Bruins bounce back with big win over Islanders

NEW YORK — With nothing less than their destiny hanging in the balance and Tuukka Rask out of the lineup, the Bruins went back to relying on stifling defense to snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 win against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center last night in their latest biggest game of the year.

Riding two fourth-line goals from Riley Nash and an 18-save performance by Anton Khudobin, the Bruins pushed past the Islanders to reclaim the Eastern Conference second wild card position by two points. The B’s also pulled back to within a point of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division. Both Toronto and New York have games in hand, but the B’s own the first tiebreaker (regulation/overtime wins) on both teams.

Nash scored the game-winner at 4:12 of the third period.

“I think everyone in here knew that it was going to be the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a real uphill battle if we’d lost that one,” Nash said. “Both teams played a pretty tight, playoff-style game. That’s how it’s going to be the rest of the way, so we have to hunker down and take it one game at a time, just how the old cliche goes.”

The win wasn’t a thing of beauty, except to the Bruins.

Shots on net were 19-18 in favor of the Islanders, and the Brooklynites were held to just 10 even-strength shots (none in the the second period). Adam McQuaid led the way for the B’s with four blocked shots and all four Islanders power plays were killed off, including back-to-back tripping infractions by Colin Miller and David Backes midway through the third period with the B’s clinging to a one-goal lead. During the four-game slide, the Bruins allowed at least one power-play goal in each loss.

“Sometimes you are not going to see a lot of goals, but you’re going to see a lot of sacrifices, a lot of little plays, a lot of blocked shots, a lot of taking a hit to make a play kind of things,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “That was a great example of the game we played tonight. It was a grinding game, a game of nerves. You could feel it from both sides. A lot of emotions, a lot of physicality.”

Khudobin improved to 5-0 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy and was beaten only by a nice snap shot by John Tavares through McQuaid’s legs to open the scoring at 10:05 of the first period. The backup goalie may have a lot of the derring-do of a young Tim Thomas in his game, but he got the job done.

“I loved his performance. He’s a battler,” Cassidy said. “He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby, he keeps it interesting, but he’s a battler, he always has been and that’s what we needed tonight.”

Before the many Bruins fans in the crowd could say “uh-oh” after Tavares tallied, the visitors tied it up. Just 36 seconds later, Dominic Moore harassed Scott Mayfield into coughing up the puck in the neutral zone and Nash pounced on it. With Moore joining in to create a 2-on-1, Nash decided to keep the puck and beat New York goalie Thomas Greiss (16 saves) to the shortside.

The B’s thought they had taken the lead later in the first when Frank Vatrano popped a rebound in on a power play, but Islanders coach Doug Weight challenged the play and it was ruled that Backes had interfered with Greiss.

The go-ahead goal wouldn’t come until early in the third when, from the right wing, Nash beat Greiss inside the far post.

The B’s work wasn’t done, however. They had to kill the Miller and Backes penalties and, at one point, Tavares had what looked like the equalizer on his stick with Khudobin down on his side. Trying to avoid Khudobin’s desperate attempt to double-stack his pads, Tavares lifted a shot high off the crossbar.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t have time to get there, so I tried get the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa (style) and he hit the crossbar,” said Khudobin with a cheeky grin while referencing the B’s goalie coach. “We need to get some luck, too. In this league, if you don’t get a little bit you’re probably going to lose games.”