The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 6-3. By winning in regulation, the Lightning gain traction in their race to make the playoffs while also keeping points away from a divisional rival. The Lightning trail the Bruins by the 3 points for the second wild card spot.
All in all, this was a solid game by the Lightning, especially considering they played most of it without second pairing defenseman Jason Garrison. The defense adapted fairly well and the forwards contributed to protecting their own net.
Garrison’s injury was later reported to be a severe-looking lower-body injury. It’s a mark of the craziness of the season that this news doesn’t impact us as deeply as it normally would — as a fanbase, maybe we’re numb to it by now. Here’s hoping Garrison heals thoroughly and well.
#tblightning Cooper didn't have update on Garrison. Says he couldn't put weight on leg. "Didn't look good." Evaluated tomorrow.— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) March 24, 2017
The first ten minutes of the game were very defensively minded. Boston got three shots on goal while Tampa managed to send just two pucks towards the net.
Halfway through the first period, the Lightning got their first power play. The phenomenal unit of Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman provided a lot of pressure, but ultimately came up empty.
he Lightning continued to rely heavily on the Palat-Point-Kucherov line to drive offensive momentum. Drouin created some opportunities, hitting the post early in the game, but the Bolts and Bruins remained scoreless.
The Lightning took a penalty less than two minutes into the period. David Pastrnak quickly scored for the Bruins on the powerplay. Less than a minute after the Boston goal, Point found the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1 for his thirteenth goal of the season. Point has exploded since he landed on the first line between Palat and Kucherov.
About fives minutes into the second, Jason Garrison took an awkward fall and went to the locker room because OF COURSE. That’s just how things are going for the Lightning this year. Injuries for everyone!
Less than halfway through the period, the Lightning gave up a short-handed goal to the Bruins. Again, less than a minute later, the Bolts responded with a goal to tie the game at 2-2. Kucherov picked up his 35th goal of the season, assisted by some nifty puck work courtesy of Drouin.
After the two quick goals, the ice really opened up with plenty of opportunities for both teams. Netminder Peter Budaj was sharp and stopped several dangerous shots to keep the game even until Riley Nash finally snuck one past him to put the Bruins up 3-2. This time it took a full minute and a half for the Bolts to respond and tie the game at 3-3. THANK YOU, ANTON STRALMAN!
In the first minute of the period, Kucherov took a minor penalty for holding a stick. The Lightning successfully killed the penalty and resumed 5-on-5 play. Palat was impressive throughout this game, bringing a physical edge to match his defensive prowess.
Drouin finally gave the Lightning a 4-3 lead, getting his first goal in 13 games.
Shortly after that goal, Yanni Gourde was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Frank Vatrano leading to a mini-scrum. The tension was markedly elevated for the rest of the game and it became increasingly apparent that some players (like rookie Jake Dotcin) were itching to fight.
Halfway through the period, Vladislav Namestnikov took a high stick from Pastrnak, putting the Bolts back on the power play. Kucherov capitalized on the opportunity to give the Lightning a two goal lead. He leads the league in power play goals. Honestly, Kucherov is having an absolutely insane season.
On the flip side, Kucherov had an uncharacteristically undisciplined game, taking two minor penalties. Budaj made some exceptional saves to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard during a particularly dangerous power play late in the third period.
With three minutes left in the game, the Bruins pulled goalie Tuukka Rask in an effort to make up the two goal deficit.
KUCHEROV SCORED AGAIN! A HAT TRICK FOR THE RUSSIAN ASSASSIN!!
The Bolts were able to fend off the Bruins attack to retain the lead and win in regulation. Ultimately, this team continues to depend primarily on one line (Palat-Point-Kucherov) and Victor Hedman to drive offensive momentum.
They will need more scoring from the likes of Alex Killorn, Drouin, Namestnikov, and Stralman if they want to continue to win and fight for a spot in the playoffs. If the Lightning do make the post-season, they’ll need more 5-on-5 production instead of relying on power play opportunities.