TAMPA -- The number was ugly: minus-5.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point had been on the ice for all but one goal against in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins, a number that could have given Lightning coach Jon Cooper pause when drawing up his game plan for Game 2 on Monday. He could have decided to shift Point's line, with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, away from the top line of the Bruins, away from the danger of facing a group (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak) that had combined for 41 points in eight games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Asked how much consideration he gave to doing that, Cooper said, "Zero."
[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]
Cooper believed in the players who had so effectively shut down the top line of the New Jersey Devils - Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt - in a five-game win in the first round, and who had shut down top lines all season. He was rewarded; the line took over the game and pushed the Lightning to a 4-2 win against the Bruins, tying the best-of-7 series 1-1.
"I honestly didn't," Cooper said. "I've been asked that question quite a bit in the last three days. I said it before, Pointer's line was a minus-5. If you really dissect what happened, we didn't have him really on for causing a scoring chance against that entire game.
"We've watched him, watched that line, check the best lines in the League all year. There was no reason to … panic and say they can't do it. We know they can do it. We have faith in them. I thought they were outstanding tonight. He clearly was not minus-5 tonight."
Video: BOS@TBL, Gm2: Gourde sweeps home Point's feed for PPG
Plus, Cooper knew what would happen had he made the call to take that line off their usual assignment following the 6-2 loss Saturday.
"Trust me, if there was any talk of pulling them off that line, I think those three guys would have marched right into my room and said, 'What are you doing?' " Cooper said.
Because they believe in what they can do. They know they're up to it.
"We're a confident line," Johnson said. "I thought last game wasn't really our best game, obviously, and we needed to have a bounce back, we needed to have an answer. I thought we did that tonight."
Point turned in a four-point game, with an empty-net goal and three assists. Palat scored the game-winner, with 14:08 in the third period, and also had an assist. Johnson was a force at the face-off dot, winning 12 of 19, and scoring the goal that broke a 1-1 tie.
"[Saturday] night you go minus-5, and tonight your line puts up points," Point said. "That's just playoffs."
They did more than just score, they mostly contained the Bruins' top line, with the group scoring once with Point's line on the ice, a Charlie McAvoy goal in the slot at 18:30 of the first period. That was crucial. That was something that the Toronto Maple Leafs did for a time, using Tomas Plekanec between Patrick Marleau and Mitchell Marner, but which they never fully figured out.
"Our line wasn't happy, obviously, with how we played," Point said. "We gave up a lot of goals, but tonight we answered back. I thought we skated a lot harder and tonight the pucks bounced our way."
Video: BOS@TBL, Gm2: Palat cashes in on turnover
It wasn't just bounces.
"We didn't give them as much time and space," Point said. "When you give that line a lot of time and space, they make plays."
It started immediately, with the Lightning dominating the early part of the game, not allowing the Bruins a shot through the first 14:01 of the first period, until Bergeron finally put the puck on Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning had already scored at that point, a Yanni Gourde power-play goal on which Point's cross-ice pass found him coming in from the left circle.
After the Bruins tied the score, Johnson broke the tie on a wrist shot off a beautiful feed from Point. There was one more, a goal that became the game-winner when Bruins defenseman Torey Krug scored at 15:58 of the third period.
Point corralled a puck that Marchand had sent back into the Bruins zone, turning it into a primary assist for him and the goal for Palat at 14:08 of the third.
It was Point's third assist, to be followed up with his empty-net goal with 26 seconds remaining.
He celebrated that one, as Bergeron and company looked on in defeat, in disappointment. They might have gotten the better of Point and his linemates on Saturday, but it had not happened again on Monday, justifying Cooper's faith in them and earning a needed win for the Lightning, heading up to Boston for Game 3 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).
"It's a challenge because the line they play against is a really good line," Cooper said. "It's been a war between those two for two games and they got the better of them in Game 1. Our guys got the better of them in Game 2. That's what happens when you have a bunch of good hockey players going against each other."
Video: BOS@TBL, Gm2: Point seals win with empty-net goal
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