The Boston Bruins have few complaints about their early results, but they've also played fewer games than any other NHL team.
With a much busier stretch just starting, the Bruins try to finish a five-game road trip with a fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night against the New York Islanders.
In part because of a postponement due to a blizzard, Boston (11-2-2) enters this contest with two games in hand on every other club. The Bruins have the best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference, but they don't lead the Northeast Division in points.
They hope to change that soon, and they'll certainly have the opportunity. The Bruins had two consecutive days off before beating Florida 4-1 on Sunday, but they won't have that luxury again until March 28 and 29.
In between is a stretch of 18 games in 32 days.
"We're aware of the coming-up schedule," captain Zdeno Chara said. "That's probably the last chance we were able to kind of relax for a few days, and now we're going to have a really busy schedule catching up."
Chara scored against the Panthers on a backhand after a spinning rush from the blue line, and Milan Lucic and Chris Kelly also got goals before Daniel Paille's empty-netter. Kelly scored his first of the year and also gave Boston's previously struggling power play its third goal in its last four chances.
"It was a long time coming, and hopefully it's a sign of good things to come," Kelly said.
Good things have been happening for the Bruins on the penalty kill all season, with the league's best unit going 19 for 19 in the last six games.
The team has also found success on the road, going 7-1-1, and against the Islanders lately. Boston has won 15 of 19 meetings and has outscored New York 36-19 during a 7-1-1 stretch at Nassau Coliseum.
The Bruins scored 12 goals in two visits last season, and they beat the Islanders 4-2 at home Jan. 25 behind third-period tallies from Chara and Patrice Bergeron.
New York (8-10-1) has struggled to stop many opponents this season, ranking among the worst in the league with 64 goals allowed.
Goalie Kevin Poulin made his season debut Sunday following Rick DiPietro's demotion to the minors but the Islanders lost for the sixth time in seven home games, 4-2 to Carolina to begin a seven-game homestand. Poulin turned aside 14 shots in the first period as New York took a 2-0 lead, but the Hurricanes scored four goals in the game's final 22 minutes.
"I don't know why we play differently at home," coach Jack Capuano said. "I can't understand why we were so flat in the third period."
John Tavares and Matt Moulson continue to carry the Islanders offensively, each getting a goal and an assist Sunday. Moulson has three straight two-point games while Tavares has scored nine goals in his last 10 contests, putting him in a tie for the NHL lead with 13.
Despite the team's struggles in the series and the presence of Chara on the ice, Tavares and Moulson have combined for 26 points while each playing 13 career games against Boston.
Chara, drafted by the Islanders in 1996, has 12 points in the last 10 meetings.