It was a nail biter of a shootout following an equally exciting game, but the Boston Bruins fell to the New York Islanders 5-4 in front of their home crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden. Jason Blake beat Boston starter Hannu Toivonen to give the Islanders the victory and the extra point in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Despite improvements in the team's late game play, and earning a point in the standings, the Bruins bench boss was displeased with the results.
"Nothing's changed in my mind," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis after the game. "We have to do better.
"We're not going to win a lot of hockey games giving up four goals.
"We were guilty of…things that cost you hockey games. We had enough chances to score. We had enough chances to win. But we didn't win," he said.
The game started on a positive note for Boston in a couple of ways.
Prior to the game, the Boston Bruins Foundation donated $1000 to the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation on behalf of Marc Savard
for earning a weekly NHL Three Stars Award earlier this season.
Graham & LuAnn Snyder accepted the check on behalf of their son, former NHL player Dan Snyder who passed away in 2003, and will put the money toward building an ice rink in his honor.
And the Bruins again found themselves in a familiar position, up by two goals after 20-minutes as alternate captain Patrice Bergeron
and Marc Savard
both scored their 15th goal of the season to put the Bruins up 2-0 going into the first intermission.
Hannu Toivonen started the game in goal for the Bruins and saved all 11 shots he saw from New York in the first period.
But Randy Robitaille wrested the momentum away from Boston and put the visitors on the board just 5:39 into the second period to make the score 2-1. Robitaille scored when a B's clearing attempt went bad and he corralled a loose puck that got caught high in the zone.
The young Finnish goalie, starting his first game since being recalled from Providence of the AHL, also stunned Robitaille in the period when he invented a point-blank gymnastics-inspired glove save and snatched the Islanders' shot from the air in front of a yawning Boston net.
"He was big," said Lewis, using his favorite goaltending superlative. "It was a tough situation for him.
"I don't remember if he's had a shootout this year. But that is a tough environment to be in for anybody.
"But he had composure and battled…he made some good saves (after not playing in the NHL) for a while. So that was good."
Despite Toivonen's heroics, the Islanders kept the momentum in their control for most of the middle session and played a great deal of the period in the Bruins defensive zone. As per the current trend, the third period did not go as planned for the Bruins who found themselves tied with the Islanders 2-2 after Trent Hunter scored just 22-seconds into the period.
Captain Zdeno Chara
, back with Boston after missing two games with a middle-body injury, launched a bullet through a screen to beat Islanders goalie, and Winthrop, Mass. native, Rick DiPietro at 4:20.
Tom Poti, like DiPietro a Massachusetts native and former Boston University star, scored at 9:31 to tie the game at 3-3.
B's defenseman Paul Mara stole the hero hat, jumped up from his defensive position, made a nifty move and stuffed the puck by DiPietro at 13:34.
"I think I went with the mentality that I need to shoot," said Mara. "Coach has been telling me that.
"I got the puck…and caught (DiPietro) out of position."
But the Islanders Viktor Kozlov scored on the power play to tie the game at 4-4 at 18:21.
Thanks to some outstanding goaltending at both ends of the ice during the OT (DiPietro finished the regular game with 38 saves, 31 for Toivonen), the game remained tied 4-4 and went to a penalty shot contest.
Again, both goalies were outstanding in the one-on-one competition, allowing only one goal each through the first three skaters and the shootout went to extra shots. In the end, Blake scored the game-winning goal in the final shot of the contest to send the B's to the locker room with a 5-4 loss -- and just one point in the standings.
"We have to figure it out," said a frustrated assistant Glen Murray. "We just can't seem to finish (games) off.
"I don't know if it's that we play uptight or that we are scared to make mistakes. But it's happening way too many times right now.
"We've said all we can…stop talking about it an go out and play the third period like we know how."