From behind the Islanders net, Milan Lucic took a peek over his left shoulder. Lucic slammed on the brakes, turned back to the right, and looked to the point.
Zdeno Chara had done his job.
The score was tied, 2-2, in the third period. The Islanders, as most teams are coached to do, were overloading on the strong side when Lucic took his first look from behind the net. So when Lucic went against the grain, Chara moved into a soft spot to evade the New York overload.
“He did a great job getting open,” Lucic said. “He sneaked down to the top of the circle. A lot of teams now, when they overload in the defensive zone, they take away that strong side D-man. He did a great job getting open for me there where I can make that pass.”
Those slight adjustments, augmented by a David Krejci screen, triggered the go-ahead goal. Chara winged a shot through Krejci’s screen that Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro couldn’t stop at 7:07 of the third period. It was the deciding strike in the Bruins’ 4-2 win over the Islanders on Friday before 17,565 at TD Garden.
“They did a good job of getting traffic to the front of the net,” said DiPietro. “You’ve got him shooting from the top of the circle through a screen, it is what it is.”
Patrice Bergeron punched in an insurance goal to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Following a crisp Dougie Hamilton (two assists) outlet pass, Brad Marchand raced down the left wing and spotted Bergeron in the middle. Bergeron faked to his backhand, then pulled the puck to his forehand to slip the puck past DiPietro.
The two-goal strike helped erase the 40 previous minutes of tedium. The Bruins didn’t play with their usual jump for the first two periods.
“I don’t think we’re extremely happy with our game tonight,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “For 40 minutes, I didn’t think we were on top of our game. We didn’t seem to be in synch. We didn’t have the energy that we normally show. It was a struggle for us tonight. The last 20 was a little bit better. We found a way to win. A lot of times, that’s what you’ve got to do when you push through those kinds of nights. We did. We take the two points and you move on.”
Waltham native Keith Aucoin, claimed off waivers from Toronto earlier this season, scored both Islander goals. The Bruins made uncharacteristic errors on both goals.
In the first period, after the Bruins took a 1-0 lead, Aucoin tied the score. Chara and Johnny Boychuk got caught out of position chasing after David Ullstrom in the corner. Ullstrom shuttled the puck to Colin McDonald behind the Boston net. When Ullstrom swung out and spotted Aucoin in front, the Bruins didn’t have their usual net-front layer of protection in front of Tuukka Rask. Aucoin took Ullstrom’s pass and beat Rask at 11:13.
Aucoin put the Islanders up, 2-1, in the second. Daniel Paille chased after a rebound deep in the Bruins zone. But under heavy forechecking heat from McDonald, Paille sent an outlet pass skittering into the high slot. Aucoin intercepted it and ripped a shot past Rask (24 saves) at the 9:50 mark.
But the Bruins got a bounce to go their way to tie the game later in the period. Krejci floated a soft shot on goal, which thudded off the left skate of Joe Finley. The puck caromed onto the blade of Gregory Campbell. Before DiPietro (23 saves) could adjust, Campbell swept the puck into the net at 13:42 to tie the game at 2-2.
The power line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo never threatened Rask. Chara and Boychuk drew shutdown duty against Tavares’s threesome.
The Bruins found their pace in the third period. It was an example of a veteran team surviving 40 legless minutes to beat a younger club.
“It was great to see that we stepped up in the third and got those points,” Rask said. “It was a sloppy night for all of us. It makes it easier to swallow when you get the win.”