Sometimes little aches and pains also remind the veteran of 16 NHL seasons that he is 35, but they aren’t enough to knock him out. Sillinger scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift the New York Islanders to a key 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Sillinger, who got the only assist on Jeff Tambellini’s first goal of the season in the opening period, shook off an injury and scored his 19th at 10:56. That gave the Islanders at least one standings point for the 11th time in 12 games (7-1-4).
“I just got a little minor strain, that’s all. It’s just age kicking in,” Sillinger said.
New York, starting its second seven-game homestand of the season, moved into a three-way tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference – one point behind Carolina.
Rick DiPietro made 24 saves and allowed two goals or fewer for the sixth time in seven games. Randy Robitaille sealed the win with a goal with 3:15 left and another into an empty-net.
New York held Boston to five shots in the final period.
“You have to be good in the third period,” Sillinger said. “It was 4-1 but it was really a one-goal game right until the very end. They’re just all tight games. Everyone is fighting for the points.
“Ricky makes the big save when he has to, or a couple.”
Glen Murray scored for Boston, which lost for just the second time in six games. Tim Thomas finished with 34 saves.
Boston is mired in 12th place, eight points behind the playoff cutoff. This was not how the Bruins wanted to begin a season-high, six-game road trip.
“It was just mistakes in our own zone that cost us,” Murray said. “We know the importance of these games. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see we need points.”
Sillinger, in pain on the Islanders bench just moments earlier, worked the puck free along the boards to Andy Hilbert. Hilbert fired a shot that Thomas stopped, but Sillinger charged in for the rebound and scored.
That gave the Islanders their second lead of the game in front of a sparse crowd, held down because of slick roads following a snow and ice storm Wednesday.
“He doesn’t know the word quit,” coach Ted Nolan said of Sillinger. “The way he plays, it just transfers into the team.”
New York didn’t get back home from a shootout win in Toronto until 5 a.m. ET Wednesday. The Islanders needed some time to get their legs, but looked strong down the stretch.
“I think we’ve come back a different team after the all-star break,” DiPietro said. “Everyone got a chance to get away, get refreshed. We’ve come back with a better sense of confidence. I think guys realize what we have to do and the intensity we need to play at to be successful.”
Murray, who missed three of four games with a groin injury, got the Bruins even at one in the opening minute of the second period.
Zdeno Chara passed the puck into the left circle to rookie Phil Kessel, who moved it across to Marc Savard in the right circle. Savard found Murray in the slot for a quick shot that seemed to surprise DiPietro before he could even bend to try to stop it at 32 seconds.
It was Murray’s team-leading 27th goal – 12th on the power play – this season, and gave Savard a club-high 71 points.
The return of Murray was made even more important to the Bruins because they were without second-leading scorer Patrice Bergeron. The centre sat out for the first time this season with an undisclosed lower-body injury that also forced him to miss the third period of the Bruins’ win Tuesday over Edmonton.
“It’s tough. We had a good road game going for two periods,” Savard said. “Everybody has to be better offensively. DiPietro was excellent. He was their top defenceman, basically.”
New York grabbed a 1-0 lead with 3:04 left in the first period.
Tambellini got free by checking P.J. Axelsson behind the Boston net and then came out in front where he was able to get his stick on Sillinger’s pass from the right-wing boards and deflect it past Thomas.
Notes: Islanders D Bruno Gervais injured his right ankle six minutes into the game and didn’t return. Gervais, in his fifth game after missing seven with a sore ankle, will be re-evaluated Friday. He said he wasn’t concerned. … New York captain Alexei Yashin (knee) skated Thursday but isn’t yet ready to return. … Savard is third in the NHL with 53 assists.