For it being the very last day of the season for every team in the league, there were still a number of playoff scenarios left to iron out before the puck dropped in Tampa Saturday night, more than a few of them featuring the teams that met at Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. By the time the game was over, in fact before they headed into overtime and the shootout, all the loose storylines had been wrapped up.
With the Bruins having to win and get help elsewhere to keep their hopes alive, this was a hard-hitting, physical affair throughout. This was perhaps best illustrated by a shot to the head of Tampa Bay's Vladislav Namestnikov delivered by Boston's Adam McQuaid a little over halfway through the scoreless first period, a call that curiously resulted in a mere two minutes. Namestnikov would miss the remainder of the first but was back on the bench at the start of the second.
The Lightning got on the board first at 5:08 of the second when Jonathan Marchessault, a late, emergency call-up from Syracuse to fill in for an under-the-weather Jonathan Drouin, scored unassisted, the first goal of his NHL career.
Just :52 later, Boston tied the game on a goal by Loui Eriksson, who was assisted by Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg.
The period ended with the teams tied at one.
At 5:12 of the third, the Lightning regained the lead on a goal from Nikita Nesterov, getting helpers from Matthew Carle and Marchessault.
That lead almost held up to the end, but with their goalie pulled and only 1:06 remaining in regulation, the Bruins tied the game once more on a goal by Brad Marchand. Torey Krug and David Krejci were credited with assists.
The ensuing overtime didn't settle anything and the teams headed to the shootout. There, only the Lightning's Victor Hedman scored on an effort that will probably not be featured on Boston goalie and perennial all-star Tuuka Rask's career highlight reel.
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop turned away three shots in the skills competition to earn his 40th win of the year.
In spite of the increased intensity that came from heightened senses of urgency on both sides, the game result actually didn't have any real influence on the teams' playoff aspirations. The Bruins were eliminated from playoff consideration about midway through the third period when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres, while the Lightning's hopes of winning the Atlantic Division ended a few minutes later when the Montreal Canadiens picked up a point for getting to overtime with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a game they would eventually win in a shootout.
As a result, the Lightning will now prepare to face the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round with the first game scheduled for Thursday night in Tampa.
"it's funny when it comes down to the last game and Bish gets his 40th win, and our gets its 50th of the season. Pretty remarkable to think what that group has accomplished this year. It's just been a lot of fun to be with these guys. I told them, 'Sit back tonight and enjoy this.' We've got a few days here to get prepared for Detroit, but they should sit back and reflect on what they accomplished. I don't know how many teams reach 50 wins in a season, but it's a remarkable acomplishment for this group, especially witrh so many moving different parts that have come in, especially in the off-season and the changeover of our team." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
- And with that, the regular season is history. Gee, just when the Lightning seem to have figured out how to beat the Boston Bruins, they opt out of the playoffs.
- The Lightning win the season series 2-1-1.
- The Lightning finish the season having established new season highs in wins (50), points (108) and home wins (32).
- Five lightning players appeared in all 82 regular season games: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Valtteri Filppula, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle.
- At this point it's a cliche because people keep saying it, but people keep saying it because it's true: if the NHL is serious about addressing head injuries, shots like the one McQuaid delivered to Namestnikov have to merit more than a two minute minor.
- Considering the impact he had on the game, it's a good thing Marchessault was there tonight, He didn't arrive in Tampa from Syracuse until after 5PM.
- I don't know how this is possible, since I've included it in the notes in every home game recap I've written since the Lightning launched the program, but somehow I neglected to include last game's Community Hero. Without further ado, here that is: The Lightning honored Charles McKenzie as the 40th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of Thursday night's game against the New Jersey Devils. McKenzie, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to FL Council of Churches, UnidosNow, the COACH Foundation, National Forum of Black Administrators, Refuge Ministries and the Haitian Association of Tampa Bay. McKenzie is an ordained minister and a full time public school teacher in Manatee County. He has been involved in the political landscape promoting civil rights for minorities, women, farmworkers and the youth. McKenzie also ran for the U.S. Congressional District 13 bid in 2001. His love for people has led him to do missionary work in South Africa and the Philippines and was once elected to the board of the Missionary Outreach of The Philippines, Inc. Experiencing an unstable background growing up, McKenzie developed a passion for helping the less fortunate, the underserved, the exploited and the neglected which has led to his vocation as a social activist, positively impacting the Tampa Bay community.
- The Lightning honored Patti Stepbach as the 41st Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Stepbach, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Operation HeartF.E.L.T., Arc Nature Coast and New Life. As a former educator, Stepbach experienced firsthand the reality of child hunger and the effect it has on a child's ability to learn. Understanding that homeless students get two square meals a day at school, but on the weekends many are left lacking, she was moved to action. In 2009, Stepbach started Operation HeartF.E.L.T., a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide nutritious meals to students and their siblings on weekends, holidays and extended break periods. While working a full time job, Stepbach finds at least 20 hours a week to contribute to Operation HeartF.E.L.T. During last year's school year, Operation HeartF.E.L.T. delivered over 40,000 meals. She leads a volunteer based staff who invests hundreds of hours a week picking up food, managing fund raisers, packing backpacks and delivering them to local schools.