ELMONT, N.Y. — Dog days? In the thick of the grinding 82-game regular season, the Bruins Wednesday night continued to chew through the opposition, overcoming an early 1-0 deficit and powering their way to a 4-1 victory over the Islanders at UBS Arena.
Defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Derek Forbort had one goal apiece at even strength, and Brad Marchand ripped home a power-play strike early in the third period, leading the league-leading Bruins to their third consecutive win.
Trent Frederic added an insurance goal at even strength with 4:22 remaining in regulation.
Linus Ullmark, red hot in net from the start of the season, turned back 27 shots and improved his league-best record to 24-2-1 with the 100th victory of his NHL career. The Swedish stopper, now in his second season with the Black and Gold, won 26 games all last season.
Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron was felled by friendly fire, a deflected David Pastrnak slapper that ricocheted into his face at the 4:26 mark of the third.
The 37-year-old pivot, looking to be in a great amount of pain, needed help getting off the ice and making his way to the dressing room. But to his teammates’ great relief, and perhaps amazement, he quickly returned to the bench for active duty, albeit with what looked like gauze stuffed into his right nostril.
“I know the puck got deflected, but it hit him up high, in the face,” said coach Jim Montgomery. “The admiration I have and everybody has for him, coming back to help the team win is immense. We’re hoping all the X-rays come back good.”
Montgomery was vague about the reason for X-rays. One possibility would be that the puck caused a fracture of the cheekbone.
“You just hope it’s not an eye,” added Montgomery, noting what he was thinking the moment Bergeron was felled. “Or a severely broken nose or something, whatever the case may be. We’re up in the game, 3-1, he knows that, and he’s back in the locker room — and still, he comes back right away. Just a tremendous amount of respect for his toughness and his pride in the Spoked-B. Hopefully, all the X-rays will come back positive for us.”
The McAvoy and Forbort goals left the Bruins with a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Marchand’s goal on the advantage, the knockout punch for the Fish Sticks, came at 5:03 of the third. The Bruins are now 24-0-1 this season when entering the third period with a lead. The Bruins take on the Rangers Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. They are 14-1-3 in their last 18 games.
Asked if he might be inclined to give his captain a night off vs. the Rangers, Montgomery said, “I’m going to let Bergeron make that decision. If he is healthy and everything is good, I’ll let him make that decision.”
Ullmark, who will back up Jeremy Swayman Thursday night, briefly reflected on his season.
“It has been overwhelming — I’m not going to lie — it has been a different kind of a season, definitely,” he said. “And it has taken a lot of me mentally to, you know, keep going and not be satisfied. Because it’s hard, to have the luxury at this part of the season to be at this point and ... usually, you are at this point (24 wins) at the end of the season. I have a lot of gratitude for all the boys in here who go to work every single night.”
The Islanders, desperate to stay relevant in the chase for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, moved to a 1-0 lead on Zach Parise’s 13th goal of the season.
Parise, trailing into the zone off the rush up the left side, connected with a sizzling one-time slapper from the top of the circle. But the key play belonged to defenseman Sebastian Aho, who collected a pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau and then flicked a smooth backhand feed Parise’s way from the left wall.
Once again, if not for Ullmark’s exceptional work in net, the Bruins would have been looking at a two- or three-goal deficit after the first 20 minutes. Instead, Ullmark keep the damage to 1-0, leaving the Bruins in position to mount a push in the second period.
Overall, most of the first period was spent in Boston’s end of the ice. The Islanders finished with a 9-6 edge in shots on net, and a lopsided 24-11 advantage in shot attempts. Sometimes stats are telling.
The push began with McAvoy’s goal, 7:48 into the middle period, off a feed from Matt Grzelcyk.
In keeping with Montgomery’s urgings of late, Grzelcyk was bold on the attack, carrying the puck behind the offensive net and dishing a pass from the goal line and into the slot. The charging McAvoy rushed in and unloaded a one-time slapper, blowing it by netminder Semyon Varlamov for the 1-1 equalizer.
McAvoy, now with three goals for the season, had not scored since Nov. 23.
A little more than three minutes later, at the 11:00 mark, Forbort potted his third of the season, nudging the puck across the goal line after Pavel Zacha unloaded a big shot from the high slot. The puck loose around Varlamov’s feet, Forbort banged it home after advancing deep into the zone from his spot at left defense.
Forbort had not put one in the net since Nov. 13, when he potted a shorthander in what ended as the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders.
In both cases, the goals were prime examples of the offense Montgomery has wanted to see from his defensemen. He has told them to pinch more when they see the chances and, above all, keep pucks live in the offensive zone.
But by keeping pucks live, Montgomery noted, he does not want his charges to interpret that as a sign just to fire more pucks on net.
“I don’t like the [term] ‘throwing it to the net,’ ” he said. “If there’s people at the net, I like throwing it at the net. If there’s no one at the net, I’d rather hang on to it.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.