BostonBruins.com - It's not often that a loss ends up on a team's list of top games. But the Bruins' 5-3 setback to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 7 was certainly an exception.
With the top two teams in the Eastern Conference meeting for the second time in five days, there was plenty of emotion to go around. The rivals combined for 94 penalty minutes in a fight-filled affair that at one point had the Bruins down by three goals.
Boston surged back late in the second period to pull within 3-2, before a power-play marker from Alex Killorn sapped the B's momentum only 1:08 into the third. David Pastrnak answered just over five minutes later to, once again, make it a one-goal game, but that was as close as the Black & Gold would get.
Despite the loss - Boston's second-to-last game before the COVID-19 shutdown - the B's left TD Garden with a feeling of pride after what they believed was an important team-building moment.
"You got two teams fighting for the top spot in the standings," said Sean Kuraly, whose tally at 18:37 of the second trimmed the Tampa lead to 3-2. "But I think it's a little more than that, too. We want to set the stage for what could possibly be to come. Two competitive teams that don't want to give an inch."
That much was clear following Kuraly's marker late in the second. With no goal signal on the ice, play continued, leading to a massive scrum at center ice.
It began with a tussle between heavyweights Zdeno Chara and Pat Maroon and escalated into chaos after Tampa forward Anthony Cirelli delivered a cross-check from behind to Chara during the scrum.
Charlie Coyle squared off with Cirelli. Kuraly tackled Killorn. Charlie McAvoy wrestled with Erik Cernak. And Ondrej Kase battled with Braydon Coburn.
"It's a very competitive game, two teams battling each other, both teams want to win the game and it was physical," said Chara. "That's part of this game and you're going to have games like that, where it's going to get a little bit more chippy than some other games.
"We always put a lot of emphasis to have each other's backs, and play as a unit, as a team, and I thought that you saw it tonight, that everybody responded in the right way."
Bruce Cassidy on the teams playing twice in five days:"I think it was more of a response, [Tampa] wanted to be better. I thought we were the better team up there and they wanted to prove that - listen, I think both of us feel we're the best team in the Atlantic. We went up there, got the 2 points in their building, they wanted to respond.
"And for the simple reason as that, that the rivalry has developed now between the two of us and you're going to get some intense matchups. And that's what you got tonight."
Cassidy on Tampa's goal early in the third: "Unfortunately, we took a penalty on the scrum at the end of the period. I'm not even sure what happened with [Brad Marchand], but we end up in the box, they don't. That took some life away from us on our power play, so the life we created kind of went by the wayside a little bit. They score on a power-play goal, and now you're climbing uphill again. If it's 3-2, I like our chances better."
Tampa coach Jon Cooper on the game: "The only thing I'm remembering right now is [Tampa goalie Andrei] Vasilevskiy making a save on Pastrnak with five minutes left and a one-goal lead. That's all I got for you."
Charlie McAvoy on the potential of a playoff matchup: "I don't really like to look into the future. But I think that's kind of what was going on out there tonight - kind of a feeling that we may see those guys again."