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Bruins use balanced scoring attack to top Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- This was not what the New York Islanders had in mind for their final indoor game before playing at Yankee Stadium two nights from now in the third game of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

Carl Soderberg's goal with 32.7 seconds remaining in the second period broke a tie and the Boston Bruins beat the Islanders 6-3 on Monday night at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders will play their next game outdoors at baseball's most famous stadium when they face off against their archrivals, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday night.

The Islanders had no answer for the line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith. All three scored goals, Bergeron and Smith each had an assist, and Marchand assisted on each of his linemates' goals, as well as one by Zdeno Chara in the third period,

"We've got to keep that going," Bergeron said. "We're feeling good right now. We have some good confidence, and we're moving the puck well. When we do that, we're creating some chances for ourselves."

Loui Eriksson also scored for the Bruins (33-15-3), who won their third in a row and avoided a season-series sweep by the Islanders. Kyle Okposo set up goals by Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner before scoring one for the Islanders (21-26-8), who enter their outdoor game against the Rangers on a three-game losing streak (0-2-1).

"We came out sluggish, but I think we had a real good second period," Okposo said. "But at the end of the day, we have to bear down, bury our chances, and clean up a few things in the D-zone."

Chad Johnson made 34 saves and survived a barrage that saw the Islanders take 26 of their 37 shots in a 28:30 span of the first and second periods. Kevin Poulin stopped 17 of 18 Boston shots in the first period but struggled after that, finishing with 30 saves on 36 shots before being relieved by Evgeni Nabokov, who was activated off the injured list earlier in the day and stopped the only shot he faced.

The victory moved the Bruins two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the race for first place in the Atlantic Division.

The game featured huge swings in play, with the Bruins finally taking control in the third period after the Islanders generated plenty of offense for nearly a period and a half.

"It wasn't the type of game we like to play," Bergeron said. "They're a team that has a lot of speed and great offense on their side. That run-and-gun game isn't really our style. They took advantage of us a few times, and Chad made some really huge saves.

"I thought the third period was more back to our style and playing our game."

The Bruins came out firing, with Bergeron testing Poulin before the game was 10 seconds old. Boston took the game's first six shots and was outshooting the Islanders 11-1 before Eriksson opened the scoring at 7:47. Eriksson, a left-handed shooter, was standing on the goal line about 15 feet to the left of Poulin and despite apparently having no angle, picked the top corner on the far side for his sixth goal of the season.

The shot differential climbed to 18-3 before an interference penalty to Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk at 12:10 gave the Islanders the game's first power play -- and a wakeup call. New York had four shots during the power play without scoring, but the Islanders began to control the play and tied it at 15:29.

Okposo took a pass from Nielsen at the top of the right circle, saw Nielsen cutting from the left to the top of the crease and put the puck on his stick. Johnson stopped Nielsen's deflection, but Nielsen picked up the rebound and roofed it for his career-best 18th of the season and a 1-1 tie.

"We got off to such a great start. We looked like the team that had been playing that way for the last few games," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Then we took that penalty, and that power play really gave them momentum. We really finished [the period] on our heels."

The rest of the period belonged to New York, which outshot the Bruins 2-0 during a Boston power play and cut the shots margin to 18-12.

The Islanders had five of the first six shots in the second period, but it was the Bruins who scored to grab a 2-1 lead after a slick three-way passing play. Marchand was alone just off the left post to finish off a feed from Bergeron at 4:50 on a play that was started by Smith.

New York tied the game for the second time at 8:20. Thomas Hickey drew a delayed penalty, but before the Bruins could touch the puck, he relayed it to Okposo, who found Grabner for a one-timer between the hash marks that beat Johnson cleanly for his ninth of the season.

The Bruins went back in front at 12:31 during a delayed penalty. Smith showed terrific hand-eye coordination when he got his stick on the deflection of Shawn Thornton's pass and knocked it past Poulin for his 17th of the season, tying Marchand for the team lead.

Boston had a chance to increase its lead when Okposo went off for cross-checking at 13:00. Instead, Okposo wound up scoring the tying goal when he stepped out of the penalty box just as Grabner blocked a shot and took off on a breakaway. They played catch until Okposo slid Grabner's feed into the net at 15:08 for his 23rd of the season.

"I thought we got sloppy and shot ourselves in the foot with the way we gave them their goals in the second period," Julien said. "Giveaways, turnovers, bad decision-making -- it was really uncharacteristic of the way we play."

The Islanders pushed the tempo and failed to convert on a power play, then paid for it when Soderberg took a breakout pass from Milan Lucic and raced down right wing, cut past Hickey to the net, and flicked a shot past Poulin. Soderberg's seventh of the season gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead after 40 frantic minutes that saw seven goals and 56 shots.

"The defenseman had been out there for a long shift, and I just went around him and scored," Soderberg said.

The Bruins killed off a penalty early in the third period before getting some breathing room at 2:17 thanks to a spectacular effort by Bergeron. He got to the slot, took a pass from Marchand and whipped a one-timer past Poulin an instant before he was flattened by defenseman Andrew MacDonald for his 14th of the season. Poulin's night ended a little less than six minutes later when he allowed an easy point shot by Chara to deflect into the net off his stick.

The goal was Chara's 500th career point.

"I thought we did a better job in the third period, not only at managing the puck, but through the neutral zone," Julien said. "We were tighter and we took away some of that speed they were getting."

For the Islanders, the next time they see the ice will be Tuesday afternoon, when they get their first chance to skate at the Stadium. Captain John Tavares is glad the chance to play outdoors on a big stage has finally arrived.

"It's been talked about for a long time," he said. "Hopefully, it's a way to get over this loss and the last couple - we can play well and get a 'W.'"


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