New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano considered his team's confidence level to be reasonably high heading into Saturday's matinee with the Boston Bruins despite the fact his team struggled on the first four games of its road trip and remains somewhat of a long shot to make a run at a Stanley Cup Playoff berth.
The Islanders then went out and proved their coach correct.
John Tavares' tip of a Matt Moulson shot with 4:39 remaining in the third period after a controversial non-icing call against the Bruins snapped a tie and lifted the Islanders to a 3-2 win at the TD Garden.
New York capped its four-game road trip (1-2-1) with just its second victory in its past seven games. While Tavares, Moulson and Josh Bailey provided the offense, Evgeni Nabokov provided the defense with 32 saves on 34 shots.
"I mean every game we come in, guys want to compete and play hard," said Capuano after the game. "Maybe people, if you look at the standings, might not give us a chance. But, we laced them up and went out there tonight. I thought we gave a great effort. The four lines generated some good things and I thought we were structurally sound defensively. Nabby shut the door on the PK and at the end of the game with the big save that he made."
Tavares' goal came after the Bruins had won a defensive-zone faceoff and fired the puck all the way down the ice. Boston forward Tyler Seguin and New York defenseman Andrew MacDonald were both near the puck as it came out of the corner, and Milan Lucic also had an opportunity to play it. The Bruins thought MacDonald touched it and there should've been a whistle for icing.
There was no whistle, however, and Moulson corralled the puck at his own blue line and skated end to end with it. His shot from the top of the right circle went off Tavares' stick and past Tim Thomas (11 saves), who replaced an injured Tuukka Rask in the second period.
"I have no clue," Moulson said, discussing the non-icing call. "I'll take it."
Although he argued the non-call, Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn't passing the buck on what turned out to be the play that made the difference in the outcome of the game.
"Again, whether it's a mistake or not, we make mistakes, they're entitled to make mistakes too. If they make a mistake, that puck still went by two of our guys. Take the blame," said Julien. "We've got to play to the whistle. Maybe it was icing, but again, we still could've handled it better than we did."
Seguin owned up to the error.
"I didn't touch it. Their guy touched," he said. "But we didn't hear the linesman say anything. We all stopped. I guess in the end, it's kind of our fault. Usually they always say play until the whistle's blown and we didn't do that."
The loss was the least of the Bruins' concerns during the course of the day. In the second period, Rask, who has combined with Thomas this season to provide Boston with one of the best goaltending tandems in the League, suffered a lower-body injury after an attempted save on a Matt Martin shot.
Rask had to be helped off the ice after he was attended to by the trainer. After the game, Julien said Rask would not accompany the Bruins on their upcoming road trip to face the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. There was no other update provided on the status of Rask, who, according to severaL reports, left the arena on crutches.
Despite the deflating loss of one of their key players, the Bruins kept on rolling and outshot the Islanders, 15-7, in the middle period. However, the Islanders grabbed the lead before the first 40 minutes were through. Moulson scored a power-play goal at the 15:35 mark from the top of the blue paint after a backhand feed to the front of the net by Tavares for a 2-1 lead.
Seguin pulled the Bruins even in the third period on a set faceoff play. After David Krejci won a neutral-zone draw back to Zdeno Chara at the far left side of the Boston blue line, Chara threw a cross-ice indirect pass off the right wall. Seguin caught up to it in stride and then beat Nabokov with a backhand shot to the top shelf at 7:29.
Nabokov kept the Bruins at bay the rest of the afternoon, including a key stop in front when the Bruins had Thomas pulled for an extra attacker in the closing seconds. Nabokov was down and somehow stopped a Lucic point-blank shot with his stick.
The veteran goaltender's heroics improved his record to 10-4-1 in his past 15 decisions, and earned the Islanders a vital two points in the standings.
"Well I think it's pretty obvious right? Any two points for us right now are important and this is no different," said Nabokov. "The next game is going to be important and then the game after that. We are in a position where every single game is important."