Your first place, Metro division leading New York Islanders are in Boston tonight to face the Bruins at a sold out TD Garden arena. Johnny Boychuk and Chad Johnson will be returning for the first time since joining the Islanders in the off season. Isles are 4-2-0 with 8 pts., Bruins are 4-4-0 with 8 points in the Atlantic.
Forwards: Conacher-Tavares-Okposo, Kulemin-Nielsen-Bailey, Lee-Nelson-Strome, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.
Defense: Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Visnovsky, de Haan-Strait.
Chad Johnson gets the start with Jaroslav Halak on the bench.
The Islanders come out strong to start the game finishing chess, skating well and relentless on the attack. John Tavares looks serious out there. The second line of Kulemin, Nielsen & Bailey making a big impression early in the period. Bailey puts a shot in that deflects in front, Frans Nielsen reaches back as he skates behind the nets and taps in the puck with the back hand, 1-0 Isles. Isles put the 7th best PP (1 of 13 over the last 2 games) in the NHL to the test in the final five minutes. Isles generate a few chances, but fail to score. Chara hits Tavares as he is taking a shot. Tavares is OK. Boston evens the score a t 1-1 with just under two minutes remaining. Isles applied some good pressure in the period and lead in shots, 15-10, but leave the ice tied at 1.
John Tavares puts a long shot on net, Kyle Okposo (Tavares & Strait) takes out the garbage, 2-1 Isles. Okposo with some great hands there while getting checked. Chara will not return to the game due to injury. Arthur Staple reports Bailey is not on the Isles bench. Cal Clutterbuck (Martin & Leddy) gives the Isles a 3-1 lead. Per Eric Hornick, "Isles have 24 goals from 12 different players." Islanders are working hard in the second period. Isn't that nice to hear. John Kreiser tweets, "Isles have attempted 32 shots. Bruins have blocked ... 1." Isles end a strong second period with a 27-17 edge in shots and a 3-1 lead in the game. Brian Compton reports Josh Bailey (Hand Injury) will not return to the game.
Islanders start the third period with good energy. Strong plays by Brock Nelson & Lubo Visnovsky and a recommitment to the team checking game. Chad Johnson adds a huge sprawling save around the five minute mark. Boston working hard, hemming Isles in their own end. Capuano calls a time out to slow things down. Bruins make it a 1 goal game, 3-2 Isles. Isles want a couple of penalties called, but don't get them. Boston changing the momentum in the game, but the Isles fighting back. Chad Johnson with some nice saves late in the game. Bruins net is empty in final minute. Bruins call a time out with 20.9 left in regulation.
Isles hold on to win 3-2. They end the two game losing streak and improve to 5-2 on the season, remain 1st in the Metro division with 10 pts.
The Islanders must improve on face offs. Boston led in face off wins, 35-24. Josh Bailey is finally doing well, and suffers a hand injury tonight and does not return. Arthur Staple is reporting a broken hand, out indefinitely. Look to see Grabovski return to the line up for the game against Dallas to take Bailey's roster spot. Coach Capunao will live and die with the fourth line. They are usually good, but the amount of ice time they get is amazing. The fact that the Isles falter is not as big as when they can keep it together and get the win. The Isles could have let it been all about the return of Boychuk & Johnson, but they had a job to do tonight against the Bruins and they did just that.
The team experience, skill & depth is helping them win these kind of games. Nine different Islanders picked up a point tonight and the defense played pretty well. The Isles had 19 blocked shots while Bruins had only 4. That is definitely a detail that can not be ignored. Special teams play had the PP go 0/1 and PK go 1/1.
Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin, Frans Nielsen, Cal Clutterbuck, Lubomir Visnovsky and Chad Johnson were standouts for me tonight. When the big time players play a big time game, the odds of success are pretty high. When they can inspire the whole team to did down and get that much more out of their game, even better. Kyle Okposo gets the 1st star and Chad Johnson gets the 3rd star of the game.
The Islanders have the Dallas Stars at NVMC on Saturday, 7PM.