One shaky victory over an inferior opponent won't be enough to shake the Boston Bruins out of their second-half doldrums.
A more definitive win over a fast-improving foe might help.
That's what the Bruins will be going for Saturday afternoon against the Eastern Conference-worst New York Islanders, who've actually been better in recent weeks than East-leading Boston.
Thursday night's 5-3 win over Ottawa wasn't enough to satisfy the Bruins, who came into the game on a 1-4-1 skid. With a 4-8-3 record since Feb. 7, they lost the consistency and offensive production that sparked them on a charge to the top of the league earlier this season.
Boston (44-16-9) nearly blew a three-goal lead in the third period against the Senators, only securing the victory with an empty-netter in the final minute.
"It's important to keep in mind that we just played a team that isn't going to make the playoffs, and we just skidded by," goalie Tim Thomas said. "We have to get that killer instinct."
The Bruins did see some positive signs against Ottawa, as Phil Kessel scored twice to extend his team lead to 29 goals. He had scored three goals in his previous 23 games. The team also killed all five of the Senators' power plays after allowing opponents to go 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) with the advantage in the previous six games.
But Boston still had trouble closing the game out. In their two previous games, the Bruins allowed the winning goal in the third period, and they also nearly blew a three-goal lead last Saturday in a 5-3 victory over Chicago.
"We seem to have good starts, but we let off the gas pedal," forward Mark Recchi said. "The good thing is, though, everybody in here understands that we're not where we need to be."
The Bruins still hold a six-point lead on New Jersey for the top spot in the East, and they remain tied with Detroit in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.
But even the lowly Islanders (23-37-8) have been playing better lately. New York still has a league-low 54 points, but is 5-1-1 in its last seven and 11-8-3 since Jan. 21.
The Islanders have even been showing improvement on the road, where they were 1-19-1 from Nov. 28 through last week - a stretch that started with a 7-2 loss at the TD Banknorth Garden.
They're 1-0-1 to start their six-game trip, including a 3-2 overtime win over Montreal on Thursday night. Kyle Okposo scored 26 seconds into overtime, extending the 20-year-old's goal streak to four.
Okposo is part of a young group that has emerged lately for New York, with 23-year-old Blake Comeau notching two assists and 26-year-old Mike Iggulden scoring his first NHL goal Thursday.
"It's great," said Iggulden, who has five points in four games since being called up. "I've worked really hard down in the AHL for about four years and to finally get an opportunity to play in the NHL, it's just been amazing."
Yann Danis could again be in net for New York. He's 5-2-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average in his last seven starts.
Danis made 25 saves in a 2-1 home loss to Boston on Jan. 15, but was outdueled by Thomas, who made 40 stops. Thomas has won three straight versus New York, allowing one goal each time, while the Bruins have won four in a row in the series.