This was a tough one to swallow. The Lightning were facing a team that had played and traveled the night before. The Bolts were looking to snap a three-game winless skid and aiming to pick up a win before heading back out on the road for another four-game road trip. But for most of the final 40 minutes, the Lightning weren’t able to match the Boston Bruins’ compete level. As a result, they didn’t have the puck much. Which limited the amount of time that they could generate offense. That was a factor in why the Lightning only scored one goal.
In the first period, however, the Lightning were the dominant team and dictated play. They won numerous puck battles and hemmed the Bruins back in the Boston defensive zone for much of the frame. But credit the Bruins for defending well without the puck. Despite a heavy advantage in puck possession, the Lightning had trouble getting shots in on Boston goalie Jonas Gustavsson. The Bruins were only credited with eight blocked shots in the first period, but it seemed that they blocked twice as many. And while Boston didn’t possess the puck nearly as much as the Lightning in the frame, the Bruins did a good job of putting pucks on net when they did enter the Lightning zone. That accounted for Boston’s 13-7 first period shot advantage.
But Boston looked like a tired team for most of the opening period. And the Lightning grabbed the lead when Nikita Kucherov finished off a nice passing sequence during a Tampa Bay power play. Perhaps had the Lightning been able to maintain that lead through the end of the period – or, even better, add a second goal during one of their dominant offensive zone sequences – the game might have unfolded differently. But late in the period, the Bruins were able to string together of couple of good shifts in which they applied offensive zone pressure. Eventually, Matt Beleskey whipped a rebound shot from the right circle past Ben Bishop to tie the game with 3:07 left in the first. That goal prevented the Lightning from taking a lead into the locker room after one period, something that has yet to happen so far this year.
Early in the second, the Lightning received two more power plays, which overlapped by 14 seconds. But the Lightning couldn’t score on the brief five-on-three and the Bruins, after killing off the penalties, took over the game. Boston’s compete level was high and the Bruins won most of the puck battles. Much of the period was spent in the Lightning zone. The Bolts were sloppy in their clearing attempts, which led to several turnovers and a handful of icings. Even though the period ended with the teams still tied at one, the Bruins had been the more dangerous team.
Boston’s ability to win puck battles continued in the third. So did the sloppy Lightning passing. An errant feed during a Lightning power play led to a Brad Marchand breakaway. Victor Hedman was assessed a penalty on the play, negating the Lightning man advantage. The Bolts did a good job killing off nearly all of the penalty, but with only 12 seconds left in the minor and the puck deep in the Boston end, Erik Condra was whistled for a tripping penalty. On the ensuing five-on-three, Marchand won the offensive zone faceoff and eventually set up Brett Connolly for a goal at the side of the Lightning net.
Down 2-1 with just over 14 minutes left, the Lightning tried to generate an attack. But their passes continued to misfire and they struggled to generate dangerous looks in the Boston d-zone. That included another power play chance, on which they failed to post a single shot on goal. The Lightning’s best chances to tie came after Bishop had been pulled for an extra attacker, but neither Tyler Johnson nor Ondrej Palat could finish their opportunities. Marchand iced the win after he stole the puck at his own blue line and scored into an empty net.
Unlike the earlier games in this skid, this one (especially the final two periods) was not indicative of how the Lightning are playing when they’re on their game. Maybe the offensive drought – the team has only two goals in its last four games - is beginning to affect the team’s confidence. Whatever the reason, they’ll get a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday, when they begin the four-game trip in Carolina. The Bolts are facing some early-season adversity and they’re going to have to find a way to pull themselves out of what is now an 0-3-1 slide.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Bobby “The Chief” Taylor):
Connolly’s GWG on the five-on-three.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Bobby “The Chief” Taylor):
1.Brad Marchand – Bruins. ENG and assist.
2.David Krecji – Bruins. Key third period faceoff wins.
3.Kevan Miller – Bruins. Solid defensive game.