Boston, MA – The second meeting in five days between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, number two and one respectively in the Atlantic Division, was more than just a regular season affair. Tampa outlasted Boston 5-3 in front of 17,850 at TD Garden in a playoff-intensity atmosphere that had 94 minutes in penalties, two short-handed goals (on the same shift), two power play goals, a fight, and numerous line scuffles. The Lightning finished the regular season series 2-1-1-1 against the Bruins. Tampa snapped Boston’s for game winning streak in the process.
The Bruins had the game’s first power play when Barclay Goodrow was sent off for Elbowing at 5:01. However it would be the shorthanded Lightning that would strike first as Anthony Cirelli jumped on a loose puck just outside the left face-off circle and raced in on Tuukka Rask (20 saves). Cirelli beat the Bruins goalie blocker side for his 16th goal of the season.
Just over a minute later the Lightning struck again as Mikhail Sergachev beat Rask with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle. A Bruins turnover in the neutral zone led to Yanni Gourde finding Sergachev streaking into the offensive zone. The goal was Sergachev’s 10th of the year. Two shots, two goals for Tampa on the penalty kill. Who says Lightning doesn’t strike twice? The double short-handed strike was the first that the Bruins allowed on the same power play since December 4, 1966, the beginning of the Bobby Orr era.
Goodrow was looking to throw down with Boston forward Chris Wagner at 8:39 but the officials stepped in before the two could square up. Each was assessed an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty resulting in four on four play.As soon as the duo stepped out of the penalty box they renewed their beef. This time the referees were unable to save Goodrow from Wagner as the Bruins forward landed three solid rights to Goodrow’s head.
A Hooking call on Tampa Bay’s Braydon Coburn gave the Bruins another power play at 12:20. Despite solid pressure in the Lightning zone the Bruins were unable to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy (35 saves).
Jeremy Lauzon was whistled for Interference at 19:14 giving the Lightning their first man advantage as the first period was winding down.
If it was lightning that struck in the first period then fireworks were what went off in the second period.
Cedric Paquette made it 3-0 Tampa when he buried a Zach Bogosian pass past Rask. Paquette was all alone in front of Rask to wrist his seventh goal of the year top shelf, blocker side at 6:50.
At 14:13 Brad Marchand and Cirelli were assessed matching Roughing penalties. With four on four action opening up the ice a lifeless Bruins attack suddenly sprung to life asMatt Grzelcyk hit a streaking Charlie Coyle along the boards in the Bruins zone. Coyle carried into the Lightning zone and dished a pass to a trailing Charlie McAvoy who rifled a wrist shot past Vasilevskiy to get Boston on the board at 14:50. The goal was McAvoy’s fifth of the year, with all five coming in the last month.
Boston started to pressure the Lightning as the play stayed in the Tampa zone. Sean Kuraly appeared to score on a rebound attempt but the official waved it off. Play continued as the Bruins were threatening. Then things got heated as all hell broke loose on the Garden ice. Zdeno Chara was jawing with Pat Maroon at center ice when he was hit from behind by Cirelli. Then all 10 players on the ice were tussling.
After all the penalties were sorted out the officials reviewed the Kuraly play and overturned the call on the ice making it 3-2 Tampa. The Lightning were hit with a bench minor on an assistant coach, Fighting Major to Maroon, 10 minute Misconduct to Erik Cernak, and a Delay of Game penalty. The Bruins meanwhile had Kuraly get hit with a 10 minute Misconduct and Chara had a five minute major for Fighting. The goal for Kuraly was his sixth of the year and was assisted by McAvoy and Ondrej Kase.
As time expired on the second period tempers flared again, this time Boston’s Nick Ritchie and Tampa’s Blake Coleman were hit with matching 10 minute Misconducts while Marchand was assessed a two minute minor for Slashing.
The Marchand penalty came back to haunt the Bruins in the third after the four on four expired. The Tampa power play went to work and quickly re-upped their lead to two goals at 1:08 when Alex Killorn tipped a Sergachev slapshot past Rask. Killoran’s 26th of the year made it 4-2 Lightning.
Nikita Kucherov was called for Cross-Checking at 5:48. It took the Bruins and David Pastrnak just under a minute to capitalize on the man advantage. Pastrnak ripped a slapshot from the blue line that beat Vasilevskiy through the legs making it a one-goal game again, 4-3. The goal was Pastrnak’s NHL best 48th, while the assists went to Krug and Marchand.
Tempers flared up again at 8:43 as Patrice Bergeron and Goodrow got physical, as did Torey Krug and Mitchell Stephens. All four were assessed two minute minors for Roughing. Bergeron was also hit with a Delay of Game penalty for picking the puck out of play.
With roughly five minutes remaining Pastrnak had a game-tying breakaway bid turned aside by Vasilevskiy on a leg save.
The Bruins pulled Rask for the extra attacker with 1:45 remaining. As Boston started to press their attack up ice Kucherov picked David Krejci‘s pocket at the Bruins blue line and fired home the empty net goal making it 5-3 Tampa Bay with 1:02 remaining. The unassisted goal was Kucherov’s 33rd of the year, which leads the Lightning.
“I think it was more of a response, they wanted to be better,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I thought we were the better team there — listen, I think both of us feel we’re the best team in the Atlantic. We went there, got the two points in their building, they wanted to respond. And for the simple reason as that, that the rivalry has developed now between the two of us and you’re going to get some intense matchups. And that’s what you got tonight. And they were more ready to go off the puck drop than we were, and it ended up being the difference in the game.”
“They’re a really good hockey team,” added Cassidy of Tampa Bay. “You spot them two goals, we battled all night to get back into it. We never got the equalizer. It’s just, it’s a big hill to climb. Lack of urgency on our top group. A little bit uncharacteristic, but it’s crept into our game. So, this will be good for us, for our power play, to get their attention a little bit. It’s crept into practice, it’s crept into our execution and urgency over the past, probably, month? So, a bit of a reset for us hopefully and get back to where we typically operate.”
“I can’t sit here and say we learned anything. This is our team,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. “When you are in this league and you want to win, things like this are going to happen. It was two very good hockey teams that wanted to win a game, and guys are sticking up for each other. Everyone gets a little bit taller on the bench. It’s one of those games that you don’t see it as much anymore, but intimidation still is a factor. When you look a tiger in the eye, don’t back down. Like I said, everybody goes on the bench. So, we know we have that in us, and not too many situations it’s pulled out, but in this one it was. I think a big reason why we won.”
“It’s a close game going into the third, there’s a maylay in the second. So, how are you going to respond? Bottom line is you gotta go out and win the hockey game,” said Cooper. “I thought we played, aside from the Pastrnak breakaway, I thought we controlled that third period. We didn’t give them too much. Our power play came out big for us, but it’s not always how you respond physically. We did that part, but now go win the game. And that’s what they went and did, and so pretty proud of the guys for that. It’s an 82 game schedule. Most games aren’t like that, but some are. You’ve got a couple teams that have a little bit of history with each other, and it was entertaining. It was an entertaining, gusty game by both teams. We came out on top.”
With roughly a month remaining on the regular season Tampa Bay is seven points behind Boston in the Atlantic Division and in the Eastern Conference overall. The Lighting continue their road trip with a 5:00 pm EST puck drop in Detroit on Sunday, followed by a Tuesday night game in Toronto. The Bruins kick off a brief road trip in Philadelphia on Tuesday night before heading to Buffalo on Friday. Both games are at 7:00 pm EST.