Afterwards, Jon Cooper stated that "this was a tale of two games." Certainly, from a puck possession standpoint, that's true.
For most of the first two periods, the Bruins played a fast, crisp game. They attacked the Lightning with speed, were first to loose pucks, and effectively funneled pucks to the net. By comparison, the Lightning weren't sharp with their puck management and were guilty of overpassing. Still, the Lightning had some near misses during this segment of the game. During an early two-on-one break, Blake Coleman's stick blade went over the puck as he tried to pass it to Anthony Cirelli. Later in the first, Cirelli almost got loose on a breakaway. On what would be the Lightning's lone power play chance in the game, Tyler Johnson couldn't quite finish a chance at the side of the net - the puck bounced over his stick. And early in the second period, a Yanni Gourde goal was overturned on Boston's successful offside challenge.
But as a whole, the Lightning were outplayed during the opening 35 minutes. Andrei Vasilevskiy was sharp in holding the Bruins to only two goals. Before the Lightning's late second period push, the Bruins held a shot advantage of 30-10.
But with about five minutes left in the second period, the Lightning changed the game's narrative. They began winning more puck battles and simplified their game. That led to more puck possession for them - and less for the Bruins, who managed just five shots on goal during the game's final 25 minutes. The Lightning got on the board at 17:28 of the second when Mitchell Stephens swatted in a puck from close range.
In the third period, the Lightning came close to tying the game twice. Tuukka Rask stopped a Cirelli breakaway and later, Erik Cernak's point shot rang off the crossbar. But the Bruins showed in the third why they are the top defensive team in the league. The Lightning had a difficult time getting pucks to dangerous areas as the Bruins defended tightly in front of their goalie. The Lightning attempted 23 shots in the third, but only seven went on net. The Bruins blocked eight while eight other attempts missed the net.
Ultimately, the Lightning lost a game in which they didn't play well enough early on and, when they found their rhythm, couldn't rally from two goals down against a strong opponent. Even in defeat, though, there were bright spots. Their penalty kill was excellent, going 3-3 against a Bruins power play that entered the game ranked second in the league. The PK ended a stretch of seven games in which it had allowed at least one goal. Just prior to the Lightning's late second period push, Yanni Gourde was reunited on a line with Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon. That line recreated some of the chemistry that was evident when the three players were together on a line earlier in the season. And Vasilevskiy delivered a solid performance, allowing two goals on 35 shots.
But in the end, the Lightning know they'll need to be better against a team as good as the Bruins. They'll get another chance when they visit Boston on Saturday.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Patrice Bergeron - Bruins.
- Sean Kuraly - Bruins.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning.