Although the Islanders fought valiantly for the better part of two periods, they showed that they were clearly gassed from playing the second of a back-to-back, their first one of this season.
It was actually the checking lines that started off the strongest for both teams. They set the tone. In the early going the Islanders had their legs going and were getting some decent chances on Tuukka Rask. However, Shawn Thornton would put home a rebound off a point shot from Dougie Hamilton to give the Bruins an early lead.
As opposed to Thursday night when the Isles play regressed once the Leafs opened the scoring, they played well after the Bruins scored, and were still solid defensively while getting some good offensive chances. But you got the sense they were trying to slow the play down and ensure they didn't give the Bruins any easy chances.
Colin McDonald and David Ullstrom did nice job of getting the Bruins defense trapped in the corner, and McDonald would take the puck behind the net and find a streaking Keith Aucoin to tie the game at one.
For the Isles second goal, also scored by Aucoin, McDonald and Ullstrom were once again fantastic on the forecheck, keeping the puck deep and forcing a turnover that went to Aucoin who was wide open for a slap shot right over the faceoff circles. Once Aucoin blasted the shot, Rask barely had time to react. It was a goal scorers goal for the checking line forward.
The Islanders were controlling the play in general by this point, and the Bruins fans were beginning to grow restless. It took them a while to figure out how to deal with the Isles forecheck and defensive system but they began to figure it out midway through the 2nd period.
A bad bounce would tie the game at two, when a puck was thrown in from the blueline by David Krejci hit off of Joe Finley's skate and redirected right to Greg Campbell.
From that point you, you saw some scared, frantic and sloppy Islanders hockey for the remainder of the period. It almost looked similar to what we saw out of Toronto the previous night when they were playing on the 2nd night of a back-to-back. Ironically enough, Rick DiPietro made some solid saves here when he needed to to keep the Isles in the game as the buzzer sounded.
The Bruins used their size in the third period to cycle the puck down low. Milan Lucic took a puck behind the net after fending off Isles d-men and found Zdeno Chara above the face-off circles for a goal. Mark Streit allowed Krejci to stand in front of DiPietro and blocked his vision as DiPietro reacted the best way he could.
Perhaps letting the exhaustion set in, Patrice Bergeron's goal to seal the game for the Bruins was a classic case of the Isles being flat footed and acting like deer in headlights. Perhaps trying to press too much for one final push, Matt Carkner pinched in deep, leaving Streit and Aucoin as the guys to man the point and Bergeron blew between both. While Aucoin made a strong effort, it was a bit discouraging to see the true defenseman here, Streit, skate with no urgency and almost glide behind the play. Bergeron, known for his fancy breakaway moves, made a really nice deke to slide the puck past DiPietro.
While they played well for chunks of this one, when it mattered the Isles let the game slip away from them. I thought they did a relative nice job all game of keeping Boston's shots away from the net, letting them have the low percentage shots rather than the high percentage ones we saw early and often in Toronto.
DiPietro actually played well enough to win, and gave as solid an effort as you'll get from a back-up goaltender. The real thing that concerns me are select other players, namely Streit as I've pointed out a few times in this post. It's difficult to win games no matter who's in net when your number one defenseman looks lost and slow at times, especially around your own net.
The Bruins look incredibly strong this year, and many people have them winning the cup. Having seen them in action for the first time this season I can see why. They have size, good skating and great goaltending. All the tools you could possibly want are there on this team, and without the distraction of Tim Thomas and his political antics, you have to wonder how far they can go.
The Islanders will take on Winnipeg on Sunday night, and we'll probably see Evgeni Nabokov for that one. This game will be more of a winnable one, so if the Islanders put their stronger netminder in after a few days of rest it can only help. It'd be nice if they get some more mobility and speed on the blueline and replace Finley, but considering there hasn't been anything back-breaking they might just go with the same line-up once again.