NEW YORK — It was Riley Nash’s third period goal that was the game-winner for the Boston Bruins, and sent a dagger into the Islanders’ heart, but it was the Islanders’ unsuccessful power play that sunk them in the end.
The Islanders went 0-for-6 on the man-advantage Saturday night and fell 2-1 to the Bruins in a crucial game at Barclays Center. The loss pushed the Islanders back out of a playoff spot and moved the Bruins into control of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The game-winning goal came at 4:12 of the third period after Nash took a pass from Dominic Moore. Nash took a few strides and then buried a wrist shot from in front to break the 1-1 tie. But the story of the game was the Islanders lackluster power play, which did not do enough in interim head coach Doug Weight’s eyes.
“We were just not moving,” Weight said. “We didn’t look real desperate. Should have made changes earlier.”
One change Weight regretted was not moving Josh Ho-Sang to the team’s top power play unit earlier in the game. Ho-Sang was on the number one unit on the Islanders sixth power play after being one of the few players to create chances on the man-advantage throughout the night.
“He had some good jump on the (power play) and we were just flat in every other aspect,” Weight said.
While the power play struggled for the Islanders, it was not the Islanders best 60 minute affair overall. While the Islanders outshot Boston 19-18, they only had 10 even strength shots on Saturday and went the entire second period with a shot on goal at even strength.
The Islanders recorded eight shots on six power play opportunities and had one shorthanded shot.
“It was kind of a weird game. Not a whole lot of flow going on out there,” Josh Bailey said. “A lot of penalties and sometimes that can take away from the flow of the game. I think you could kind of see it from both teams. For the most part we didn’t give up too many shots to them either, so it’s just the way it goes.”
Things had started on a much better note than the way they ended for the Islanders. New York outshot the Bruins 8-3 in the first period and scored the game’s opening goal midway through the period.
John Tavares skated through the neutral zone and then skated past a Bruins’ defender before firing a wrister past Anton Khudobin from the top of the slot. The goal was 28th of the season and put the Islanders ahead 1-0 at 10:05.
However, that lead lasted a mere 36 seconds before the Bruins knotted things up at one. Nash picked off the puck in the neutral zone and then beat Thomas Greiss from inside the faceoff circle.
The Islanders nearly tied the game late in the third period off several good chances, which included Tavares ringing a shot off the crossbar during a power play.
“It was a playoff type of game,” Tavares said. “It was tight. I don’t think the shots were very high. We probably had three good power plays and three not very good. Obviously I think I had two really good looks and it would be nice to just put those in. Off the bar and then one off his shoulder that he didn’t even see, so it’s a mater of inches.”
While the loss on Saturday to Boston doesn’t kill the Islanders chances of making the postseason, it did serve as a blow to a team hoping to control its playoff destiny. It also puts even more urgency on winning on Monday when the Islanders host the Nashville Predators.
The Islanders will need to win to pull back even with the Bruins, and also have the Tampa Bay Lightning nipping at their heels in the standings.
“If we’re going to hang our heads cause we didn’t get this one, I mean we’re still right,” Tavares said. “Not much time left, but obviously still enough for us to get in. I think that’s more than obvious, so disappointed we didn’t get today. We know that today was a big game, it could have really put us in a good spot, but we’ll just keep battling to the end.”