The New York Islanders suffered their third straight loss on Tuesday, falling 5-1 to the Boston Bruins at Barclays Center.
Jordan Eberle scored his 14th goal of the season, but it was not enough against the stingy and streaking Bruins. The Islanders trailed 2-1 at the end of the second period in what was a tight-checking contest, but Boston broke the game open in the third, scoring three more times en route to the 5-1 final.
The three-game slide - the Isles first real skid of the season - proved costly in an airtight Metropolitan Division with little margin for error. Carolina's 5-4 OT loss bounced the Islanders out of the second wild card, as they both have 44 points but the Hurricanes have a game in hand, while Pittsburgh lurks one point back after a 5-1 win over Philadelphia.
"Adversity is hitting us between the eyes right now," head coach Doug Weight said. "We have to get back our mojo, our fierceness and we seem to have let drift."
The Islanders allowed the opening goal for a league-high 26th time of the season on Tuesday and fell to 7-15-4 when allowing the first goal. The Bruins opened the scoring off an offensive zone draw as Riley Nash won the puck back to Heinen who beat Jaroslav Halak with a quick shot through traffic at 8:17.
Video: BOS@NYI: Eberle buries one on sweet move in front
The Islanders got it back quickly, as Eberle forced a turnover and patiently out-waited Tuukka Rask (25 saves) in front of the net before sweeping the puck around the Bruins net minder at 9:30.
"We've been letting up the first goal," Anders Lee said in his post-game diagnosis. "We've been behind and chasing in games and when you do that you have to take chances and put yourself in a vulnerable position at times. Next thing you know they bury another one or two."
A bad bounce led to the game-winner, as Patrice Bergeron gave Boston a 2-1 lead. Brad Marchand's shot deflected over the net and landed in Bergeron's feet, who quickly kicked the puck to his stick and banked it in off Halak as the Isles goalie was trying to track the puck.
Halak finished the night with 33 saves on 37 shots and kept the score close through two periods. Nick Leddy hit the post with two seconds left to play in the middle frame, a shot that could have changed the complexion of the third period. Instead, the Islanders were forced to take chances and the counterpunching Bruins took advantage.
David Pastrnak fed Marchand on a two-on-one to make it 3-1 at 9:04, while Tim Schaller batted a rebound out of the air at 15:02 to extend the Bruins lead. Noel Acciari iced the contest with an empty-netter at 17:47.
Tanner Fritz made his NHL debut on Tuesday night, skating 11:36 TOI. The rookie, who was called up on Monday afternoon said
"It was a good experience," Fritz said. "I never thought I'd be in this position today, but obviously not the outcome I wanted to be a part of, or the team wanted. I'm glad to get my first game out of the way and it's a great feeling. It will be nice to look back on this day and I'll always have it for the rest of my life."
Josh Bailey's career-long 11-game point streak ended on Tuesday… The Bruins remained the only Eastern Conference team the Islanders have yet to beat at Barclays Center.
The Islanders head to Philadelphia to play the Flyers on Thursday night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
Video: NYI 1 vs. BOS 5: Doug Weight
Video: BOS 5 vs. NYI 1: Jordan Eberle
Video: BOS 5 vs. NYI 1: John Tavares
Video: BOS 5 vs. NYI 1: Adam Pelech