Boston has always been a “boogey-man” for the Lightning over the past several seasons. Consistently beating them, pushing them around, and creating an aura of superiority that, at one point, felt suffocating. Tampa Bay flipped that narrative on its head last post-season after dispatching the Bruins in five games, but new seasons bring new story-lines. This evening provided the first chapter of that story. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2, in a game that was largely even.
Boston jumped on an early opportunity when David Pastrnak scored 2:04 into the opening period.
This is pretty much on Ryan McDonagh. The puck rolls off his stick during his pass attempt and has little momentum moving forward. From there, checks notes, Colby Cave, checks notes once again, yea, Colby Cave fires the puck on net where Domingue does a poor job with the rebound. Pastrnak was already behind McDonagh by the time this happened and easily tucked the puck past Domingue to give Boston the early lead.
As for Pastrnak, the young Czech joined some elite company with this goal.
Skating in his 28th team game tonight, @pastrnak96 scored his 20th goal of the season.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 7, 2018
Jaromir Jagr is the only Czech-born player in League history to require fewer games to reach the 20-goal mark; a feat he accomplished on four different occasions. #NHLStats #BOSvsTBL pic.twitter.com/67kgk0dSbV
Prior to this goal, Tampa was fine. They were settling into the game and then this play happened. Not the best out come, but one that happens sometimes. As long as they re-established themselves as the period progressed they’d be fine.
That wasn’t the case for the first half of the opening period. Boston cut off Tampa Bay in the neutral zone often and held up most of the controlled entries at their blueline. The Bruins counter-attacked off this and pressured Domingue and the Lightning defense. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they did limit the quality of shots by pushing the Bruins to the outside, but Pastrnak did free himself for a dangerous one-timer from the high-slot that Domingue swallowed.
After the media timeout, it seemed as if a switched flipped for the Lightning. A suffocating shift by Point’s line pinned the Bruins in the defensive zone for 30-45 seconds. This was followed up by Stamkos’ line doing the same thing on the next shift. Cirelli’s line followed suit, and Boston didn’t manage to cleanly exit their zone until the Lightning willingly eased off the pressure to make a line change.
Boston was unable to establish anything from the reprieve and once the Point line came back on the ice, they did what they’ve done all season—they score.
Simply put, Tampa Bay out-battled Boston here. Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson win the puck battle against Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand. This causes the puck to bounce towards Tuukka Rask and roll near the left (his right) post. Johnson takes a few whacks at the puck and eventually forces the puck across the crease where Nikita Kucherov recovers it. Notice how Kucherov looks to see where Point is going before he touches the puck. That’s what enables him to make the deft backhanded pass that catches the Bruins off guard. The only Bruins player to pay attention to Point is Marchand, but Marchand whiffs on the stick lift that would’ve stopped this goal. This was Point’s 21st goal on the season, Kucherov’s 31st assist, and Johnson’s ninth assist. This line has been dominant ever since they were put together.
Tampa continued to pressure Boston, but a turnover at the offensive blueline by Eric Cernak allowed David Pastrnak to have a breakaway on Louis Domingue.
Great recovery by Domingue here. He almost fully bit on the outside fake, but managed to plant his right foot to stop Pastrnak’s chance.
Biggest issue TB had in the first were turnovers. Pastrnak goal was due to a flubbed pass/clearing attempt by McDonagh and poor rebound control by Domingue. The other dangerous chances Boston had were by Pastrnak. A breakaway off a turnover, and a one-timer from the high slot.— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) December 7, 2018
All Tampa Bay needed to do was stick to their game and limit the turnovers in the second.
That black line you see that is doing an even descending dance into the yellow doesn’t tell the whole story of the second period, but it does illustrate that the Lightning essentially did little. The Bruins controlled 75% of the shot attempts at 5v5 and led in scoring chances 9-3. Tampa Bay did manage to limit the quality in comparison to the quantity, but this period was marred by sloppy transition, passing, and decision making. If Tampa Bay was going to break the tie on their terms they were going to have to clean up the mistakes.
The beginning of the third saw a cleaner approach from Tampa Bay, but Boston was still dangerous in small spurts. The forechecking and neutral zone pressure that Tampa Bay displayed during the latter half of the opening period started to come back and thanks to the work of Dan Girardi and Alex Killorn, Mathieu Joseph was able to break the tie.
Now, I don’t know exactly understand how Brandon Carlo lost this puck, but that’s what Girardi took advantage of here. He taps the puck toward an area that Killorn can retrieve it and from there Killorn makes the nifty pass to Joseph—who no one on Boston’s side even picked up. Torey Krug plays the two-on-one like Joseph is diagonally away from him. He never notices Joseph going past him and by the time he realizes it the puck is through his legs, on Joseph’s stick, and shortly after in the net. This is Tampa Bay taking advantage of chances the present themselves. There’s a reason they’re the highest scoring team in the league, and the ability to capitalize on plays like this are one of them.
Jon Cooper provided some insight into how Joseph has played this season, “Jo is a little bit more of a wildcard in the sense this is his first time in the league and trying to find his way, but clearly he’s getting a little more acclimated knowing what he can and can’t do, and [on] both sides of the puck he’s playing better and pucks are going in for him.”
Joseph was a long shot for many make the team during preseason, but Cooper rebuked that, “I’m not sure you can make that statement. There’s a lot of guys like that. It’s a deep team up front, but he had some attributes that we liked and he earned it.” Regardless of the optics, Joseph has been an integral part of the Lightning offense and his speed and tenacity on the forecheck provides another layer opposing teams have to deal with.
Shortly after Joseph’s goal, Mikhail Sergachev thought he scored his first of the season, but his shot bounced off the corner of the crossbar and out of the net. Boston came right back down the ice and pressured Tampa Bay. This led to an untimely penalty by Louis Domingue, a delay of game for clearing the puck over the glass (still the dumbest penalty in hockey). So, off to the penalty kill once again for the Lightning.
You can’t draw up a better way to start a penalty kill. Steven Stamkos loses his stick, blocks a shot, swats the puck out of the zone where a Bruins defender can’t control it, and Anthony Cirelli out races David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand to give Tampa Bay a two-goal cushion early in the third. It’s great to see this one go in for Cirelli. He’s had a few of these shorthanded chances and aside from his first of the season, he’s had rotten luck.
The remaining 15 minutes of the period saw both teams control play and generate chances, but the ice wouldn’t tilt until the latter stages of regulation. Boston pulled Rask with a little over two minutes left and finally broke through Domingue.
Good faceoff, good pass, good shot, good screen, and good goal. Domingue was never able to track this shot and that’s due to Boston blocking his vision. Gotta give credit where credit is due.
The Bruins continued to push for the remaining minute of the game, but were unable to break through for the tying goal. As great as Joseph, Cirelli, Point, Kucherov, and the rest of the forwards were, this game was Louis Domingue stepping up with some clutch saves when needed. The Pastrnak breakaway was the biggest one, but make no mistake, Domingue was the biggest reason Boston only scored two goals this evening.
Ostensibly Obnoxious Offense
Tampa Bay has scored 117 goals this season. Take away NHL.com’s ridiculous shootout winning goal and that drops their total to 115. Still, 115 goals in 30 games is absurdly good. On a per game average, that is 3.83 goals. The next closest team is Toronto at 106. The Lightning have scored three or more goals in their last five games, and have done so in 23 of their 30 games this season (excuse me while I laugh at that absurdity).
I made a tweet earlier in the week that Tampa Bay has effectively scored themselves out of trouble since Domingue took over the starting role, and that still rings true (the goals against is 2.9 through 30 games), but if Tampa Bay can keep this up until Andrei Vasilevskiy returns, then the Lightning should be in fine shape moving forward.
At least until their yearly slump in January...
After 40— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) December 7, 2018
Shots 23-21 #NHLBruins
Score 1-1 #BOSvsTBL
Sloppy. TB was pinned by Boston often. BOS controlled 72% of the shot attempts at 5v5. Scoring chances were 8-3 in BOS favor, but high danger was tied at 1. Domingue has been solid and TB has pushed back.
What a beauty of a hit.