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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ugh, the Bruins Continue to Pathetically Fold at TD Garden Against the NHL's Worst Teams

Question: how many last-place teams can come into TD Garden in a short amount of time and all leave here with wins? Answer: three (Colorado, Toronto and Islanders). Tonight, Boston (17-14-3) spotted New York (12-14-6) a 3-0 lead in the second period before they finally decided to show a pulse in the third period. By that time it was too late as the Islanders snapped a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) to take the 4-2 decision. It was a nice homecoming for two former Bruins defensemen: Dennis Seidenberg (playing in his first game back in Boston since signing with NY in September) and Johnny Boychuk were both a game-high +2.

Tuukka Rask (16-6-3) has been stellar all season so I guess he was due for an off-night of sorts. He was victimized by two fluky goals and ended up getting pulled for the first time since April 3, 2015 (at Chicago). He finished with 10 saves and three goals allowed. Anton Khudobin made 15 saves in his appearance that began at 13:42 of the second period. He actually picked up his first career NHL point (an assist) but he allowed an Islanders power play goal in the third period that effectively closed the curtain on this one. New York goaltender Thomas Greiss (7-5-0) made a career-high 48 saves as Boston had a season-high 50 shots on goal (95 shot attempts!).

The B's hadn't played since Sunday afternoon's 1-0 win vs. LA, so they were sitting around at home since then and thus there really is no valid excuse for coming out so slow once again. Rask and Brad Marchand ran into each other behind Boston's net, allowing Anders Lee to knock in an early Christmas present at 3:05 of the first period. Lee's team-leading 11th goal of the season was unassisted. Another rare mistake happened a few moments later as Patrice Bergeron got caught up ice, leaving New York with a 3-on-1. Thomas Hickey beat Rask glove-side with a shot at 5:40 for a 2-0 lead. Josh Bailey and Lee had the assists on Hickey's tally.

Boston's offense had two near misses in the second period as Patrice Bergeron and Austin Czarnik each hit the crossbar in quick succession. New York took a commanding 3-0 lead at 6:18 on yet another bizarre strike. Boychuk dumped the puck in Boston's zone, it bounced off the end boards (and eluded Kevan Miller's stick) before Rask got handcuffed by it on the goal-line. Nikolay Kulemin was there to smack it in for his fourth goal of the season.

As we all predicted, Bruins rookie Anton Blidh sparked the comeback attempt when his centering pass intended for goal-machine Jimmy Hayes deflected by Greiss off of Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy's skate. The first goal of Blidh's NHL career was assisted by Brandon Carlo and Khudobin just 3:04 into the third. After rightfully booing the Bruins off the ice to end the second, the Garden crowd finally had something to cheer about and they really got loud for a few minutes after Dominic Moore tipped in Zdeno Chara's shot from the point at 7:12. Moore's eighth goal of the season was also assisted by Hayes (his 1st helper of the season).

New York head coach Jack Capuano (a Rhode Islander) sensed his team falling apart and smartly took his timeout to settle them down. It worked as they were able to hold off the Bruins and get the insurance goal they needed when Lee received another easy tap-in at 13:02. Khudobin lost the puck in his pads with the assists going to Bailey and Leddy. Boston ended up outshooting New York 23-9 in the third. It seemed like they had a power play (a good one though, not theirs) for almost the entire 20 minutes and they put tons of pressure on the Isles but they never completely cracked like you hoped that they would.

The good news for Boston is that they get to go on the road where they are much better (9-5-3) than at the Garden (8-9-0) so far in 2016-17. The B's are in Florida (15-13-5) on Thursday (7:30, NESN) before they wrap up things (sorry) before a brief Christmas break (Dec. 24-26) on Friday (7:30, NESN) in Carolina (13-11-7). Boston is clinging to third-place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of both the Lightning (16-14-3) and Panthers. Needless to say, Christmas will be much more enjoyable for the entire team if they can get three or four points on their mini-Southern road trip.

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