The Tampa Bay Lightning hosted the Boston Bruins for an entertaining Tuesday night match-up in Amalie Arena. The two best teams in the Atlantic Divsion met for the first time since mid-December and the action didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately it was the Bruins who emerged with a 2-1 victory behind goals from Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk (son of former Bolt Louis DeBrusk).
Mitchell Stephens had the lone goal for the Lightning while Andrei Vasilevskiy kept the team in the game by making 33 saves on 35 shots. The loss gives the Bruins a little bit of breathing room as their recent hot streak, coupled with Tampa Bay stalling a bit, has pushed the margin to nine points.
The crowd was into it, the Bruins were into it, but the Lightning were just kind of there for the first few minutes of the game. Aided by an early power pay Boston kept attacking in waves and piled up the shots early. Andrei Vasilevskiy was steady and didn’t seem troubled by the early action.
The Bolts were able to stem the tide a bit when Patrick Maroon drew a penalty in the Boston zone. The Lightning’s reconstituted power play had some good looks but wasn’t able to find the back of the net. Tyler Johnson came the closest on a rebound chance, but he wasn’t able to make clean contact with the puck.
Things settled down a bit for the remainder of the period, but Boston was still dictating much of the play. The team defense of the Lightning was solid, but as a whole they were definitely more reactive than proactive.
An icing late in the first period finally allowed Boston to put the Brad Marchand line out without seeing Anthony Cirelli and his mates staring at them. Boston was able to win the face-off and they caught a bit of a break as Marchand’s shot hit Patrick Maroon and caromed over to the far boards where Torey Krug fired it at the net. Marchand read the play perfectly and was crashing the net when the puck hit him in the leg and bounced past Vasilevskiy for the opening goal.
Boston controlled much of the even strength play with the Lightning only spending a sustained amount of time in the Boston zone during their unsuccessful power play.
The second period followed much of the same script as the first. The Lightning spent way too much time chasing the puck around, but despite that they still almost managed to tie it up.
Zach Bogosian set up Yanni Gourde for a one-timer, Tyler Johnson skated in front of him screened Tuukka Rask a bit as the puck went into the back of the net. Unfortunately Johnson was a cat’s whisker over the blueline before the puck and a Boston challenge was upheld to the dismay of the crowd.
Boston would double their lead a short while later. Jake DeBrusk won a foot race to a loose puck in the neutral zone. Bogosian tried the Superman defense as he dove to try and deflect the puck away. He failed. He also took a penalty that didn’t matter as DeBrusk filthy-mitted a forehand shot past Vasilevskiy for his first goal in a month of Sundays.
The goal sucked the energy out of the Lightning and they were on the ropes for the next stretch of play which included a penalty to Mikhail Sergachev. Vasilevskiy came up big with a couple of key stops to keep the Lightning within striking distance.
Or perhaps the Lightning were playing a bit of rope-a-dope and tiring the Bruins out by letting them take as many shots as they liked. The next couple of shifts were solid for the Bolts and they capped it off with a goal that actually counted. Tyler Johnson drove the net and his stuff attempt was knocked up in the air. Mitchell Stephens got his stick on it and pirouetted a shot past the Bruins goaltender. The Lightning have life!
And a little bit of fight in them. Yanni Gourde took an extra swipe as Rask covered up the puck at the end of the period. Boston, as you can imagine, cared not for that. Gourde and Joakim Nordstrom decide to use their fists instead of their words to solve their disagreement.
The third period started with some disjointed play as a cavalcade of whistles ground the flow of the game to a halt. That seemed to benefit the Lightning, or at least stall the Boston attack. Perhaps it finally kicked in for the Lightning that a loss would mean a nine-point deficit in the standings because they controlled most of the action for the next ten minutes.
Anthony Cirelli was set up by a brilliant long distance pass from Nikita Kucherov. Cirelli had a breakaway and tried to slide it through Rask, but the veteran netminder got his paddle on it and kept it out of the zone.
The Lightning followed with prime chances from Erik Cernak (wrap around off the side of the net) and Cedric Paquette (feed out front from Gourde fired over the net). A few minutes later Cernak unleashed a slapshot from the blueline that dented the crossbar behind Rask. The Bolts were getting their looks, but couldn’t get their shots on net.
Unfortunately time ran out on the home team. Boston weathered the storm and then managed to chip the puck deep into the Tampa Bay zone frequently over the final few minutes of the game, blunting the Lightning attack. Even with Vasilevskiy pulled for the final minute of play they couldn’t get a good look at the Boston net and the clock ran out on them.
The loss dropped the Lightning nine points behind the Bruins for the lead in the Atlantic (although they retain a firm lead over third place Toronto). The two teams will finish up their regular season series in Boston on Saturday night.
Brad Marchand (Torey Krug, David Pasternak): 1-0 Boston
Jake DeBrusk (Charlie Croyle) : 2-0 Boston
Mitchell Stephens (Tyler Johnson, Barclay Goodrow) 2-1 Boston