TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan believes special teams will decide the winner of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins.
Callahan took it upon himself to help the Lightning win that battle by leading a penalty kill that held the Bruins power play in check during their 4-2 win in Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Monday.
[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]
The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is at Boston on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).
"In today's game, special teams mean so much, and if you win that special teams battle a lot of times you're going to win the hockey game," Callahan said. "It's not very often you lose that battle and win the game. In the playoffs, it's heightened because goals are hard to come by."
The Bruins power play went 0-for-3 in Game 2. The most important moment came in the first period when Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (14:02) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh (14:17) were each called for roughing 15 seconds apart, giving Boston a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:45.
Callahan won a defensive zone face-off against Patrice Bergeron that led to an early clear, and laid out to block a one-timer from David Krejci with 35 seconds left on the two-man advantage. Defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman each blocked a shot during the final seconds of the kill.
"I'm proud to go out there, to get picked as the guy to go out there and kill that," Callahan said. "I know the two defensemen feel the same way. It's tough with that long of a 5-on-3 but luckily it was a combined effort and we got it killed to give us a little momentum."
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Forward Brayden Point, who had a goal and three assists, said that penalty kill brought an additional wave of energy to the Lightning.
"I remember [Callahan] sliding and taking one off the foot," Point said. "That's just guys sacrificing and paying the price to win games. That not only energizes the crowd but the guys on our bench, too."
Coach John Cooper said it was a crucial moment in the game.
"There are turning points in a game," Cooper said. "And that was a little early to be a turning point, but who knows how it goes if they score on that. Just an outstanding job and effort by them. Once that penalty [was killed] and we got through that, you could tell we were a confident group, and that was led by Ryan."
The Lightning penalty kill was ranked 28th in the NHL during the regular season (76.1 percent) but has become an area of strength in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 19-of-23 on kills (82.6 percent).
One of the adjustments the coaching staff made was to settle on Callahan, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn and Cedric Paquette as their primary group of forwards on the penalty kill, with Hedman, Stralman, McDonagh and Dan Girardi on defense.
Callahan said the unit has developed chemistry and, in turn, produced results.
"We built some confidence in the New Jersey series," Callahan said. "When you have a tough regular season in penalty kill it takes a toll on guys. Guys take pride in being out there for the penalty kill so we take it personally when we're not doing well. Tonight we competed hard and got the job done. We need to continue to play that way."
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