Sweet, sweet redemption.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-0 Tuesday night in a game that will likely sway playoff matchups and may even determine the winner of the Atlantic Division. The Bolts, now with 110 points this year, have surpassed the 2014-2015 squad for most points in a season. Both clubs now sit with 110 points on the season, though the Bolts only have two games remaining compared to the Bruins three.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was stellar tonight, stopping all 33 shots on net. He was poised, aware, and confident in goal. He was likely relieved to grab the win as he has lost five of his last seven going into this game, though much of that can be blamed on the Lightning’s play as a team. He now has eight shutouts on the year, a franchise record, and ties Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for wins (42) this year.
The Lightning suffered a close loss to the Bruins last week, and were eager to get another shot at Boston after an unsatisfying 4-2 ending. The Bolts were hungry from the opening faceoff and did not let up for the remainder of the night. This was Tampa Bay’s first win against the Bruins this year, an altogether huge victory under home lights. The Lightning are now 35-6-1 when scoring first this season.
Though the Bolts finished the period 17-8 in shots, and really had a myriad of chances in the first, they struggled to put together sustained, cohesive pressure in the offensive zone. They had a couple of solid chances on fast breaks and even a few looks at an open net, but the Lightning were unable to get a bounce in their favor. Even Nikita Kucherov found himself in prime scoring positions, but again the Bruins defense and Tukka Rask were able to keep it scoreless.
Tampa Bay did a great job of entering the Bruins zone and hustled on the forecheck, but the Bruins routinely limited the Bolts from getting organized once in the zone.
The Bruins went to the man-advantage late in the period. Though they didn’t score on the powerplay, the momentum helped set up some scoring chances later for Boston. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron had a shift late in the period that was likely their closest attempts at getting behind Vasilevskiy. Bergeron had a shot near the crease that went wide and soon after Marchand had a shot that rang of the post
2nd Period, 3-0
It was only a matter of time before the goals started falling.
Bruins forward David Pasternak tripped Ondrej Palat in the closing seconds of the first, allowing the Bolts to begin the second on the powerplay. The Bolts spent an immense amount of time around the crease and screened well, making for numerous rebounds and second chance opportunities. The unit however lulled themselves into attack towards the end of the two minutes and did not account for Pasternak leaving the box. He streamed down the ice for a stretch pass only to be stopped by Mikhail Sergachev.
The Bruins fought back to control the puck for a few moments, only to relinquished the tide back to Tampa Bay. The Lightning later scored the first goal of the night and commanded the rest of the second. Kucherov took the puck up the left side of the ice, sped across the line to find Point on the wing who took it home.
The Lightning would go on to score two more unanswered goals in the period. Brayden Coburn found Hedman at the point who then wristed a shot to the bottom right corner of the net. The score puts Hedman at 16 on the year, tying his career high in a season.
Put shots on net and good things will happen. Ryan Callahan fed the puck far to the right of the net. Pacquette was there to grab the rebound but was unable to get a shot on it. Chris Kunitz did.
There were a few moments on special teams that the Lightning would have liked to go differently. Besides the Pasternak breakaway, Tyler Johnson, in a penalty kill in the first, had a chance to clear, but elected to pass up for a backcheck. Instead, the puck was turned over and remained in the zone. The Bruins found a few more chances than deserved. The Lightning will look to clean up on both sides of the puck, and rid of even the most nominal mistakes in order to execute come playoff time.
3rd Period, 4-0
J.T. Miller scored in the opening minutes of the third to bring the score to four and essentially put the game away.
Consider, for a moment, the Lightning’s loss to the Nashville Predators 4-1 last Sunday. The Predators had played the night before and honestly seemed fatigued and slightly unfocused against the Bolts. And in a game where the Lightning felt they had played well enough to come away with a victory, it was refreshing to see that the Bolts were not deflated or discouraged and came out with a decisive win.
Lightning forward Brayden Point had a great game. He opened the scoring, and was all over the ice throughout the game. He’s a goal scorer, but the way he facilitates play is incredible. He’s like an NBA “point” guard out there: draws in defenders, finds the open man, connects on great passes, and is just an exciting player to watch.