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Lightning survive another rally as they defeat Bruins 3-2 on Tyler Johnson’s game winner

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The top seed in the East is in Tampa Bay’s hands.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins Photo by Andre/Ringuette/Getty Images

Another round robin game, another blown two goal lead, and another win for the Tampa Bay Lightning. It wasn’t the prettiest victory, but you take what you can get. The Lightning managed to survive a rally for a second consecutive game to defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2 and put themselves in a great position to lock in the top seed in the conference.

1st Period

Overall, this was a period the Lightning controlled and with two goals to show for it, there was little about their game to critique. Metrically, the period looked a lot closer with both teams even in shot attempts and Boston holding a very slight edge in quality at 50.76%, but if we take a gander at gameflow, it’s clear who controlled play for long stretches of time.

TB vs BOS, 5v5 Gameflow, Corsi
Natural Stat Trick, www.naturalstattrick.com

A strong opening shift by the Coleman-Goodrow-Gourde line set the pace and tone for how Tampa Bay wanted to attack Boston and it did not take long for the other Lightning lines to get going. Eventually it paid off with the top line notching another goal.

Another bright spot for the Lightning was the chance to work their power-play for the first time during the round robin format. Their first opportunity did not inspire confidence, but their second one managed to receive a blessing from the hockey gods with a double redirection.

Outside of the goals, Tampa Bay did a good job neutralizing Boston’s transition game through the neutral zone and forced Boston to the perimeter for much of the period. However, once Boston got their footing at the tail end of the period they did manage to penetrate the slot and cause some issues for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy held the fort down for Tampa Bay, but the team has to force Boston’s shots from further out if they want to keep the Bruins off the board.

Unfortunately, like in the Capitals game, Boston resorted to less than honorable play to get under Tampa Bay’s skin after falling down 2-0. Beginning with this fight between Blake Coleman and Torey Krug.

Coleman won this fight rather decisively, but the entire point behind it is ridiculous. Coleman laid a clean shoulder to shoulder hit on Brando Carlo and Krug took exception. Why does Coleman have to “answer the bell” because he laid a clean hit? Because Boston can’t handle playing physically but likes to do it themselves? Following this was an after the whistle cross check to Anthony Cirelli by Nick Ritchie. Mind you, Cirelli literally did nothing to provoke it. Ritchie just needed to randomly cross check him because he’s frustrated that the Lightning are outplaying him and his teammates.

2nd Period

The second frame saw a slower pace compared to the first, but overall Tampa Bay did a solid job limiting Boston’s offensive opportunities. Boston continued to rely on cheap hits to appear tough, but honestly, for a team that is supposed to be the best in the league it was pretty embarrassing.

Nonetheless, this period was a bit more seesaw control wise. Tampa Bay did edge the possession game at 52%, but they did a better job in the quality battle at 56%. Boston did manage to slow the Lightning down in the neutral zone and forced a few counter attacks, but was largely ineffective in the offensive zone. That said, Tampa Bay did not do much with their offensive opportunities. They did penetrate the slot more effectively, but the Bruins defense, and Tuukka Rask, stood tall.

Unfortunately, Boston managed to half Tampa’s lead at 16:43 of the period.

Plainly put, this is a great shot from Charlie McAvoy and a poor job by Vasilevskiy tracking the shot. On replay, you can see the puck hit the top of Vasilevskiy’s glove, so I’m unsure if he just misread the shot or the waving sticks confused him. Regardless, Boston found some life with some time left in the period.

Luckily for Tampa Bay, they pushed back after the Boston goal and did not allow any momentum to grow from McAvoy’s goal. But, apparently Boston was not done throwing gratuitous shots as Anders Bjork and Nick Ritchie sandwiched Ryan McDonagh into the boards as time expired.

The hit is needless, especially with time expiring in the period, but that rarely matters to a team like Boston. Additionally, there was no penalty on this play. Surprise, surprise.

3rd Period

Tampa Bay started the third period horrifically. Boston dictated everything in all three zones and forced the Lightning into quick decisions. One of which led to the game tying goal.

Kevin Shattenkirk deserves the blame for the situation occurring with his poor decision with the puck, but Vasilevskiy has had a terrible time with point shots in this round robin. He struggled to contain a point shot earlier in the game, but was bailed out by his defense, but this one marks the fourth time in two games this situation has occurred. Goals have been scored on three of the four opportunities when this has occurred. Whether it is a timing issue or not is unclear, but Frantz Jean and Vasilevskiy need to figure it out because it’s been the single worst area of his game so far.

After this goal, it was Boston dictating everything for a good portion of the period. It wasn’t until a critical penalty kill that Tampa Bay managed to tilt the ice in their favor.

Speaking of that penalty.

If I’m going to call out Boston for their dishonorable play, then I have to do the same for our guys as well. This hit by Barclay Goodrow has no reason to even occur. Bjork is defenseless given that he is rising from a shooting position and Goodrow has time to hold up on his hit. The fact he only got two minutes is lucky to begin with.

Regardless, Boston got a chance to capitalize, but failed to do so as Jan Rutta put in a spectacular performance on the penalty kill.

From then on it appeared as though Tampa Bay got back to their game and forced the Bruins back. They shelled Rask with shots and pressure, but the Bruins netminder stood tall. He made a fantastic save in close on Ondrej Palat and had another great sequence a few minutes later when Tampa Bay crashed the net.

However, eventually Tampa Bay’s speed caught Boston in an awkward spot and they made them pay.

Great pass by McDonagh and an even greater tip by Alex Killorn to get the puck to Yanni Gourde. Add in Gourde purposefully aiming toward Rask’s far pad to create a rebound for Tyler Johnson and the entire sequence could not have been drawn up better.

Conclusion

It is great that the Lightning have gone 2-0-0 in the round robin, but there are issues to talk about. First and foremost blowing two consecutive two goal leads is worrisome regardless of the outcome. Second, Vasilevskiy’s struggles with point shots and controlling the rebounds needs to be sorted out quickly. Everywhere else he’s been very good at, but teams have exploited this weakness since last post season.

Good news is that Boston has completely blown their chance at the top seed in the Eastern Conference and will likely be one of the two lower seeds unless they win their next round robin game. For Tampa, it puts them in the driver seat going into Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. Win and you’re the top seed, lose and it depends.

I guess we will see what happens.