With 21 seconds left of Thursday night’s game between the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins, David Krejci crashed through the right circle straight in a beeline to the goalie’s crease. The puck, frozen in time, floating through the murky blue full of a game’s worth of ice shavings, was waiting to be put into the Islanders net. The thing was, somebody threw his glove from amongst a crowd, ending the Bruins’ best and final shot of the game, enabling the Islanders to escape with a 3-2 win.
Who was that somebody appearing from a crowd of black and white jerseys right outside the crease? Chad Johnson, and it is safe to say that Bruins fans could not have expected any less.
Last season, when Johnson wore the black and yellow of the Bruins, the TD Garden faithful saw the current Islanders backup goaltender start eight games in their own house. Eight times, Johnson skated into the crease in front of the Boston crowd. Eight times, he gave those cheering fans wins. Some things never change.
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With his 30 saves, Johnson kept his record at the TD Garden clean, maintaining perfection, in a new jersey. In his second start for the Islanders, Johnson showed that he is a more than competent replacement in the lineup for starter Jaroslav Halak.
For much of the third period, the Bruins were playing, well, like the Bruins. As if their physicality wore down the Islanders after 40 well-played minutes, guys started missing their assignments, allowing better puck movement, and more shots to be fired on Johnson’s net. For those back on Long Island biting their fingernails as their team tried to hold on for a desperately needed win, they learned that Johnson would not fold.
With just over two minutes to play in the game, the Islanders were stuck. A tired group of players on the ice lumbered around, chasing after the puck to no avail. By the time the defense followed the puck to one side of the ice, it already was on its way back, as the Bruins did a nice job of not letting the Islanders keep up with their puck movement. Six shots were let go by Boston in barely over a minute, as all the skaters slowly made their way closer and closer to the net. The tension was high, but the one constant was Johnson. He was not letting a loss make its way onto his TD Garden record, getting the Islanders back on track.
The game started with a touch of luck for the Islanders on the road. Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton stood his ground in the slot, allowing a shot to deflect off of his skate and float into the crease, where Franz Nielsen was glad to stick his stick out with his right hand to tap in the game’s opening score.
Even after Milan Lucic scored, the Islanders held strong, forechecking well for much of the first two periods, finding a way to control the puck against a team that makes a living off of controlling the puck. Goals by Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck in the second period looked like they would be enough at the moment, until the Islanders were unable to stop the Bruins from holding and moving the puck. The insurance goal was key, giving Johnson all the room he needed to hold on, after Chris Kelly narrowed the gap with a seemingly inevitable goal in the third.
So, what are the implications of one win over the Bruins? First off, it limits anybody who thought that the first four games of the season were a fluke for the Islanders. Concerns have been raised the last couple of games about whether or not the winning streak that thrilled fans at the beginning of the season. Two losses is one thing, but three in a row would have shifted upset feelings to true worry about the team pretty quickly. It was big to get two points in the standings, to not only give the Islanders a confidence boost by beating the Bruins, but to an extent putting fans at ease.
Point of Emphasis
Cal Clutterbuck will not let mistakes ruin the rest of his game
– When the Islanders got on the board early, it was Clutterbuck who lost track of his man, Milan Lucic, the first Bruins goal scorer of the evening. Lucic got a stride on Clutterbuck heading towards the net, where he somewhat luckily got a deflection past Johnson to tie the game at one for the moment. It was Clutterbuck’s hard work that ended up making the difference in the game. After making that mistake, he kept working the whole game, accumulating hit after hit, with a total of four in total for the game. In the middle of the second period, after Kyle Okposo had put the Islanders in the lead, it was Clutterbuck who found the open space in front of the net, hitting the top-shelf on the far side to grab what would end up being the game-winning goal.