BOSTON - The New York Islanders face a tough task as they try to climb out of last place in the Metropolitan Division. But it will be a lot easier if they can continue to win on the road and make comebacks like the ones that earned them four points in their the past two games.
John Tavares scored twice in the third period as part of a four-point performance and Kyle Okposo contributed three points as the Islanders overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
The Bruins appeared to have the game in hand when they scored two quick goals to take a 3-1 lead midway through the second period. But the Islanders refused to roll over after a slow start against by the Atlantic Division leaders.
"I think this game, even though we didn't have a great start, we just stuck with it," Tavares said. "Being down by a goal on the road isn't always the worst thing in the world, you just have to turn the page. We did a better job in the second period, we seemed to get our legs going. It was a long day for us with the way the situation was with the basketball game beforehand and not being able to come to the rink. It seemed like we started to get our legs going, and obviously the power play, it's good to see it come through in a big way. Yeah for sure, we're doing a bunch of better things I think over the last couple weeks. We've just got to stay with it and know what's bringing us success."
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 35 of 38 shots for the Islanders, who have now four in a row away from home. That includes a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday in which they rallied from a three-goal deficit.
The Islanders improved to 7-0-1 in their past seven games played on Dec. 31. They haven't lost on New Year's Eve since 1998.
The Bruins, who had won three of their past four games, had their home-ice winning streak snapped at eight and lost in regulation at TD Garden for the first time in 16 games. The Bruins allowed four power-play goals, matching a season-high that was set in their prior regulation home loss to the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 26.
Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for Boston (26-12-2).
"I couldn't stop the puck when it mattered and then they get those bounces. So that's the result," Rask said. "It feels like everything's going in, one way or the other. We didn't play too bad. We got the lead and that's the only bad thing, we had the two-goal lead and then we kind of blew it. Then the penalty kill wasn't our strong point today."
The Islanders (13-21-7) grabbed their first lead of the night 32 seconds into the third period. Thomas Vanek gained the Boston zone and wristed a shot off Rask's blocker. Tavares retrieved the puck along the goal line to the left of Rask and banked it off the goaltender and into the net to make it 4-3.
Tavares added some insurance at 13:17 when his slapper from the left circle beat Rask for the Islanders' fourth power-play goal.
A five-goal second-period scoring spree started with the Islanders tying the game at 1-1 on Frans Nielsen's first of two goals. His one-timer from the high slot at 5:56 beat Rask for the first of three power-play goals by the Islanders in the middle 20 minutes.
Boston scored twice in a 25-second span to grab a 3-1 lead. Patrice Bergeron's one-timer from the high slot on the power play put the Bruins ahead at 12:33. Daniel Paille's tip of a Zdeno Chara shot Nabokov was trying to pick up his stick from the blue paint at 12:58 then put the Bruins ahead by two.
"I thought they scored that third goal a little bit too quick for my liking," Nabokov said. "I thought they grabbed the momentum. But we didn't put our heads down and we found our way back in the same period. And I thought that was huge."
But the Bruins took three minor penalties in the final four minutes of the period, and the Islanders made them pay twice. Nielsen used a fortuitous bounce after Vanek's shot was blocked to score the Islanders' second power-play goal of the period at 16:30. Nielsen fired the loose puck into the net before Rask could get back into position.
Okposo then got some help from Brad Marchand to tie the game up at 3-3. Andrew MacDonald gained the Boston zone and chased his own chip-in to the right corner. Okposo came up with the puck along the goal line and threw it to the front, where Marchand knocked it past Rask with 2.6 seconds left in the period.
"We caught a little bit of a bounce, but the bounce would not happen if Kyle would not put the puck [to the slot]," Nabokov said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien felt his team took its foot off the gas pedal after the two quick second-period goals.
"When we took the 3-1 lead, I just felt that we kind of relaxed and they came back hard and they kind of got the momentum back and we couldn't regain it," Julien said. "You make your own breaks and they made their breaks by getting some good bounces and got themselves back in the game. But in the third period, they were the better team again. But I think we lost ... it was probably self-inflicted. We took a lot of ill-advised penalties and at one point that caught up to us. And I didn't think our penalty kill obviously was very good tonight."
The Islanders had four of the game's first five shots on goal. But by the time the period ended the Bruins had outshot New York 13-8. One of those shots was the first goal.
David Krejci went to the net as Jarome Iginla fired a shot on Nabokov. He stopped the initial shot and denied Krejci's attempt at stuffing in the rebound, but Krejci's second effort put the Bruins ahead 1-0 at 4:25.
At one point the Islanders thought they had tied the game before the first intermission. With 6:11 remaining in the period, however, video review upheld the ruling on the ice that the whistle blew even as players and Rask were jamming at Travis Hamonic shot's that dropped in the crease. The Islanders saw it on video between periods and thought the call went against them. But coach Jack Capuano liked the way his players didn't get discouraged by the call.
"You're going to face adversity like that and you're not always going to get the calls you want," Capuano said. "But you know what, they stuck with it. It just shows, you know that goal we got pucks to the net, we got bodies to the net and we're crashing and banging. And that's what we need to get back to."
The Islanders won the only previous meeting this season with the Bruins, 3-1 on Nov. 2. New York begins a three-game homestand Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins stay home to play the Nashville Predators that night.