For the first time in a week, the Boston Bruins played a regular season game after COVID protocols postponed two games and shut down their facilities until Wednesday.
Thursday night in front of roughly 2,100 fans in TD Garden, the Bruins lost, 4-3, to the New York Islanders in overtime.
Anthony Beauvillier scored the game-winning goal 21 seconds into the extra frame, while Semyon Varlamov (14-6-3, 2.20 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 23 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against in the win for the Islanders.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (8-4-2, 2.41 goals-against average, .907 save percentage in 15 games played) made six saves on six shots faced before leaving the game after the first period due to an upper body injury.
Jaroslav Halak (7-4-3, 2.25 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 14 games played) stopped 17 out of 21 shots faced in the overtime loss in relief of Rask.
Boston fell to 16-8-5 (37 points) overall and remained in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while New York improved to 22-8-4 (48 points) and remained in command of the division lead.
The B’s also dropped to 0-3-2 against the Isles this season.
After Sean Kuraly was placed in COVID protocol prior to last Thursday’s game on March 18th in Buffalo, four more Bruins forwards joined the league’s COVID list prior to Wednesday night’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
Kuraly and Jake DeBrusk remained in COVID protocol entering Thursday night’s matchup with the Islanders, while David Pastrnak, David Krejci and Craig Smith were cleared from COVID protocol and did not miss Thursday night’s action against New York.
Rask returned after missing the last six games due to an injury, but left the game after the first period, while Jarred Tinordi also returned to Boston’s lineup after missing one game due to an upper body injury sustained on March 16th in Pittsburgh.
Trent Frederic didn’t miss a beat, despite uncertainty entering Wednesday night’s practice.
Meanwhile, Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Jeremy Lauzon (hand), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Zach Senyshyn (upper body) and John Moore (undisclosed) on Thursday.
Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen and Jeremy Swayman were reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday, while Callum Booth was recalled to Boston’s taxi squad.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, rolled out Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak as his usual first line with Nick Ritchie, Krejci and Smith rounding out his top-six forwards.
Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman comprised of the third line, while Frederic suited up on the left side of Greg McKegg on the fourth line with Chris Wagner at right wing.
On defense, Matt Grzelcyk was suited up with Charlie McAvoy on the first pairing, while Jakub Zboril and Connor Clifton rounded out the top-four defenders.
Tinordi was back in his usual role on the left side of the third pairing with Steven Kampfer as his partner.
Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Kuraly, Jack Ahcan, Lauzon, Booth, DeBrusk, Dan Vladar and Miller were all members of Boston’s list of healthy scratches, injured and/or taxi squad members.
Early in the first period, Mathew Barzal took a stick to the face and drew blood, leading the on-ice officials to think that Grzelcyk caught the Islanders forward with his stick.
Boston braced for a four-minute penalty kill, but in accordance with the new rule to review whether or not a high stick was indeed a high stick or just an errant stick from a teammate, replay determined that Jordan Eberle had accidentally caught Barzal with his stick, thus rendering no penalty on the Bruins defender.
In short, Eberle hit his own teammate in the face with his stick.
Midway through the opening frame, Kuhlman (1) fired a shot from the faceoff dot to the right of the New York netminder over Varlamov’s glove on the far side to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0, at 11:42 of the first period.
McAvoy (15) and Bjork (3) tallied the assists on Kuhlman’s goal– his first of the season, as well as his first in 397 days.
Moments later, Casey Cizikas tripped Clifton and presented Boston with the first power play of the night at 15:37 of the opening frame.
Just as the power play was about to expire, Kampfer (1) blasted a shot from outside the dot over Varlamov’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
McAvoy (16) and Krejci (16) tallied the assists on Kampfer’s power-play goal as the B’s led, 2-0, at 17:35. It was also his first goal in 732 days.
Less than a minute later, Boston went back on the skater advantage when Michael Dal Colle tripped McAvoy at 18:13.
This time, however, New York’s penalty kill managed to kill Dal Colle’s minor infraction without any mishaps.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 10-6, in shots on goal.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (4-2) and faceoff win percentage (63-38), while the Islanders led in takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (4-3).
Both teams had nine hits aside after 20 minutes of action.
New York had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage.
The B’s tweeted that Rask would not return to the game with an upper body injury and Halak made his entrance to kick things off for the middle period.
Scott Mayfield caught Bergeron with a high stick and drew blood– yielding a double minor infraction at 3:12 of the second period, but Boston was not able to convert on their extended power play opportunity.
Instead, shortly after his release from the penalty box, Mayfield contributed the primary assist on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s (11) rebound goal to cut the Bruins’ lead in half, 2-1, at 7:21 of the second period.
Mayfield (7) and Leo Komarov (3) notched the assists on Pageau’s sixth point in five games against Boston this season.
Pageau finished Thursday’s game with a goal and two assists on the night, extending his totals to 5-3–8 in five games against the Bruins in 2020-21 so far.
Through 40 minutes of play at TD Garden on Thursday, the Bruins maintained a, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard, as well as a, 23-18, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 13-12, advantage in the second period alone.
New York led in blocked shots (7-6) and hits (21-16), while Boston led in takeaways (4-3) and faceoff win% (57-43).
Both teams had five giveaways each through two periods.
The Islanders had yet to see any action on the skater advantage, while the Bruins slumped to 1/4 on the power play.
Early in the final frame, Josh Bailey (5) worked a give-and-go to his advantage for a blocker side goal while entering the slot to tie the game, 2-2, at 4:33 of the third period.
Brock Nelson (7) and Nick Leddy (21) had the assists as the Isles took momentum and ran.
Marchand provided the Islanders with their first power play of the night eight minutes into the final frame of regulation for holding against Adam Pelech.
The Islanders did not convert on their only skater advantage of the night, however.
Late in the period, Oliver Wahlstrom (9) pounced on a puck that bounced off of Halak and Krejci to an open spot on the doorstep– giving New York their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 17:04.
Pageau (11) and Beauvillier (5) tallied the assists on Wahlstrom’s go-ahead goal, but the Bruins tied things back up less than a minute later when Bjork (2) sent a one-timer past Varlamov at 17:58.
Coyle won a battle down low and wrapped behind the net before connecting on the pass to his Bruins teammate.
Bjork’s goal knotted things up, 4-4, on the scoreboard, while Coyle (4) and Wagner (2) tallied the assists.
Heading into the overtime period, the Bruins and Islanders were tied, 4-4, on the scoreboard, despite Boston holding a, 32-25, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 9-7, advantage in the third period alone.
New York led in blocked shots (13-9), takeaways (6-4) and hits (29-25), while the B’s led in faceoff win% (57-44).
Both teams had seven giveaways each, while the Isles finished 0/1 and the Bruins went 1/4 on the night on the power play as no penalties were called in overtime.
Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, elected to start Pageau, Beauvillier and Leddy– his biggest performers of the night in overtime, while Cassidy countered with Coyle, Bjork and Grzelcyk– equally his brightest stars on a night featuring rare depth scoring from the bottom six for Boston.
Just 21 seconds into overtime, however, the Bruins were no match for the Islanders’ talent.
Leddy fired a shot, Halak made the initial save, but he surrendered a rebound in the crease and was slow to spot the loose puck before Beauvillier (5) crashed the net and cashed in on the game-winning goal.
Leddy (22) and Pageau (12) had the assists as the Islanders won, 4-3, in overtime in front of Boston’s first home game with fans in attendance since the pandemic began last year.
New York finished the night with the win, despite Boston finishing the night with the final advantage in shots on goal, 32-27.
The Islanders wrapped up Thursday night leading in blocked shots (13-9) and hits (29-25), while the Bruins led in faceoff win% (56-44).
Both teams finished the game with seven giveaways each as the B’s dropped to 3-3 in overtime this season (5-5 past regulation overall).
New York improved to 2-3 in overtime and 4-4 past 60 minutes overall in 2020-21.
The Bruins dropped to 12-3-3 (6-0-2 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, while the Isles improved to 8-7-2 (3-6-2 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal this season.
Boston also fell to 9-0-2 (5-0-1 at home) when leading after the first period and 10-0-1 (6-0-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.
New York, meanwhile, improved to 4-3-2 (1-3-2 on the road) when trailing after one period and 3-6-1 (3-5-1 on the road) when losing through two periods this season.
Additionally, for the first time this season, the B’s lost a game when leading by two or more goals at any time in the action, falling to 9-0-1 in that department as a result.
The Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon in Boston before welcoming the New Jersey Devils on Sunday and next Tuesday to close out the month of March before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins in a pair of games to kick off April.