The Boston Bruins began a tough stretch of games against playoff-caliber opponents with a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
The B’s improved their record in January to 7-1-3 and have taken points from 14 of their last 16 games. Boston also has won seven of its last nine games and will host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night at TD Garden.
Here are three quick takeaways from Bruins-Islanders.
1. Excellent Special Teams Propels Bruins To 2-0 First-Period Lead
The Bruins went to the penalty kill at 6:06 of the first period after a hooking penalty taken by David Krejci. The unit continued its impressive success from before the All-Star break by giving up just one shot on goal against the NHL’s 12th-ranked power play. The Bruins now are 39-for-41 in shorthanded situations in 11 games this month.
The power play also impressed in its only opportunity of the opening period. After dominating puck possession and putting a lot of pressure on the Islanders below the goal line and along the boards, Patrice Bergeron scored his 12th goal of the season to double Boston’s lead to 2-0. Bergeron created space with a nice curl-and-drag move and shot a wrister that beat Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak with a little help from the post.
2. Reilly Smith Ends Goal Drought
Bruins head coach Claude Julien mixed up his right wingers on the top three lines and it paid dividends as Reilly Smith ended an 11-game goalless drought with a first-period tally.
Smith was able to beat Anders Lee to the net and tipped the puck past Halak after a phenomenal pass from Milan Lucic. Smith, who entered Thursday’s game with one goal in his last 17 games, skated with Lucic and Krejci on the first line throughout the game. He normally plays with Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line.
3. Tuukka Rask Steps Up
Quality goaltending has been a common theme for the Bruins over the last month and Thursday’s matchup was no different. Rask made 43 saves on 45 shots for a .956 save percentage to earn his 21st win of the campaign.
The Bruins gave up a season-high 45 shots on goal and surrendered many quality scoring chances, but the Islanders — the league’s second-highest scoring team — only beat Rask twice. One of those goals was the result of a deflection in front of the net.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images