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Saturday, March 12, 2016

B's Finally Get Back to .500 Mark (16-16-5) at TD Garden with 3-1 Win/Season Sweep of the Isles

For the first time in 2016 and only the second time this season (Dec. 29 they were 9-9-2 after smoking Ottawa 7-3), your Bruins (39-23-8) are .500 at TD Garden (16-16-5). This afternoon, they beat the Islanders (37-21-8) 3-1 to sweep the three-game season series and at least temporarily go three points ahead of the Panthers (who host the Flyers tonight) and Lightning for first-place in the Atlantic Division.

David Pastrnak is by far Boston's most important young player so it's certainly a major positive to see him healthy and thriving at the NHL level in his somewhat bumpy second season. He scored two goals while Loui Eriksson added three points (1 goal, 2 assists) as the B's never trailed and scored a goal in each frame to beat New York. Tuukka Rask (25 saves) also improved to 7-1-1 in his last nine decisions. Eriksson opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 18:26 of the first period. Boston took advantage of the only power play for either side (the 4th time this season that they haven't allowed a single PP) as Eriksson wrapped around Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss (28 saves) for his 26th goal of the season, assisted by Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug.

Superstar John Tavares tied it for New York at 10:48 of the second period with a sweet backhander. His 26th goal of the season was assisted by Kyle Okposo (after David Krejci turned the puck over behind Boston's net) and it was also Tavares' 200th career NHL goal. The Black and Gold used a late strike in the second period to take the lead for good and go into the third up 2-1. Krejci displayed great patience to hold onto the puck for a while in New York's zone before he found Pastrnak for a sweet one-timer at 19:51. Eriksson had the second assist on Pastrnak's 11th goal of the season.

New York outshot Boston 12-11 in the second period and they ramped that up to 9-6 in the third but Rask and the Bruins' defense got the job done. Of course, it helped that the Islanders were kind of sloppy with the puck all day (19-13 giveaways in their favor). It looked like it would end 2-1 with Boston on top or maybe 3-1 via a late empty netter but Pastrnak took away any doubt with a slap shot at 17:26 that Greiss got a piece of but couldn't stop. Eriksson had the lone assist by banking the puck up the boards to Boston's promising talent.

The B's get two days off for the first time in over month and they'll need it since the dreaded three-game trip to California awaits them next week. Boston is at San Jose (37-24-6) on Tuesday (10, NESN), at Anaheim (37-21-9) on Friday (10, NESN) and at LA (40-22-4) on Saturday (10:30, NESN). All three of those teams are quality sides that will be in the always loaded Western Conference playoffs this spring (they are the top-3 teams in the Pacific Division) and each came to Boston earlier this season and beat the Bruins handily. For that reason alone, the road warrior B's (23-7-3 on the road) won't be lacking for motivation this next week as the regular season winds down. They only have 12 games left and eight of them are on the road, the next home game isn't until March 24 vs. Florida (their only remaining home game in March).

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