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5 Takeaways: Boston Bruins Completely Fail To Respond In Game 3

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Boston Bruins lose Game 3 Vs. Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning earned a 1-0 lead over the Boston Bruins midway into the first period. Then 15 seconds later, it was 2-0 and the game was effectively over. The Bruins didn’t have a response as Tampa Bay cruised to an easy 7-1 victory in Game 3 on Wednesday night inside the NHL Toronto bubble. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference Semifinal series 2-1.

Game 4 will be on Friday night.

Brad Marchand had the lone Bruins goal, while Jaroslav Halak was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots in 31:18 of action. Dan Vladar made his NHL debut, surrendering three goals on 15 shots in 28:42. Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Killorn (2), Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov lit the lamp for the Lightning.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 23 of 24 shots in his second victory in as many nights.

CASSIDY CHANGES BOSTON BRUINS LINEUP

For maybe the first time since he has taken over as coach, you could accuse Bruce Cassidy of being too cute with his lineup. Cassidy elected to follow Lightning coach Jon Cooper and dress seven defensemen in Game 3. Cooper did that in Game 2 on Tuesday, and did it again on Wednesday night. Of course, Cooper is dealing with the loss of veteran stalwart Ryan McDonagh. Cassidy’s group is healthy.

In addition to adding a seventh defenseman, Cassidy surprised many when he pulled Connor Clifton from the lineup. Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore both dressed in the loss. Both were frequent health scratches to start the playoffs, and neither looked overly comfortable in Game 3.

Up front, Cassidy took out Anders Bjork and Sean Kuraly. Par Lindholm, another common scratch, joined the lineup.

The lineup decisions made no sense on paper. In practice they made even less sense. Up front, Kuraly is a strong player who has been tasked with handling Point’s line on numerous occasions. Bjork hasn’t dominated, but he’s been a fine complementary offensive piece. Certainly, Bjork has been more impactful than Nick Ritchie, who somehow remained in the Bruins lineup.

Cassidy’s decisions Wednesday hindered his team. It isn’t often that you can say that. The Boston Bruins were a slower, less skilled team with this lineup. They paid for it against an elite Tampa Bay club.

HALAK STRUGGLES

Jaroslav Halak has handled a tough situation quite well. The wheels fell off on Wednesday night, however. Halak surrendered four goals on 16 shots in 31:18 of work. It was the first time he was pulled since Tuukka Rask left the NHL’s bubble nearly two weeks ago.

A notable weakness for Halak in Game 3? His glove side. He was beaten by Palat on the first goal glove-side, although the puck appeared to glance off of Zdeno Chara on the way in.

15 seconds later, Gourde simply out-waited Halak. The veteran goaltender bit, and Gourde was able to elevate the puck for a quick 2-0 lead.

Sergachev’s goal was a point shot that Halak just missed glove side, giving the Lightning a 3-0 lead. Yes, there was a little traffic in front, but this is a shot you usually see stopped.

The fourth goal is a total team failure. The Bruins lose a faceoff, allow the Lightning to easily work the perimeter and then collapse on goal. The initial shot hits Chara but is stopped by Halak, who gives up a big rebound that Killorn cashes.

The only goal I’d truly put on Halak is Sergachev’s shot from the point. However, he simply couldn’t give the Bruins that big save on Wednesday night to keep them in the game. Halak has been very good for the team since Rask left, but this was a bad performance for the veteran.

NO RESPONSE

After getting dominated in overtime on Tuesday night, one would think that the Boston Bruins would be chomping at the bit against the Lightning less than 24 hours later. Not the case. The Lightning won the opening faceoff of this game, and pretty much won everything on their way to a 2-1 series lead.

They outshot the Bruins 31-24 on the night, including 18-8 in the second period. They never allowed the Bruins to sustain any real pressure at any point. In fact, this was probably the worst that the Bruins have looked at five-on-five since Cassidy took over in February of 2017.

The Bruins never looked engaged on Wednesday night. It was, in the eye of this observer, the worst part of the 7-1 shelling. Cassidy agreed.

When asked what the most disappointing part of this game was, the Boston Bruins coach had a simple answer. “The response.”

He’s right. It wasn’t good enough.

OFFICIALS STEAL THE SPOTLIGHT

The NHL has a referee problem. It’s not new, and it doesn’t just impact the Bruins. The league has a problem with consistently calling the rule book, and it has for quite some time. It bit the Bruins in Game 3. Of course, when you lose 7-1, you simply cannot blame the officials. You can still point out that they were poor, at best, however.

Cassidy did just that postgame, and for good reason.

“The first period we were fine,” Cassidy said postgame. “Pretty even period. Obviously, a couple of breaks didn’t go our way. A couple of questionable calls, in my estimation, obviously didn’t help. And then you’re chasing the game.

“Not even sure Brandon’s was [a penalty]. I mean the call on Ritchie happens 100 times a game. We happened to get flagged for it, right?” Cassidy said. “So complete disagreement with that particular infraction.”

Cassidy didn’t stop there.

“We’ve got an official injecting himself into the game with two of the best teams in the National Hockey League playing,” he continued. “And I thought that it wasn’t necessary, personally. But that’s his decision. He’s here for a reason.”

If the penalty calls weren’t enough, the officials had a direct impact on the second goal of the game. As Gourde jumped into the offensive zone, Lauzon has the perfect angle to break up the play. Before he knew it, Lauzon was taking a bodycheck and out of the play. The man who hit him? The linesman. It was that kind of night for the stripes.

“Second goal, I mean, come on,” Cassidy bemoaned. “The linesman just runs our D out of room. Like, it’s a free pass to the net. Good for Yanni Gourde for taking advantage of a break given to him, but I mean, when do you see that play happen in the National Hockey League?”

CARLO’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE

Brandon Carlo was a key cog in the Boston Bruins defense last spring in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. He looked like a completely different player on Wednesday night. Carlo took an ill-advised penalty just 37 seconds into Game 3. He also had two giveaways in the loss, and failed to box his man out on the first Lightning goal.

Carlo did still play 17:32 in Game 3, the third most among Bruins defensemen, but he needs to be better. He’s a key player that got caught running around in the first period. It cost his team.

Alex is a 2016 graduate of Springfield College who is currently a writer with Boston Hockey Now and The Oilers Rig. Outside of writing, you can find Alex in rinks around New England as the Play-by-Play voice of the USPHL’s Boston Junior Bruins. In addition, he does broadcasting work for Northeastern University, Holy Cross And UMass-Lowell. Reach him on Twitter: @Alex_Thomas14

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