his services. 

So now the series heads to a Game 6, oddly bringing what has at times looked like a one-sided series to the lengthy conclusion we initially expected. If the Bruins don't try outthinking themselves, it will still end the way they envisioned. 

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