The Boston Bruins (42-13-12, 96 points) are now nine points clear of the Tampa Bay Lightning (41-20-5, 87 points) in the Atlantic Division after a hard-fought 2-1 win Tuesday night in Tampa.
Brad Marchand gave his team a 1-0 lead with 54 ticks left in the first period and Jake DeBrusk padded the lead to 2-0 at 10:06 of the second period. Mitchell Stephens cut the Bruins’ lead to 2-1 at 17:28 of the middle frame but Tuukka Rask (20 saves) – with the help of two posts – and the Bruins withstood a third period surge to hold on for the win.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves in the loss.
Here’s your BHN Five Takeaways from a statement win by the Bruins:
Bruins Send Message And Finally Beat Lightning
As Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out prior to his team departing for Florida Monday, the Lightning has made a concerted effort to get bigger and play a heavier game like the Bruins and Washington Capitals do. After losing to a heavy team in the Columbus Blue Jackets in a huge first round upset last spring, the Bolts know they can’t just rely on their speed and skill in the playoffs.
With the Bruins and Lightning playing in Tampa Bay Tuesday night and back in Boston on Saturday, these games could either put the Lightning back in the Atlantic Division race or the Bruins could all but seal it. As expected, the first game had a playoff feel to it. Well, the Lightning did out-hit the Bruins 35-22 but when it mattered most the Bruins grit won over and the Bruins showed that at least for this game the Bruins appear to be more playoff ready.
As mentioned above, the win was the first Bruins win against the Lighting this season but it was also their first in five games against the Bolts (0-4-1) dating back to February 28, 2019. The B’s now have a commanding nine-point lead in the division and could extend that to eleven on Saturday. On Tuesday though, they sent a message that should these two teams meet again in the second round of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, they won’t be an easy out like they were when the Lightning ousted them in five games in 2018.
Hard Work Pays Off; DeBrusk Gets Off The Schneid
Jake DeBrusk entered this game mired in a ten-game goalless drought and early in the second period it appeared that slump would be extended. DeBrusk missed a perfect set up from defenseman Charlie McAvoy for a point-blank chance early in the second period and was in clear frustration on the bench. Three shifts later though, the hockey Gods answered. Charlie Coyle sent DeBrusk breaking in with the puck at the offensive blue line. Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian dove and tripped up DeBrusk in an effort to prevent the breakaway, and while DeBrusk did fall to one knee, he was able to get up, coral the puck and deke out Vasilevskiy for a 2-0 Bruins lead 10:06 into the middle frame. The Bruins 23-year-old winger did his usual exuberant celly but that one likely felt better than most.
DeBrusk, along with his new linemates of the last two games, Coyle and Chris Wagner, did a brilliant job early in the game of setting the tempo with a ferocious forecheck and were hustling and hard on the puck throughout the game. They may have even been the Bruins best line and DeBrusk’s goal was a perfect example of hard work paying off. He deserves credit for still doing the little things during his slump and that’s a good sign for a player the Bruins envision as a key part of their younger core.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 4, 2020
Marchand Plays Sick And Still Scores
After missing the Bruins’ morning skate thanks to food poisoning, Marchand was listed as a game-time decision. The Bruins veteran winger took warmups with his teammates and was in the lineup and on the ice for the opening faceoff. Whatever Marchand took to feel better and battle through, it worked as he broke a scoreless deadlock with 54 seconds left in the first period. With his 28th goal of the season, Marchand extended his goal-scoring streak to four games and his point streak to nine games. He has four goals and nine assists during that span.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 4, 2020
Offsides Call Finally Goes Bruins’ Way
After seeing three of four offside challenges go against them when the Bruins appeared to score and going 0-for-2 when Cassidy decided to challenge for offsides, the Bruins finally saw an opponents’ goal get called back on an offsides challenge. Up 1-0 early in the second period, the Bruins suffered a neutral zone breakdown and the Lightning took it back the other way 3-on-2. Yanni Gourde appeared to have tied the game 5:24 into the middle frame but Cassidy challenged immediately. The replay showed Lightning forward Tyler Johnson was – if even by a toe – offsides and the goal was waived off to keep it 1-0 Bruins at the time. Just 4:42 later, DeBrusk scored what eventually be the game-winner.
The Lightning's equalizer was no good! pic.twitter.com/YJJB1eVI7m
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) March 4, 2020
Ritchie Sacrificing For Team
Since being traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Bruins at the NHL Trade Deadline on February 24, Nick Ritchie has a goal and an assist in three games. While the Bruins would definitely like some more offense from their new second line left winger, they have to be happy with his hustle and willingness to sacrifice for his team. Ritchie had five hits Tuesday and now has 18 in four games. Ritchie hasn’t just been throwing menacing hits, he’s been throwing his body in front of shots as well. Nine minutes into the second period Ritchie blocked a Kevin Shattenkirk shot and went to the bench in pain but he was out there for his next shift and blocked another shot. Intangibles like that are almost as valuable as scoring in the playoffs and this acquisition could turn out to be a sneaky-good one by Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney when all is said and done.