In a game that had a playoff-like intensity, the Lightning delivered a strong performance and, similar to Tuesday's contest against Florida, were deserving of the victory.
Unlike the first meeting between the teams, a contest in which the Bruins netted three power plays goals and allowed none, the Lightning won the special teams battle. They went 2-3 on the power play and killed off both Boston man advantages. But even through the Lightning were outscored, 2-1, at five-on-five, this wasn't simply a special teams victory. Outside of a 10-minute stretch to begin the second period, the Lightning also outplayed the Bruins during even-strength play.
In the first period, the Bruins netted an early goal off the rush, but the Lightning owned most of the puck possession. They earned that possession advantage by winning a number of puck battles in the Boston defensive zone. What they were unable to do in the opening 20 minutes, however, was translate that possession time into shots and scoring chances. The Bruins defended well in front of goalie Tuukka Rask and held the Lightning to just 7 first period shots. Still, the Lightning forced the Bruins to expend a lot of energy in the Boston d-zone, which may have paid dividends later in the game. During the final 30 minutes, the Bruins, who had played in Washington on Wednesday, weren't as tight defensively.
Before that happened, however, the Lightning had to endure their shakiest segment in the game. The Bruins dominated play in the first half of the second period. Andrei Vasilevskiy made three key saves (two on David Pastrnak and one on Jake DeBrusk) during that time to keep the deficit at one. Around the halfway point of the second period, the Lightning began pushing back. Alex Killorn drew a penalty on John Moore at 12:29 and the Lightning scored six seconds into the ensuing power play. They lost the faceoff to begin the power play, but Killorn and Nikita Kucherov tracked the puck into the corner and forced a turnover. As a result, the Bruins were out of position to defend Steven Stamkos, who was left unguarded in the slot. Kucherov hurried the puck to Stamkos, who tied the game.
That goal completely shifted momentum. For the rest of the period, the Lightning applied relentless pressure and generated a handful of scoring chances. That trend continued into the third - and during another power play chance, the Lightning took their first lead. Moments after Rask denied Kucherov with a brilliant save, Kucherov slipped a no-look backhand pass to Brayden Point, who was positioned in front of the net. Point one-timed his shot into the top corner.
The Lightning didn't let up after getting the lead. The effort included a crisp penalty kill halfway through the final frame. Then, in the closing minutes, they added a key insurance goal. Anthony Cirelli and Killorn forechecked deep in the Boston end and disrupted a Bruins clearing attempt. Stamkos intercepted the puck just inside the offensive blue line, skated to the high slot, and zipped a shot over Rask's glove.
As it turned out, the Lightning needed that goal, because John Moore chipped in a loose puck from the side of the net with 3:15 left. But the Bruins would get no closer.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Two goals.
- Jan Rutta - Lightning.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two assists.