For the first 15 minutes or so of Monday’s matinee in Boston, Lightning fans were probably thinking, “Ugh. Here we go again.” The Bolts had won only four of their previous 43 games played in the city of Boston (plus one other playoff game) and entered Monday having lost 10 straight in Boston. And even though the Bruins had started the season 0-2 and were missing several regulars due to injury, they thoroughly controlled the early part of the game. In the first 11 minutes, David Krecji and Loui Eriksson scored power play goals to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
Not only were the Lightning trailing, they weren’t playing well. They had trouble executing passes to get out of their own zone. They had very little puck possession time. They yielded multiple odd-man rushes. And they looked like a less desperate team than the Bruins, who were hungry to pick up their first win of the season. Based on the start of this game, it seemed as though it was going to be another long day for the Lightning at the TD Garden.
But then, in a flash, the game turned around. With just over four minutes left in the period, Vladdy Namestnikov stole the puck at center ice and skated into Boston’s zone. He dished it to Victor Hedman, who had joined the rush. Hedman moved to the left circle and then wired a pass back into the slot. Brian Boyle stopped the puck, then snapped it over Tuukka Rask’s glove.
That goal sparked the Lightning, who received a power play on the next shift when Patrice Bergeron was assessed a goalie interference penalty. On the man advantage, Tyler Johnson slid the puck from the right circle to the side of the net and Ondrej Palat redirected it through Rask’s pads. In a span of 69 seconds, the Lightning had tied the score.
Those goals settled down the Lightning’s game and the Bolts looked more like themselves once the second period began. They played decisively with the puck, which led to less time spent in their own zone. They took their first lead of the game when Boyle stole the puck from David Pastrnak as a Lightning penalty was winding down. Boyle countered on a breakaway and tucked a backhander between Rask’s pads. Though the Bruins would later tie the game with another Eriksson power play goal, the Lightning retook the lead on Steven Stamkos’ 500th career point. During a Lightning power play, Anton Stralman fed Stamkos for a one-timer from the left circle. He blasted the shot over Rask’s glove to give the Lightning the lead back, this time for good.
In the third, the Lightning put on a clinic of how to close out a game. They added to their lead at 5:38 when Jonathan Drouin wristed a left circle shot in between Rask’s stick and body. That goal sucked much of the life out of the Bruins, who struggled to possess the puck for the remainder of the game. Instead, the Lightning dominated – they won puck battles, disrupted Boston outlet passes and kept the crowd quiet. They added one final goal when J.T. Brown forced a steal in the offensive zone and Alex Killorn’s centering feed went into the net off Valtteri’s Filppula’s skate.
There were many impressive components to this game for the Bolts (at least after the first 15 minutes). As they did in Buffalo on Saturday, they broke a tie with a late second period power play goal. Then they took hope away from the opposition in the third by adding to their lead. They again received a balanced attack – players from all four lines scored goals. In particular, the fourth line of Namestnikov, Boyle and Brown was a difference-making unit, providing that all-important first goal. And while the PK struggled in this contest, the power play produced two important goals.
From an individual standpoint, not only did Stamkos collect his 500th point (and how fitting was it that it came off his patented one-timer from the left circle), Ben Bishop earned his 83rd career regular season win with the Lightning, tying Nikolai Khabibulin for the franchise record. Also, Boyle posted the sixth two-goal game of his NHL career and Killorn recorded his 100th career point.
As well as the Lightning played last year, a regular season in which they posted 50 wins and 108 points, they struggled in the second game of back-to-backs. The Bolts went just 4-8-1 in those situations. They’ll wrap up their first set of back-to-backs this year when they face the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. It’s the first meeting between the teams since the Lightning eliminated the Red Wings in last year’s dramatic seven-game playoff series. The Wings likely will be a motivated group on Tuesday and the Lightning will need to be ready.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Boyle’s first goal, which cut Boston’s lead to 2-1.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Brian Boyle – Lightning. Two goals.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. GWG on PP. 500th career point.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Two assists.