Even if Tuesday's 8-3 loss was a bit of an outlier for the New York Islanders, Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over the Boston Bruins was about as good a response game as the Isles could have hoped for.
The Isles went toe-to-toe with one of the three teams with more points than them in the standings, and won a defensive chess match between the stingiest teams in the Eastern Conference.
"That's for sure one of the best teams in the league," Mathew Barzal said. "For us to stay level with them all night and then push the pace for some of the night says something about this group."
Barzal sealed the win with a game-deciding snipe in the shootout, on a night where he and Johnny Boychuk each finished with a goal and an assist. In the process, the Islanders erased the sour taste from Tuesday's "clunker" and won their first game against the Bruins since Jan. 16, 2017.
"Real good bounce-back game for us," Head Coach Barry Trotz said.
Video: NYI@BOS: Barzal beats Rask in SO
PENALTY KILL COMES THROUGH VS BRUINS:
Thursday's game unfolded about as expected between two defensively-inclined clubs, with the two teams combining for 10 total shots midway through the second period. With few chances exchanged at five-on-five, special teams were of heightened importance and the Isles penalty kill came through in a big spot, going four-for-five on the evening.
It was a nice response for a shorthanded unit that had gone 4-for-8 over the past two games, especially going up against the Bruins' third-ranked power play.
They caught a break early, with a Danton Heinen redirection hitting the post, but steadily improved as the game went on. Adam Pelech hit the deck for a big block on David Pastrnak to end the first period, taking away a prime scoring chance for the NHL's leading goal scorer.
Video: Islanders, 3 - Bruins, 2
The lone blemish came on a two-man advantage in the third period, as Torey Krug sent a bullet past Varlamov five seconds into the five-on-three to tie the score 2-2. That still left the Isles with 1:55 to kill on Brock Nelson's delay of game call, but the shorthanded unit came up with a big kill, which Trotz called one of the game-changing moments.
"They scored right away. Then they've got two minutes again, the place is going crazy and our penalty killers were committed and got it done," Trotz said.
BOYCHUK'S BIG GAME:
It's been a long time since Johnny Boychuk was a Bruin, but he still gets some satisfaction from having a big game in TD Garden. He did exactly that, contributing a goal and an assist on the Islanders two goals in regulation.
The Islanders' defenseman tied the score 1-1 on their first shot of the second period, as the former Bruin ripped a slapper high past Tuukka Rask at 3:26. The goal was Boychuk's second tally of the season and first since Oct. 11 and after the game he said felt good "especially against Tuukka."
Video: NYI@BOS: Boychuk hammers a slap shot past Rusk
Boychuk played a key role on the Islanders' second goal, finding Barzal backdoor with a pinpoint pass across the zone for an easy tap-in at 18:26. Barzal's goal was his team-leading 14th of the season and team-leading 28th point of the season, as well.
"That goal he scored was an absolute laser from the point, I don't think even Rask saw it," Barzal said. "His pass to me doesn't get much easier than that."
Boychuk finished the night with two points (1G, 1A), four shots and three blocks in 16:35 TOI, which included 3:21 shorthanded.
Video: NYI@BOS: Barzal pots goal at the doorstep
SAVE OF THE YEAR HIGHLIGHTS VARLAMOV'S NIGHT:
After a rough night for both Islanders goaltenders on Tuesday, Semyon Varlamov had a strong bounce back effort on Thursday.
Varlamov stopped 27-of-29 shots in the win and delivered a save-of-the-year candidate, reaching back across his net to rob Bjork of a sure-goal after a cross-ice pass from Charlie McAvoy. The save was also a little revenge, as Bjork had scored on the Bruins' first shot of the game.
"That was the save of the year," Trotz said, calling it one of the turning points in the game, which was tied 1-1 at the time.
Video: NYI@BOS: Varlamov robs Bjork with glove save
The Isles' netminder came up with another key stop shortly after, denying a Jake DeBrusk breakaway on the sequence before Barzal's go-ahead goal. He was solid in overtime and in the shootout, stopping two-of-three Bruins' chances to help seal the win.
As a result, Varlamov improved to 12-3-2 and is 4-0-0 in his last four starts.
CLUTTERBUCK LEAVES GAME:
Cal Clutterbuck left Thursday's game in the third period after Patrice Bergeron's skate cut his left wrist. Clutterbuck was taken to local hospital for evaluation and to get stitched up, per Trotz. More updates to come when the Islanders reconvene on Long Island.
The Islanders return home to host the Anaheim Ducks in a Saturday matinee at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop is at 1 p.m.