New year, same roll for Bruins
NEW YORK — As a goalie, Tuukka Rask is trained to think about worst-case scenarios. He experienced one at 9:30 of Tuesday’s first period after Brandon Carlo’s defensive-zone tumble freed Jordan Eberle to tie the game at 1.
It was the exception.
“You’re just waiting for that breakdown to happen and they’re coming down in our own end,” said Rask (25 saves) after the Bruins’ 5-1 win over the Islanders at Barclays Center. “But lately, they don’t happen. We have layers. We keep things tight in the offensive zone, neutral zone, and our own end. Not a whole lot of room to make plays for the opposing team.”
Even the lone misplay happened after a positive event: a Patrice Bergeron faceoff win against Mat Barzal in the defensive zone. The Bruins were in good shape to initiate the breakout. Carlo just managed to suffer the bad luck of blowing a tire. The result was the first five-on-five goal scored against Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak this season.
“He should have lost the draw. We would have been better off,” cracked Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “Well, what are you going to do? It’s going to happen sooner or later. No line goes through a whole year.”
However you break down the Bruins’ segments, they are hot by every measure: 7-0-1 in their last eight, 10-1-2 in their last 13, 16-3-1 since Nov. 16. The Bruins are playing well in just about every sector of the rink that they could laugh off the first five-on-five goal against the No. 1 line.
Bergeron had the last laugh.
In the second, Bergeron scored the deciding goal when the Islanders least expected him to shoot. The rebound of a Marchand shot had popped into the air out of Jaroslav Halak’s reach. The puck landed to Halak’s right. Before the goalie could slide over and seal off the short-side post, Bergeron banked the puck off Halak’s right pad and into the net at 8:28, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
“As soon as it was in the air, I saw the goalie wasn’t necessarily in position and ready for it,” Bergeron said. “I was trying to put the puck down on the ice as quickly as possible, get it on net, and hope for the best. It worked out.”
Bergeron’s linemates got into the scoring act in the third with a backbreaking strike. Cal Clutterbuck coughed up the puck in the neutral zone, which allowed Pastrnak and Marchand to pull away for a two-on-one rush against Scott Mayfield. Pastrnak, riding a nine-game goal-scoring drought, could have snapped a puck on net in hopes of snapping his slump. Instead, the right wing dragged the puck through Mayfield and dished to Marchand. Halak, who had committed to Pastrnak, had no chance of recovering before Marchand buried his 16th strike at 9:04.
The rest of the night belonged to the fourth line. Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari had played heavy, thorough, and grinding shifts for the first 40 minutes. Through two periods, Schaller led all Bruins with three shots on net. Kuraly and Acciari each landed one puck on Halak.
But their collective hands are not as soft as those of their skilled teammates. Chances that the likes of Marchand and Bergeron would turn into tucks sailed off the fourth-liners’ mitts and thudded off Halak’s pads. Such blank-shooting might discourage other players. But Cassidy likes to roll his fourth line because of its no-nonsense approach, even when pucks aren’t going in.
“Heavy down low. Forced their D to defend us and take pucks from us,” Cassidy said. “It takes a toll on a team after a while. We saw that going into the third. Good for them and the other lines too. But I just saw more out of that line.”
The plumbers earned their reward in the third. Halak turned back Kuraly’s shot off the rush. But Schaller was doing his job, rumbling toward the crease when his center released his shot. Because of his sprint to the net, Schaller was in the right position to power the rebound past Halak at 15:02.
It was not a flashy goal. But it looked lovely to Kuraly.
“We were just focused on getting pucks to the net,” Kuraly said. “It’s not always going to be pretty. The more times the puck gets at him, the more chances it’s going to go in. That’s our game.”
The Islanders had a last push when Torey Krug was called for a pair of minors at 15:41. Coach Doug Weight pulled Halak during the power play for a six-on-four formation. Acciari put an end to hopes of a rally when he sailed a long-distance shot into an empty net at 17:47.
“We had four lines contributing, six D, and Tuukks was great tonight, too,” Marchand said. “When we play like that as a group, we have all our lines rolling, it’s tough to play against us.”