As the clock ticked down on a Bruins win, Johnny Boychuk stepped into a shot from near the top of the right circle. Chris Kelly, in the slot, stuck out his left leg to stop it. It was a brave move, a selfless move, and possibly a very painful move.
“I didn’t want to stop that,” Tuukka Rask said. “I saw who was shooting.”
Rask added, more seriously, “You need that. Important moments of the game, you need to sacrifice. It’s good to see that. I think he’s all right, though.”
Kelly said he was well aware of who was shooting, of how hard that shot might be. As he put it, “It would have been nicer with someone else.”
Fortunately for Kelly, he did indeed survive the moment. And so did the Bruins, who righted their play in the third period in time to beat the New York Islanders for the second time in 10 days. They earned a 2-1 victory on Saturday night at TD Garden that could be credited as much to Rask’s 39 saves as Loui Eriksson’s game-winning goal.
That goal came as a result of coach Claude Julien switching around his lines — yet again — with David Pastrnak moving up, Reilly Smith moving down, and Eriksson being reunited with Carl Soderberg and Kelly.
The last move proved to be crucial, with Eriksson notching the winner on a feed from Kelly to the front of the net. Kelly had kept the puck from crossing the red line after Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy attempted to send it down the ice. He then put it on goal, with Soderberg and Eriksson crashing.
Eriksson eventually found the loose puck at his feet, and with his back to the net, sent it past former Bruin Chad Johnson for his 12th of the year.
“He’s always been a good net-front player when it comes to that stuff,” Julien said. “People probably don’t realize how good he is because his physicality isn’t one of [Milan] Lucic, but it’s certainly a guy that’s smart enough to get to the right place at the right time and he finds the puck.
“Great job for him getting in front of the net to start with, but also spinning and finding the puck and banging it in.”
After the second period, the Bruins were not happy. The team had not played well, and the players knew that something different was required.
“They were kind of taking it to us and we just got back to simple hockey,” Torey Krug said. “When our team’s playing simple, we have a chance at success. The winning goal is an example of that. Soft chip to the middle and going to the net and hard work. The third period was a lot better.”
They had nearly taken the lead four minutes into the third, when the hard-luck Daniel Paille missed an open net on a pass from Patrice Bergeron. Paille knocked the puck over the net with his backhand. But in the end, that miss didn’t matter.
Both teams had taken advantage of first-period power plays, starting with the Islanders. New York got a power play at 8:33 after Brad Marchand was called for tripping.
After John Tavares sent the first shot on net, the rebound made its way to Frans Nielsen. Nielsen had his own try at Rask, and that rebound was finally put home by Tavares, at 9:06.
But the Bruins got it back after Gregory Campbell drew a hooking penalty from Ryan Strome at 12:47. Just 25 seconds later, Bergeron fired a snap shot from the slot for his 14th goal of the season.
The Bruins didn’t have much time to celebrate the win, however, with the Canadiens visiting on Sunday night. There was no indication from Julien on Saturday regarding which goaltender he intended to use. But with Malcolm Subban the backup and the coach not afraid to use Rask in both ends of a back-to-back, the choice seemed made.
As Rask said, “Nobody’s told me otherwise, so I’m sure I’m playing.”
He added, “Whenever they tell me to play, I’ll play. I’ve played, I don’t know, 14, 15 in a row now [technically 15 of 16]. I’ll try to break the record, I guess.”
His next task, like the team’s, is tougher. They are, after all, the Canadiens.
“We’re playing well,” Rask said. “It’s always a big game against them because wherever you go in Boston when the Habs are coming to town, it’s a big game, but we don’t really think of it as any bigger game than usual.
“We try to approach it as any other game, but the fact is that we haven’t been able to beat them that many times in the past and we have to change this because another fact is that we’re most likely going to play them in the playoffs this year, so [we] have to learn to play against them.”