The Boston Bruins know they can't finish worse than third in the Eastern Conference and getting a top-two seed is a longshot, perhaps leaving little to accomplish over the season's final week.
Avoiding blowing any more big leads certainly tops coach Claude Julien's priority list.
After watching a three-goal lead disappear their last time out, the Bruins try to recover in Wednesday night's visit from the New York Islanders, who came from two goals down to beat Boston last month.
The Bruins (44-24-11) clinched the Northeast Division title with a 3-2 win over Atlanta on Saturday, and it appeared they would top the 100-point mark Monday after building a 3-0 lead on the New York Rangers midway through the second period.
However, the Rangers scored twice before the end of the period, then had two goals in a 51-second span late in the third before adding an empty-netter in a 5-3 win that left Julien peeved.
"We decided to get cute and when you get cute that's what happens," Julien told the Bruins' official website. "So again ... for me it's a disappointing loss, but you certainly hope your players walk out of here learning something about this.
"At this stage in the season, you hope that it's a real good lesson that we learn tonight, that if you don't want to respect the game plan for 60 minutes, those things are going to happen."
Julien needs to look no further than the last time his team faced the Islanders (30-37-12) for another example.
Boston had scored 11 goals in two victories over New York earlier in the season, and seemed well on its way to another with a 2-0 lead late in the second period March 11 at Nassau Coliseum. But Matt Moulson scored two seconds before the end of the period, and the Islanders beat Tim Thomas twice in the third before finding the empty net to cap a 4-2 victory.
That was the second two-goal lead the Bruins had blown in as many nights.
Aside from showing Julien the loss to the Rangers won't linger, Boston may not have much to play for Wednesday. Though the Bruins can still catch either Philadelphia or Washington for one of the conference's top two seeds, it's highly unlikely.
The Islanders, meanwhile, might be able to play a big role in shaping the top of the East standings over their final three games. Following the visit to the TD Garden, they host Pittsburgh on Friday before closing at Philadelphia on Saturday.
They kept the rival Rangers from getting two points Thursday in an impressive 6-2 win, but couldn't carry that momentum to Saturday against Carolina. John Tavares' second-period goal gave New York a 2-1 lead, but the Hurricanes scored three times in the third to win 4-2.
"I don't think we played too bad," said Tavares, who leads the team with 64 points. "Last game was real emotional."
Eleven different Bruins have scored against the Islanders this season, with only Milan Lucic (three) scoring multiple goals.
Shawn Thornton has just an assist versus New York, but Boston is hopeful its enforcer returns to the lineup against an Islanders team that leads the NHL in penalty minutes. Thornton has missed the team's last three games with a facial laceration.
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