Skip to main content
Round 2

Lightning special teams key in Game 5 victory against Bruins

Late penalty kill, Miller's power-play goal help Tampa Bay advance

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning needed their special teams to come up big Sunday to ensure a flight to Boston on Monday wasn't necessary.

The plane is staying on the ground.

"That's what experienced teams do, when they have a chance to close out a team, you close them out," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said following a series-clinching 3-1 win against the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.


[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]


Tampa Bay will face the winner of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals second-round series. Washington leads the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN).

The first big play came from the power play in the second period, when Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller circled around Zdeno Chara.

It was a play the Lightning forwards drew up before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began, one they ran unsuccessfully a few times against the New Jersey Devils in the first round. It was time to try it again. This time it worked.

They went round and round, passing back and forth, keeping Chara's head turning, before Kucherov hit Miller with a second pass and Miller scored on a quick shot for a power-play goal that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead with six minutes remaining in the second period.

"(Kucherov) talked to me on the bench before and said, 'Let's try that, Chara has got a long stick, so maybe we can get inside of that stick,' " Miller said. "(Kucherov)'s timing sets the whole thing up. As soon as he dives through, I've got to give it right back. It looks like he's not even going to pass to me. It's amazing, and then it's right on my stick and I know I have to get it quick because you've got to catch the goalie looking for the puck. Obviously, it worked out really well."

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Stamkos talks Lightning's Game 5 win

The Lightning ran that play because they knew they needed to try something different against the Bruins, who had killed Tampa Bay's two previous power plays with relative ease. They even used Brayden Point with the first power-play unit instead of Alex Killorn.

"We adjusted our look a little bit," Stamkos said. "I don't know if that had some confusion for their PK, but we thought we were getting a little stale, our unit in particular. We put (Point) out there. We had a play. We executed."

Stamkos got the second assist on the goal. His role on the play is to be the decoy guy standing in the one-timer position on the inside.

"Sometimes, you have to be in a spot to create a diversion," Stamkos said.

The Bruins had no choice but to respect Stamkos in that position.

"Everybody knows he can pound the puck with the best of them," Miller said. "If you respect him, obviously other stuff opens up like that.

"We put it in the bank for a situation like this, and I'm super pumped it worked."

The Bruins had a chance to answer on the power play late in the third period. The Lightning wouldn't let it happen.

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, one of the Lightning's most important penalty killers, was in the box for tripping Boston forward David Pastrnak at 15:42.

"You're obviously nervous being in there," McDonagh said. "You don't want to be in that position, put the team in that position."

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Miller nets PPG off give-and-go play

He had a front-row seat to a determined penalty kill.

The Bruins managed three shots on goal, including a terrific look from Patrice Bergeron as he dashed through the slot that goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy handled with his pads and held as the power play expired.

Previously, Bergeron and Pastrnak also had shots from the outside, but the Lightning blocked three shots, including diving blocks by Tyler Johnson and Dan Girardi. They cleared the puck four times and killed 20 seconds with possession in the Bruins' defensive zone.

"The guys did an excellent job," McDonagh said. "We were so proud of the penalty kill there."

It was as gritty as Miller's power-play goal was pretty, enough to keep the plane grounded until the next round.



Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Coverage

Lightning vs. Bruins

Capitals vs. Penguins

Predators vs. Jets

Golden Knights vs. Sharks

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.