The longer David Pastrnak’s scoring drought stretched, the more you started to wonder when it would end.
Pastrnak hadn’t scored in seven games going into Friday night’s matchup against the Islanders at TD Garden, his longest stretch since a 10-game dry spell in 2017. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy got the sense that Pastrnak was pressing, natural for a voracious goal scorer to want to make something happen.
As it turned out, on the way to a 3-0 win over the Islanders, all Pastrnak had to do was find a spot in the front of the net while one of the Bruins’ new faces, Mike Reilly, handled the rest.
With the clock ticking to under 30 seconds in the first period, the Bruins had the Islanders scrambling in their defensive zone. Reilly refused to let them clear the puck, fighting along the boards to keep the attack alive.
When the puck found Reilly again off a pass from Patrice Bergeron, Reilly spotted Pastrnak on the right side of the net and fed him for a one-timer that whipped over the shoulder of Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead they’d never surrender.
“It’s kind of funny,” Pastrnak said. “Obviously, we’ve got a couple of new guys, so we’ve got a couple of new nicknames right? And Riles is kind of tough to pronounce for me, so I didn’t even finish pronouncing his nickname. Calling for the puck, it was already on my plate. So obviously great pass by Riles.”
The sequence gave Pastrnak his 17th goal of the season and his first since April 3 when he scored twice against the Penguins.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating sometimes you know when you don’t score for many games, especially when they were coming in before,” he said. “So just kind of stuck with it, show up to the rink every single morning, work your butt off and get ready for next game, and try not to let the frustration get in your head too much.”
The Bruins, a team in need of reinforcements after dealing with injuries and COVID-19 issues, won their third straight since acquiring Reilly at along with Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar at Monday trade dealine. Prior to the deadline, the Bruins had dropped three of five.
Cassidy credited general manager Don Sweeney with bringing in three players who wanted to come in and make an immediate impact.
“Three really good fits for our hockey club,” Cassidy said. “And knowing them for a week, three good people. They wanted to get here in a hurry. There was no hesitation. Jump in a car, get here, play the next day. They wanted to be part of it.”
Early in the second period, the Bruins got a shot in the arm from another prolific scorer. Taylor Hall split three defenders and worked a give-and-go with David Krejci for his second goal in as many games after going 17 without one to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
“He’s an elite player,” Pastrnak said. “Obviously, really good to have him, he’s proving it. The last couple of games have been unbelievable. He’s a great skater and we all know his skill level is really high. So it’s good to watch him and learn some things from him.”
That was all the cushion the Bruins needed. Lazar tacked on an empty-net goal late in the third period, his first as a Bruin.
“I think Lazar was a bit of the one under the radar,” Cassidy said. “Pretty good hockey player that probably a lot of people didn’t know. Real good fit for us in the middle of the ice.”
While the Bruins No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask rested after getting career victory No. 300 Thursday night, rookie Jeremy Swayman impressed once again in his fifth start of the season, turning the Islanders away time and again with 25 saves on the way to his first shutout.
With the help of a gritty Bruins penalty kill, Swayman made sure the Islanders didn’t cash in on any of their three power plays.
“Sway was unbelievable all game,” Pastrnak said.
Beating the Islanders on back-to-back nights got the Bruins over a hurdle they had struggled with all season. The Bruins didn’t have many answers for the Islanders before Thursday, having lost five straight times. The Islanders still sit at second in the East Division with 58 points but the Bruins were able to gain some ground, now with 54 points and two games in hand on the Islanders.
The sample size may be small, but the Bruins have immediately reaped the benefits of their deadline additions.
“Obviously, around the trade deadline, as a professional athlete, you always have a little stress around the time,” Pastrnak said. “Once that’s over you got some new faces on the team and this is the group that it’s going to be until the end of the season. So you’re trying to build something special and that was our kind of mind-set after the trade deadline. We just want to build something special in here the rest of the season.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.