Bruins pull away from Islanders, 4-1

The New York Islanders may be challenged offensively but their ability to defend can give the Bruins’ high-powered attack a little trouble at times. And for 20 minutes at UBS Arena on Wednesday, it did just that.

But once the B’s got their legs going, the B’s demonstrated just how big a gap there is between them and mere playoff hopefuls like the Islanders right now. The B’s received goals from four different players and went a solid 6-for-6 on the penalty kill to grind out a 4-1 victory.

“They just came out really hard in the first and we weren’t necessarily ready to play at that level,” Brad Marchand, one of the goal scorers, told NESN. “But we definitely turned it around the last two periods, played really well and started getting back to our game plan and transitioning fast. And Linus (Ullmark) held us in it when he had to. So it was a good game.”

The season has been special for just about every player on this team, but none more than Ullmark, who recorded 26 wins all of last season. But on Wednesday, he stopped 25 of 26 shots to push his record to 24-2-1 with a 1.89 goals against average and .937 save percentage. It was also his 100th career win.

Ullmark admitted this has been all pretty heady stuff for him.

“It has been overwhelming. I’m not going to lie. It has been a different kind of a season, definitely,” Ullmark told reporters on Long Island. “It’s taken a lot of me mentally to keep going and not be satisfied. Because it’s hard. I have the luxury now halfway through the season to be at this point and usually you’re at this point at the end of the season. So I have a lot of gratitude toward all the boys in here that go to work every single night. So kudos to them.”

Ullmark said it’s the players who keep each other honest on a nightly basis, especially Marchand.

“We have a lot of guys on this team that have been around the league for a long time and they know that you can’t get satisfied because there are such small details that can make something crumble,” said Ullmark. “And (Marchand) is one of those guys who’s always honest with me if I ever feel like taking a day off. He’s always on my (butt) and tells me to get going.”

The Bruins didn’t get much going in the first period offensively, got outshot 10-6 and found themselves down 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.

Zach Parise was robbed by Ullmark early in the period when he had a clean shot from the high slot, but it was Parise who gave the Islanders the lead with 4:19 left in the first.

The Isles entered the zone on the rush and, after Jean-Gabriel Pageau dumped it in deep to Sebastian Aho in the left corner, David Pastrnak came down low in the zone to double team him. It was ill-advised decision by Pastrnak, because that left Parise all alone to step into Aho’s pass and blast a slapper past Ullmark for the 1-0 advantage.

The B’s were slow to start in the second as well, but they eventually tied off a strong, grinding shift by the third line. Matt Grzelcyk jumped down from the blue line to gather a loose puck, went behind the net and out the right side, surveying his options. Eventually, he sifted a pass over to to defense partner Charlie McAvoy, who ripped a one-timer past Islander goalie Semyon Varlamov at 7:48.

It was McAvoy’s third of the season and first since Nov. 23, snapping a 23-game goal-less streak for the No. 1 defenseman, who is still rounding into form. For the surging Grzelcyk, it was his fourth point in his last three games.

The B’s took the lead 3:12 later. After the B’s quickly reloaded in the neutral zone in the midst of a partial Islander change, Pastrnak fed Pavel Zacha in the slot for a shot the stayed out, but weakside defenseman Derek Forbort charged in to poke the loose puck home for his third of the season.

The lead was extended the early in the third period on a power play, but it came with a cost. Patrice Bergeron caught a puck in the face and needed to head to the room for repairs. Bergeron being Bergeron, he returned to the game with some gauze in his nose and blood smeared on his cheek, but fingers were still crossed.

“The admiration I have for him and everyone has for him to try and help the team win after that is immense and we’re hoping that all the X-rays come back good,” said coach Jim Montgomery.

On the advantage, Pastrnak fed  Marchand for a one-timer and Marchand didn’t miss the wide open net, recording his 15th goal at 5:03, his eighth on the man advantage.

Finally, with the Islanders ready to be put out of their misery, Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle outworked the Islanders for a loose puck. Eventually, Coyle came off the board with it and fed Trent Frederic for his 10th goal of the season with 4:22 left.

At that point, the B’s could warm up the bus for their trek into the Big Apple for what should be a tougher test against the Rangers on Thursday.