Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Round 4 went to the Lightning by a 5-3 decision on the scorecard but on the fight card it was a draw as the Lightning and Bruins set the table for what would be one hell of a playoff series. In a fight-filled game that saw three line brawls, it was Lightning (43-20-5, 91 points) that answered the Bruins’ (42-13-12, 96 points) 2-1 win in Tampa Bay Tuesday, climbed back to within seven points of the B’s and took the season series 3-1-0.
The Lightning grabbed an early on two shorthanded goals by forward Anthony Cirelli at 5:08 of the first period and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev at 6:10 and then padded that lead to 3-0 on a goal by Cedric Paquette at 6:50 of the second period. The Bruins responded with two consecutive goals late in the third period as Charlie McAvoy grabbed his fifth of the season at 14:50 and Sean Kuraly lit the lamp for his sixth of the season at 18:37.
Alex Killorn put the Lightning back up by two goals with a powerplay goal 1:08 into the final frame. Just 6:29 later though, David Pastrnak got his 48th of the season with a powerplay tally of his own. Pastrnak had a brilliant chance to get his second of the game and tie at 5:38 but Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (35 saves) stoned him on a breakaway with 5:38 left in regulation. Nikita Kucherov sealed the deal for the Lightning with an empty-netter with 1:02.
Tuukka Rask finished with 20 saves for the Bruins.
Lightning Return To Sender
After the Bruins beat the Lightning 2-1 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay Tuesday, the Bolts answered the bell in a big way going toe-to-toe with a team that prides itself in physicality, was riding a four-game win streak and with a win Saturday night at TD Garden, would’ve gone up by eleven points in the Atlantic Division and all but sealed the division title. The Bruins knew that the Bolts would be amped up to strike back Saturday and exact some revenge on TD Garden ice. The Lighting definitely had more energy off the opening faceoff and that intensity translated into the two shorties that put them up 2-0 early.
However, the Lightning clearly wasn’t just concerned with beating the Bruins on the scoreboard but also at the physical and intimidating game the Bruins pride themselves on. They succeeded in that and went toe-to-toe with the Big, Bad, Bruins in their home barn. This game had three line brawls, 94 minutes in penalties, a game misconduct on Lightning Assistant Coach Todd Richards, four ten-minute misconducts, four fighting majors and six roughing penalties. While the Bruins were claiming a moral victory after the game, they still didn’t get the win. The Lightning could still catch the Bruins for the Atlantic Division title but even if they don’t they won the season series 3-1-0 and sent a message on Saturday.
I don't think the Bruins and Lightning like each other very much pic.twitter.com/VenaHSZbuz
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 8, 2020
“This is our team. When you are in this league and you want to win, things like this are going to happen,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “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.”
Bruins Got Each Other’s Backs
The Bruins can claim all they want that team toughness wasn’t an issue until Rask was elbowed and concussed by Blue Jackets forward Emil Bemstrom on January 14, but since that game if the opponent crosses that fine line between physical and dirty, they’ve had each other’s backs. On Saturday it was forward Chris Wagner who came to the defense of teammate Ondrej Kase after Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow followed through on an elbow to Kase’s head at 5:01 of the first periods. The next time Goodrow and Wagner were on the ice together, Wagner immediately went at Goodrow but before the two pesky forwards could do the tango, they were both sent to sin-bin for unsportsmanlike conduct at 8:39. After yapping at each in the box, Wagner and Goodrow dropped the gloves the second their penalties ended setting the tone for a night of mayhem and once again letting opponents know that if the Bruins believe you were targeting a teammate, be ready to face the music.
“There’s a value in sticking up for one another, there’s a value in responding. Of course, there is,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. Some nights, it’s more important than the outcome. I’m not going to sit here and say one or the other, we’ll look through it, but we wanted to respond. There was a, we thought, a high hit early on Kase. You know, he’s been out. We responded well and it was kind of on from there, the physicality part. So, I think both teams kind of went toe-to-toe in that regard, so yeah, there’s a lot of value in that. We pride ourselves on that. In fact, it was discussed earlier this year that we didn’t have enough of that, and I certainly feel we do. Certainly tried to prove that tonight, and try to win the game at the same time.”
McAvoy Playing Norris Worthy Hockey
With his goal and an assist Saturday, McAvoy now has and five goals and 10 assists since the All-Star Break and the Bruins bye week and five goals and 27 assists in 66 games. After snapping his 55-game goalless streak with the overtime winner in a 2-1 win over the Blackhawks back on February 5, McAvoy’s offensive game has picked up but an already stalwart defensive game has prospered even more. McAvoy Some may consider this bold but right now McAvoy is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and if the Norris Trophy was based on the second half of the season, he would be in the conversation. In fact, he would get a Top 3 vote from this puck scribe. He has become the Bruins No. 1 defenseman and right now his $4.9 million cap hit for this season and the next two is looking like a bargain.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 8, 2020
The two shorthanded goals allowed in a span of 1:02 on the Bruins first powerplay just can’t happen. One shorthanded goal is a buzzkill but two on the same man-advantage is simply a backbreaker. Luckily for the Bruins, they had plenty of time to recover from that ugly sequence but those two goals did ultimately prove to be the difference. The Bruins powerplay did go 1-for-4 and hasn’t been brutal by any means lately but they need to be an advantage and not a disadvantage as they were early on in this game.
“They’re a really good hockey team,” Cassidy said. “You spot them two goals — like, look at what we did, we battled all night to get back into it, we never did. I mean, in terms of — we got back into it, sorry, but 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, a month? So, a bit of a reset for us hopefully and get back to where we typically operate.”
Moore And Lindholm In, Bjork And Carlo Out
Thanks to the elbow to the head he took from Florida Panthers forward Evgeni Dadonov in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the Panthers Thursday in Florida, Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo was held out of the lineup with an upper-body injury (likely a concussion). That meant fellow rearguard John Moore would draw into the lineup for the first time since February 12. Moore was paired with Torey Krug and was a minus-1 in 18:09 TOI and 24 shifts.
Up front, Anders Bjork found himself up in the press box as a healthy scratch again after a so-so performance in Florida Thursday. Bjork was also a healthy scratch in the previous two games Tuesday at Tampa Bay and Saturday at New York (Islanders). With Bjork watching from up top, Par Lindholm was back in and skated between Joakim Nordstrom and Wagner. Here’s what the Bruins lineup looked like when half the team wasn’t sitting in the sin-bin.
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Ritchie – Krejci – Kase
Kuraly – Coyle – DeBrusk
Nordstrom – Lindholm – Wagner
Chara – McAvoy
Krug – Moore
Grzelcyk – Lauzon