BOSTON – Even the bounces are going the New York Islanders’ way on their surge toward the playoffs.
Josh Bailey got two of them on his decisive goal in the second period that gave the Islanders a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
First, he got the puck when it skipped over defenceman Adam McQuaid’s stick in the neutral zone. Then he scored when Tuukka Rask made a save on his 30-foot shot from the left before the puck bounced behind the Bruins goalie.
“I wasn’t really sure” if it went in, said Bailey, who scored both New York goals. “I just tried to get as much of it as I could.”
That and the goaltending of Evgeni Nabokov were enough for the Islanders, the seventh-place team in the Eastern Conference, to improve to 8-1-1 in their last 10 and keep pace with sixth-place Ottawa, which won at Philadelphia. Both teams have 46 points, two more than the eighth-place New York Rangers, who were idle.
The Bruins fell to 5-2 in their last seven games one night after moving into second place in the East with a 5-4 win at New Jersey. They dropped back to fourth behind Montreal when the Canadiens beat the Buffalo Sabres, but Boston coach Claude Julien was pleased with his team’s play.
“I thought we played a pretty smart game,” he said. “The (Islanders’) second goal, the puck jumps over McQuaid’s stick and trickles through Tuukka. So it’s the bounces and stuff like that. So it’s not about making excuses. It’s about reality. And they were the better team.”
The Islanders, seeking their first trip to the post-season in seven years, have a key home matchup with the Rangers on Saturday. But coach Jack Capuano wasn’t looking ahead to that local rivalry with each of the remaining seven games potentially affecting their post-season prospects.
“We just approach every period,” he said. “Every game is a Game 7-type shift for us. We just have to continue to work. … We’re not looking ahead to anything.”
Bailey’s fourth goal in six games and ninth of the season snapped a 1-1 tie at 13:12 of the second period. Tyler Seguin had tied it for Boston earlier in the period.
The Bruins played without leading goal scorer Brad Marchand, who sat out because of a mild concussion. He was hurt Wednesday when he was elbowed in the head by Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov. The NHL suspended Volchenkov on Thursday for four games.
Boston already was without centre Patrice Bergeron, who missed his fifth game and is out indefinitely with a concussion.
“Obviously, we do miss them,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “But, at the same time, it’s not like we can’t play without them.”
The absence of two of Boston’s top scorers helped the Islanders allow two or fewer goals for the ninth time in 10 games as Nabokov stopped 30 shots. They have given up only 15 goals in that span.
“I think we’ve found a way to be patient,” Nabokov said, “Sometimes it’s just better to chip the puck out and just go on the forecheck. Early in the season we weren’t doing all those things. We had more turnovers.”
The Islanders got a lift going into the locker room after Bailey scored the first goal of the game with 21 seconds left in the first period with a slap shot from the top of the left circle that sailed over Rask’s right arm. The Islanders had gained the puck in the right corner of their zone. Mark Streit carried it into Boston’s zone and dropped it to the trailing Bailey for the shot.
“That was big. It was real big,” Capuano said. “Then it was just the opposite. We come out in the second and we can’t score and they bang one in.”
The Bruins’ poor power play finally produced when Seguin scored his 14th goal at 3:41 of the second period after Brad Boyes was penalized for delay of game. Boston is ranked 24th in the NHL on power plays, but Seguin scored easily when he took a pass across the crease from Gregory Campbell and shot into the open left side of the net.
Less than 10 minutes later, Bailey scored the go-ahead goal.
“The first period was (our) best first period in a long time,” Julien said after the Bruins’ third game in four nights. “Our guys were trying. We just ran out of gas.”
NOTES: Boston is 14-3-2 at home. … Islanders defenceman Streit left the ice and went to the dressing room midway through the third period after apparently getting hit in the face. … The Bruins won the season series 2-1. … New York allowed its first power-play goal in seven games.