The Tampa Bay Lightning haven't played on their home rink in two weeks, the Lightning completing a six-game road swing Thursday night in Boston.
The first portion of the trip was troubling, the Lightning losing both games and getting outshot 44-13 in the second of those two losses, an overtime defeat in Carolina.
The second segment, which started in Toronto, made stops in Ottawa and Montreal before wrapping up in Boston, was more what we're used to seeing from the Bolts.
The Lightning went 3-1-0 on the northeastern swing, capped by a thrilling 4-3 shootout win against the Stanley Cup runner-up Bruins in which they allowed three power-play goals, fell behind twice and managed to claw their way back to earn two points.
The Boston win was maybe the Lightning's best of the young season so far. A road-weary group went into a hostile environment and played with a passion and compete that didn't waver even when circumstances could have caused a lesser team to fold.
"I thought we played a complete game tonight," Point said from the winning locker room following the contest.
The Lightning get to come home for a week and play in front of their fans before heading back out to New York followed by an international trip to Sweden, the Bolts' challenging early-season schedule continuing well into November.
But for now, let's savor this win.
Video: TBL@BOS: Shattenkirk snipes go-ahead goal by Rask
1. 5-ON-5 PLAY LEADS THE WAY
Had the Lightning stayed out of the penalty box Thursday night in Boston, they likely would have won the game handily.
That's because the Bolts controlled play at 5-on-5.
The Lightning were responsible with the puck. They eliminated careless turnovers. They broke the puck out of their own end with rapidity and effectiveness. And they battled extremely hard. At 5-on-5, they owned a 3-0 advantage in goals.
"I think our 5-on-5 play was fantastic," said Kevin Shattenkirk, who's goal with 4:47 remaining in regulation gave the Lightning their first lead 3-2. "We were smart with pucks in the neutral zone. When we did get it into their zone, we were hounds on the puck. We possessed it and we played defense, made them play a hard game. They're going to get their chances. They're a good team. I thought in our defensive zone, we did a good job of just getting pucks out when we didn't have plays and ending plays quickly."
All three of Tampa Bay's goals came at even strength while the Lightning held Boston without a 5-on-5 goal.
"I think that was the biggest thing we can take away is it's a positive step in the right direction, the 5-on-5 play, pretty consistent throughout the game as far as carrying the play and creating some chances and playing well in our own end," Ryan McDonagh said. "I think guys should feel confident there and keep moving forward…It's a great two points. It feels really good right now."
Video: Cooper on the Shootout win at BOS
2. PENALTIES CONTINUE TO PLAGUE THE LIGHTNING
After a 3-1 win in Montreal, the Lightning talked post-game about how they can't commit so many infractions - they were sent to the box five times - and expect to win games.
At the end of Wednesday's practice session at TD Garden, all five players that were penalized the night prior had to skate extra as a form of punishment while the rest of the team was in their stretch circle.
And then, sure enough, the Lightning were sent to the penalty box five more times on Thursday, nearly derailing their strong performance otherwise.
Boston found considerably more success on the power play than Montreal, the Bruins scoring all three of their goals with the man advantage and tying the game 3-3 late on their fifth and final power play to force the Lightning to have to put in more work to secure both points.
"It's a testament to the team we lose the special teams war 3-0 and still win the game," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "It should never have gotten to that. 3-2 lead, game's got to be over. We let a point slip away to a division rival we didn't think we should have. It wasn't just the penalty kill giving up three, the power play had two chances in the first period and did nothing with it. We've got to improve."
A penalty kill that was praised for its work in Montreal was befuddled in Boston. The Bruins scored six seconds into their opening power play to grab the game's first goal. They went back in the lead 2-1 after converting their third power play. And an unfortunate deflection off a skate on a centering feed with the Lightning trying to preserve the win in regulation allowed the Bruins to come away with a point.
Tampa Bay allowed three power-play goals for the first time since a 6-5 overtime victory at Philadelphia on November 11, 2018.
"That's a pretty top-end unit that we faced tonight, and they made us pay," McDonagh said. "I think the biggest thing is still not trying to take as many penalties. You give a unit that many looks, they're going to run through all their options, and we were kind of guessing and not playing in structure as much. They do a good job keeping it simple and not overdoing it."
Video: TBL@BOS: Vasilevskiy stuffs DeBrusk to seal win in SO
3. RESILIENCY ON DISPLAY
The Lightning certainly had moments where they could have folded ,and it might have been excused considering the team was at the end of a six-straight games away from AMALIE Arena and had been on the road for nine-consecutive days.
They kept battling though through the adversity.
When Boston scored the opening goal 9:34 into the contest, the Lightning could have hung their heads. They got off to a fast start in Boston and controlled much of the play and yet found themselves staring up at a 1-0 deficit despite all of their hard work.
"We felt like were outplaying them at that time and that can take the wind out of your sails, but I thought we kept a positive attitude which was great," Shattenkirk said. "We just kept pushing and got a big one there."
And again late in the game, after allowing Boston to level the score late on another demoralizing power-play goal, the Lightning could have been satisfied to take their point and go home. But they kept plugging away in overtime and eventually got the game to a shootout where Steven Stamkos was the lone player from either side to convert.
In franchise history, the Lightning have won just nine times in the regular season in Boston over 53 attempts.
Wins are rare to come by in Boston, and Thursday's is one to be celebrated.
"It was good to see," Brayden Point said.