Throughout game one the Tampa Bay Lightning felt as though they were the better team and let that one get away from them during the third period. As a result, Jon Cooper decided to make no lineup changes heading into game two against the Boston Bruins. It paid off as Brayden Point (who was criticized for being -5 in game one) had a four-point night to help the Lightning defeat the Bruins 4-2 in a tight-checking and chippy affair.
The Point line started the game, yet again, against the Bergeron line, and they set the tone early. Tampa Bay came at Boston the same way they did at the start of game one — fast, aggressive, and determined. Their forecheck forced the Bruins defense to break down numerous times, which generated some dangerous chances for the Lightning. The first real chance was an in-close chance by Anthony Cirelli that Tuukka Rask managed to glove down as he stretched towards his left.
Another aspect that was noticeable was how physical Tampa Bay was. Ryan Callahan set the tone early with a massive check on Adam McQuaid in the offensive zone. The hit set the crowd into a frenzy of cheers and screams as the Lightning’s early pressure made the normally stout Bruins look discombobulated.
At the midway point of the period, Tory Krug was called for slashing and the Lightning power-play was sent out to try and strike first for the first time in this series. The first power-play unit struggled to generate any dangerous shots outside of Steven Stamkos’ one-timer, but the puck was largely on the perimeter of the offensive zone. The second power-play unit came through, however, as Yanni Gourde shot it past Rask to give Tampa Bay the lead.
The play started on the right-wing boards with Brayden Point controlling the puck and assessing his options. Point glided into the right faceoff circle before passing it back to Mikhail Sergachev at the point. Sergachev controlled the puck while motioning towards his left to pull a Bruins defender with him. Once the defender was moved enough, Sergachev passed it back to Point.
Point then turned his body and made himself look like he was going to shoot. At the same time, Gourde began starting towards the net from the high-side of the left-wing boards. Point faked his shot and made a cross zone pass to Gourde. Gourde received the pass in the left faceoff circle, settled it down for a moment, and then fired it on net where it bounced off Rask’s skate and in. 1-0 Lightning.
Tampa Bay wouldn’t relent after Gourde’s goal, however, and their aggression in all three zones continued. They forced turnovers at both bluelines to create scoring chances, but were unable to get past Rask a second time during these flurries. Boston finally registered their first shot of the game 14:02 into the period and at the same time Tyler Johnson was called for a hooking penalty—this is where the period flipped.
Shortly after the penalty kill began, Ryan McDonagh boarded Brad Marchand and was sent to the box, thus giving the Bruins a 5-on-3 for nearly two full minutes. Given the Lightning’s history on the penalty kill this season, worry blanketed the Lightning fanbase. Boston had their chances, and they were some wonderful chances at that. However, with Ryan Callahan sprawling on the ice like he was Dominik Hasek, Victor Hedman being Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman forcing play toward the perimeter, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stonewalling the Bruins, the penalty kill came through big time.
Unfortunately, the momentum Tampa Bay hoped to have generated after killing those penalties did not come to fruition. Boston asserted control for the remaining 4 ½ minutes of the period and finally broke through when Charlie McAvoy scored his first career playoff goal.
Brad Marchand carried the puck into the Lightning zone and pushed the defense back before passing it to Patrice Bergeron in the right faceoff circle. Bergeron then fed a pass to McAvoy, who was the trailing player in this play. McAvoy held onto it for a moment before wristing it past Vasilevskiy to tie the game with 1:30 left in the opening period.
Honestly, the fact that Girardi and Hedman both conceded so much ice to Marchand as he skated into the offensive zone was the crux of the problem here. Girardi went with Marchand once he passed it Bergeron, which is fine, however, Hedman just continued to glide backwards and didn’t look to see who the trailing player was. Hedman was visibly upset after the goal, so I’m assuming he understood what happened. Nonetheless, the tired trope of “the Lightning dictate the game, but lighten up for a small sect of time and it’s in their net suddenly” reared its ugly head again.
If Tampa Bay were expecting to dominate the second like they had for the majority of the first, they were sadly mistaken. Both teams closed off the slot and limited each other’s scoring chances. With the game becoming a more evenly paced affair, the game began to resemble how Boston prefers to play. The tight checking and chippiness that was seen is parts became more apparent as the period progressed. The Lightning continued to finish their checks and put big hits on the Bruins while Boston seemed more content on just getting shots towards Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay finally broke the gridlock after a Boston turnover in the Lightning zone. Ondrej Palat bounced the puck off the boards and down the ice where Brayden Point chased it down. Point outraced McAvoy for the puck in the offensive zone and pumped his brakes in the left faceoff circle to see if he had anyone trailing; he did, in Tyler Johnson. Point fed a pass to Johnson, and Johnsons wasted little time before firing it past Rask to make it 2-1 at 10:14. Rask looked to have anticipated Johnson’s shot incorrectly as the shot went towards his left and Rask slide to his right. The puck was rolling when Johnson shot it, but I couldn’t see if McAvoy’s stick had deflected the shot a little. Regardless, the Lightning had the lead once again.
Hedman then took a penalty 20 seconds after Johnson’s go-ahead goal and the pressure was back on the Lightning penalty kill once again. This time, however, the penalty kill was outstanding with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli forcing turnovers in the all three zones.
Killorn managed to kill about 20 seconds by pinning the puck deep in the Boston zone while three Bruins were trying to steal the puck from him. Once the penalty was killed, the game reverted to the tight checking affair that dictated this period. Boston would gain the offensive zone, turn it over, then the Lightning would gain the offensive zone and turn it over. The second would end with Boston generating five shots to Tampa Bay’s eight. Additionally, Tampa Bay’s physicality was clearly being shown as they led in hits 35-18 after 40 minutes.
The second period started to show some nastiness, but it wasn’t everywhere. The third period, there was nastiness everywhere. 3:18 into the period, Kevan Miller boarded Point which provoked Stralman to then crosscheck him down onto the ice. This created an entire scrum where Yanni Gourde lost his helmet and a group of penalties being awarded; Stralman for crosschecking, Gourde for roughing, Krug for roughing, and Miller for boarding—all matching, so play still remained at 5-on-5.
These penalties did little to dissuade the Lightning from hitting as they continued to lay the body on Boston. As for the actual pace of the game, it was even throughout. Tampa Bay had an edge, but their inability to generate quality shots from the slot continued to plague them. The shots they did managed were mostly on the perimeter, and they would try to bat in rebounds. Rask wasn’t having it though and he continued to thwart Tampa Bay’s chances.
On the other side, Boston also struggled to get shots from the slot. Boston adjusted to this by shooting in-close from the sides of the net to either squeak one by Vasilevskiy or force a rebound into an empty spot of the ice. After forcing a faceoff to Vasilevskiy’s left, Boston won a faceoff and tried to establish their cycle game.
Their chance was thwarted as David Pastrnak was called for high-sticking (which ended up being a double-minor). On replay, the stick that hit Hedman was his own, however, Pastrnak clearly causes the incident to occur. I’m not sure if that is a penalty, regardless, the officiating crew called it (I’ll get to them later) and Tampa Bay had four minutes of power-play time to work with.
How did Tampa Bay do on that four-minute power-play? Poor. They struggled to enter the zone for the first two minutes of the man advantage and once they did establish themselves in the offensive zone they were unable to generate much pressure on Rask. They made poor passes, poor decisions, and even worse shots as Boston didn’t have to try hard to shut down this power-play.
Boston gained some momentum from this kill and pushed play back into the Lightning zone, but Vasilevskiy was there to shut the door. Tampa Bay weathered this surge before dumping the puck into the Boston zone. It was here where the Lightning struck once again. Point checked Krug into the boards below the Boston goal line before Krug pushed the puck up the right-wing boards (this is also where Krug clearly slashes Point in the back, but you know how that goes). Boston manages to clear the zone, but they turn it over in the neutral zone thanks to Brad Marchand making an odd backhand pass. Point recovered the puck at the offensive blueline and shielded it from Patrice Bergeron’s backcheck before making a backhand pass to a streaking Palat. Palat skated into the right faceoff circle before sniping one over Rasks’ shoulder and into the net to give the Lightning an insurance goal. 3-1 Tampa Bay.
Just 1:50 later, Boston answered back. Torey Krug scored from the right-wing boards to make it a one goal game with 4:04 left in regulation. Not much to decipher here, Boston won the faceoff, Krug recovered the puck and fired it on net. Vasilevskiy saw the whole thing, this was a bad goal by the Russian netminder. He’s got to have those shots. Boston is a team that cannot be gifted goals (they’re dangerous enough as it is).
The following four minutes of regulation saw J.T. Miller miss a wide open net, Bergeron miss an in-close chance, and a flurry of action as Boston continued to push the Lightning back. The Bruins pulled Rask with a little over 1:30 left in regulation, and this is where Boston started to run their cycle game with the 6-on-5 advantage. Vasilevskiy made two big saves to keep it a one goal game, and after clearing the zone a few times Boston was beginning to run out of time.
To put a bigger “point” on this game, our favorite pun scored an empty net goal to secure his fourth point of the game after skating through three Bruins (including a Bergeron stick check that was by no means shoft). Game. Lightning 4 Boston 2.
A Full 60
You’d be hard pressed to argue that the Lightning didn’t put forth a full 60 minutes this evening. They dominated the first period, and didn’t allow Boston to overrun them in the second or third periods. Tampa Bay out shot Boston by 11 (31-20), out-chanced them by 6 (20-14), out hit them by 18 (42-24), out possessed them (60% CF), and didn’t allow their top line to dictate the game.
If some of you are expecting the Lightning to completely dominate from start to finish, then you’re dreaming—especially against a team like Boston. Boston is going to have their surges, and eventually it’s going to be Boston who will be controlling play for long stretches of time in this series. It’s going to be a battle until either one of these teams is eliminated.
I’m beginning to think that Tampa Bay needs to alter their strategy on the man advantage; or at least mix up the units. The first unit has struggled these first two games with zone entries, passes, and generating dangerous shots. The second unit has fared a little better on the production side, but they are not immune to the same criticism as the first unit (they’ve had trouble as well).
Regardless, this was a top five unit during the regular season and through one round of the playoffs they maintained that status. So far, against the Bruins, it feels like they’ve been a bit lucky to garner goals on the man advantage (Rask skate issue in game one and Gourde getting lost in coverage tonight). Both goals have come from the second unit whereas the first unit has only had two real dangerous chances—Stamkos one-timer in game one and a point blank Kucherov shot from the slot.
I have faith moving forward that the coaching staff will adjust what their strategy is, but through two home games the power-play has not been a momentum shifting unit for the Lightning. That needs to change (I’ll keep taking this penalty kill that isn’t allow a lot of goals, though).
The officials were bad this evening. No calls, soft calls, questionable calls. You name it. Both teams were victimized by the referee’s inability to have any form of consistency. Multiple slashes were allowed to occur, none more blatant than the two Torey Krug did in this game. One to Brayden Point’s back, and another to Yanni Gourde’s shin—which was in the middle of the ice where everyone was looking!
Tampa Bay weren’t angles either. Holdings, some subtle hooks, and their own slashes were uncalled which only fed to the nastiness to fester even more between these two teams. NHL, let’s have some consistency with the officiating. They shouldn’t even be a topic, they should be invisible. This circus with the officials takes our attention off the game and onto people who should not be the center of attention.
Let’s hear what you have to say!