Boston ultimately squeaked out a 2-1 victory on Ryan Spooner's second goal of the night on a breakaway with 38.5 seconds remaining in overtime. Bruins goalie Michael Hutchinson fended off several high-quality rushes en route to a 33-save night, while the Islanders’ Kevin Poulin contorted his body throughout regulation and overtime to make 31 stops of his own.
"It just happens in the moment," Poulin said. "You do whatever you can to stop the puck. That’s my job and this is what I do."
Thursday’s rookie game, the second of two between these teams at TD Garden, drew another impressive crowd with 14,180 officially on hand.
"That’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of," Spooner said. "I’ve been dreaming of this for a while. It’s not a real, actual game. It’s just a rookie game, but it was special for me and hopefully I get to do something like this again."
Spooner’s game-winning tally provided an appropriate coda to a game that featured numerous opportunities up and down the ice, but it seemed an unlikely finish 20 minutes into the game. Just 24 hours after an inconsistent and rusty showing, New York seemed fully in control early. The Isles pushed the pace throughout the opening period, gaining a 12-4 edge in shots.
Kirill Kabanov in particular made his presence known in the Boston crease, maintaining solid positioning and getting two shots off in one shift, but the game remained scoreless until Tony Romano blasted a hard slap shot past Hutchinson from the dot of the left circle at 12:34 of the opening period.
New York seemed to be in control once again in the second, coming within touching distance of a two-goal lead on multiple occasions, including one where Nino Niederreiter clanged a puck of the left post. But after a sprawling save by Poulin at 7:30 of the second preserved the Islanders’ lead, Boston began to turn the tide, eventually resulting in Spooner’s game-tying score with 2:23 left in the period.
"I expected us to be a little better to start," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said. "We talked last night about consistent efforts from players. But, you know, I like the way that we came on in the second and third, and of course, in the OT I thought we played well. It shows, I guess, the ability to rebound from a poor start, which is hard to do in the midst of a game.
"I like that we actually figured out, ‘Hey, we’re in a game now. We better get going,’ and that speaks to the collective character."
The two teams combined for an impressive number of chances that often required sprawling saves by the goaltenders to preserve the stalemate. For each impressive stop Poulin came up with, Hutchinson seemed his match as the rush inevitably went down the other end.
"That’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. I’ve been dreaming of this for a while. It’s not a real, actual game. It’s just a rookie game, but it was special for me and hopefully I get to do something like this again."
-- Bruins' prospect Ryan Spooner
The Islanders managed to keep Boston’s main attraction under wraps -- a night after grabbing two assists, Tyler Seguin was held off the score sheet -- and Niederreiter managed to establish his own physical presence, shirking off a number of checks that had thrown him off his game Wednesday.
But the obvious improvement was in the Islanders’ strong play from the game’s start. Both physically and athletically, New York spent several long stretches, particularly in the first period, with the upper hand.
"I thought we skated tonight," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "We created some turnovers and we initiated contact. There was just a lot more intensity there for us. I think that showed in the shots. There were a lot of shots. Overall I thought it was a pretty good effort. There were some mistakes, but that is to be expected."
As both teams scrutinized the performance of their prospects and began the process of deciding which will be invited to training camp, everyone seemed to agree that the experience was tremendously positive.
The atmosphere at both games was certainly different from what the teams would have had in Shelton, CT., where the games were originally scheduled.
"This is so much better than anything else we’ve ever done in the past," Gordon said. "Here we are playing in front of 12,000 or 14,000 people. It was highly competitive. The Bruins players want to put on a good show for the home fans and get the crowd into it, and our side tried to match that. And I thought tonight we did."