The Tampa Bay Lightning aren't officially eliminated from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Bolts chances of making the postseason have nearly vanished following a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
The Bruins clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night after missing out the last two seasons. The Lightning can no longer catch the Bruins in the standings. The Bolts can tie Boston in points, but the Bruins will own the tiebreaker (wins in regulation and overtime) no matter what.
Now, if Tampa Bay wants to make the postseason for a fourth-consecutive season, it will have to win out and hope Toronto and Ottawa lose the rest of their games. The Maple Leafs lost to Washington on Tuesday and own a five-point advantage over the Lightning. The Leafs host the Bolts on Thursday. The Senators were 2-0 winners over Detroit on Tuesday and are six points in front of the Bolts.
Certainly, a lot of games will have to break right for Tampa Bay to make the postseason.
Nothing went right for the Lightning in Boston on Tuesday.
We'll break down why in 3 Things we learned from a shutout loss in Boston.
Video: Cooper on Bolts loss to the Bruins
1. MARCHAND SENT PACKING
Boston's Brad Marchand is having a career year for the Bruins having already set season highs for goals (39), assists (46) and points (85). Marchand ranks tied for second in the NHL for goals and fourth for scoring.
But against Tampa Bay, Marchand committed an extremely foolish penalty and nearly cost his team dearly.
With time running out in the first period and the game without a goal, Marchand and Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin were jockeying for position in front of the Bolts' goal. As Marchand went to skate away, he thrust his stick between the legs and up hard into a sensitive area for Dotchin, who immediately went down to the ice reeling in obvious pain. Marchand was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Dotchin would need a few minutes to recover but would be okay and continue to play in the game.
Marchand's dismissal and the subsequent five-minute major could have been a huge turning point in the game.
And it was, except, unfortunately, it swung the game in the Bruins' favor.
The five minute power play, which was interrupted 40 seconds in for the first intermission, produced just two shots for the Bolts and no real threatening scoring chances. Boston, meanwhile, was able to fire off two shots of their own on the penalty kill and didn't let the Lightning score, energizing a previously quiet Boston crowd and swinging momentum the Bruins way.
Boston started peppering Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with a flurry of scoring chances after the power play expired, and 1:36 later, Drew Stafford backhanded a shot from the slot over Vasilevskiy's glove off a rebound to break through and net the game's first goal.
"It was undisciplined, there's no question about that," Marchand said after the game after the spearing infraction that caused him to miss the final two periods of the game. "It could have cost the team in a very important game, but the guys did a great job of rallying and having a huge game."
The Lightning would never recover from their failure to score on the five-minute major and weren't able to capitalize on the absence of Marchand either.
Video: TBL@BOS: Witkowski gets a piece of Krejci's shot
2. ABOUT FACE
Boston controlled the puck for large stretches of the game, the Lightning seemingly chasing the Bruins around the ice all night.
Boston's grip on the puck was particularly evident in the second period, when the Bruins scored two goals to take control of the game and slowly squeezed the life out of the Bolts with their suffocating style of play mixed with their ability to hang on to the puck.
One major reason for the Bolts' possession woes: a horrendous showing in the face-off circle.
Boston finished Tuesday's game with 36 face-off wins to Tampa Bay's 16. At the end of the second period, the Bruins held a 31-7 face-off advantage.
The Lightning's inability to win draws had the Bolts playing catch up all night.
Tampa Bay was missing its best face-off man as Gabriel Dumont, 55.7 percent from the dot, had to leave the team before the game started to join his wife, who was about to deliver the couple's second child.
Tyler Johnson, the Lightning's second best face-off man at 52 percent, was playing just his second game after missing 11-consecutive games with a lower-body injury and was still showing obvious signs of discomfor during the Boston game.
The Bolts needed others to step up in the face-off circle to offset the loss of Dumont and counter the rustiness of Johnson, but no one was able to and the Lightning were forced to chase pretty much the entire game as a result.
Video: Hedman on disappointing loss to Boston
3. SMOKE AND MIRRORS
The Lightning have pieced together wins and point streaks during the final weeks of the regular season despite losing a number of skaters to injury and playing with a handful of guys who would normally be in AHL Syracuse at this time of the year.
Steven Stamkos hasn't played since mid- November, and even though the captain's been practicing with the team and progressing at a steady pace, he's still not ready to play.
Tyler Johnson was missing in action for 11 games until coming back Sunday against Dallas.
A third centerman, Cedric Paquette, has been out for 13 games including the Boston contest with a lower-body injury.
Jason Garrison re-aggravated a lower-body injury in the Dallas game and didn't suit up against the Bruins.
The Lightning were already dealing with a depleted lineup when they entered Boston, and they were dealt more injury blows prior the game. J.T. Brown played just five minutes against the Stars and wasn't able to go against the Bruins. And Gabriel Dumont was a late scratch when he had to depart to be with his expecting wife, leaving the Bolts a man down against the Bruins.
With so many of their regulars hurt or unavailable, the Lightning' ill fortune finally caught up to them in Boston, the worn-down, beaten-up Bolts lethargic and unable to muster much fight in a 4-0 loss.