OK, I know. Losing stinks. Especially to the Boston Bruins, who now have won 10 straight games against the Lightning. Especially in Boston, where the B’s have posted 10 straight regular season victories over the Bolts. And those glass half-empty folks would be correct in pointing out that the Lightning had some shaky defensive moments in this game. Goalie Ben Bishop allowed an uncharacteristic goal on an unscreened shot from the point. And they squandered an opportunity to win the game in OT when they posted only one shot during a full two-minute four-on-three power play.
Everything I just wrote in the above paragraph is true. Yet in many ways, this felt like breakthrough game for the Lightning at the TD Garden, which has been a house of horrors for Tampa Bay. For much of this game, the Lightning dictated play. They pinned the Bruins back in the Boston end. They kept their game simple, which is the only way to play and have success against the structured Bruins. They twice rallied from one-goal deficits on the road. And they did it all without three of their regulars against a desperate team that had gone 5-0-1 in its previous six games.
At the start of the game, however, the Bruins took it to the Lightning. Tampa Bay struggled to exit its own zone and had very little puck possession time. Following David Pastrnak’s two-on-one goal at 7:57, the Bruins had a 1-0 lead. They posted eight of the first nine shots in the game. But less than a minute after the Pastrnak goal, the Lightning went on the power play. Even though they didn’t score on it, they put two shots on net and gained momentum. After the PP, the Bolts stopped attempting “cute” plays, started moving pucks “north” and generally managed the puck much better. As a result, they enjoyed more offensive zone time as the period progressed. Eventually, they tied the score when Steven Stamkos intercepted a Zdeno Chara cross-ice d-zone pass, carried the puck to the right circle and roofed a shot over Tuukka Rask.
In the second period, the Lightning held the Bruins to only four shots, while they fired 16 shots on Rask. The final six minutes or so of the frame were particularly dominant for the Bolts, as they put on a puck possession clinic. The Bruins were forced into several icing infractions and Rask repeatedly had to bail out his tired teammates with saves and subsequent stoppages of play. In the final minute of the period, during another extensive offensive zone shift for the Lightning, Stamkos rang a shot off the post. Despite the Lightning’s territorial advantage in the frame, the period ended with the score still tied at one.
Early in the third, the Bruins did well to cycle pucks in the offensive zone and apply pressure. They retook the lead when Patrice Bergeron fired an innocent looking shot from the center point that eluded Bishop. But the Lightning pushed back immediately on the next shift and almost tied the score. That was an important shift, as it helped the Lightning regain some momentum. Nearly six minutes after falling behind, they tied the score again. Following an offensive zone faceoff win, Mark Barberio fired a point shot that led to a rebound goal for Vladdy Namestnikov.
In the final 12 minutes of regulation, both teams had chances to win it. For Boston, Carl Soderberg hit the post on a breakaway during a delayed penalty call and late in the third, Torey Krug missed an open net rebound chance on his backhand. For the Lightning, Alex Killorn nearly tucked in a shot from close range, but Rask nudged it just wide of the net.
Overtime featured several chances, especially when penalties were called on Chris Kelly and Killorn in the opening minute. That led to three-on-three action, during which Bishop denied an in-alone chance for Pastrnak. Victor Hedman also had an open look, but was held by Matt Bartkowski. Bartkowski headed to the box and the Bolts had a full two-minute four-on-three OT power play. Disappointingly, they only fired one shot during the advantage. That shot, a rising snapper from Nikita Kucherov, required a tough save from Rask, but the Boston goalie didn’t have to make another stop. In the shootout, Bergeron and Brad Marchand scored. Rask stopped Kucherov on the first Lightning attempt. With the second, Jonathan Drouin beat Rask, but his shot clanged off the crossbar.
Compared to Tuesday’s gem against Montreal, this was not as complete a game for the Lightning. But they did a number of good things against the Bruins. That hasn’t happened too often when the teams play, especially in Boston. They will face each other twice more during the regular season – both games will be at Amalie Arena – so the Bolts will have more opportunities to break their losing skid to the Bruins. If they play the way they did for most of the game tonight, I like their chances.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Namestnikov’s third period goal, which tied the score at two.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Tuukka Rask – Bruins. 35 saves.
2.Jason Garrison – Lightning. Outstanding on defense, playing 24:07.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Season-high 30:45 TOI.