There is no love lost between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you didn’t realize that during the regular season, you’ve certainly caught on during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Amalie Arena, the site for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon, has been friendly to the Lightning during the playoffs. The Bolts entered with a 4-1 record at home and, after another solid performance, Tampa Bay improved their record to 5-1 on home ice — eliminating the Boston Bruins by winning the series 4-1.
A largely defensive and hard-hitting first period, the Bruins took advantage of their power-play chances — something the home team was unable to do. After being whistled for Interference, Dan Girardi was joined by Cedric Paquette in the penalty box. The Lightning were able to fend off the :56 5-on-3 Bruins advantage, however, David Krejci (3rd of the playoffs) put Boston ahead with less than a minute to go in the period.
The importance of Game 5 wasn’t lost on either team. Both squads appeared a bit passive in their offensive approach early but by the end of the second period there was no questioning what was at stake.
The last laugh
No licking. No shenanigans. Just a sprint to the finish, at least for the Lightning.
“We’re worried about one thing and that’s advancing,” Ryan Callahan said after the game. “Let them do all that other stuff that’s away from the game. We get the last laugh in this one.”
Finally showing signs of aggression midway through the second period, Brayden Point corralled a loose puck in front of the Bruins’ goal. After a nifty move to get around Krejci forced him to his backhand, the Lightning forward netted his fourth goal of the playoffs — tying the game at one.
With three goals and four assists in the series against Boston, head coach Jon Cooper spoke very highly of the 22-year-old forward.
“In my opinion he was the best player in the series,” Cooper said after the game.
Given the talent and level of experience in his own locker room it’s understandable for him to deflect such praise.
“I don’t think so,” Point said when suggested as the best player on the team right now. “I think it’s just a good group effort and everyone is buying into their role. Everyone’s doing what they can for the team and I think that’s why we’re having success.”
Heating up on the ice
Throughout the series, and his career, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has found himself in the middle of drama. However, it seems that the more he attempts to get under the skin of the opposition, the more they step up. As was the case in Game 5 on Sunday, the 41-year-old defenseman seemed to provide a spark — for the wrong team. Moments after his post-whistle pushing match with several members of the Lightning, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller connected on a give-and-go, with Miller netting his second goal of the playoffs.
Prior to the series, many looked at this matchup as a battle of No.1 versus No.2. That was not lost on Cooper, or any of the Lightning players.
“Boston set the bar for us,” Cooper said. “We played them three times late in the year. The first two times we played them they literally man-handled us … It was men amongst boys. And we knew that if we were gonna go anywhere when we made the playoffs, or if we made the playoffs, we had to beat Boston.”
As the third period began, Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask stepped up for the Bruins. After receiving a pass from Braydon Coburn, Miller blasted a shot toward the visiting goalie that bounce off his far-side pad. Rask did the same to Point less than two minutes later. Vying for their second goals of the night, both Lightning skaters were turned away. Trailing 2-1 in the third period of an elimination game, those were critical saves at the time. Ultimately, though, it still wasn’t enough.
Physical series comes to an end
The Lightning were the better team over the course of the 82-game regular season — despite losing 3-of-4 head-to-head matchups — and they were the better team throughout the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Much of their success was because they were able to play physical. Boston is viewed as one of the more physical teams in the league, but the Lightning were up to the task.
“[Physicality] was something that was talked about a lot before this playoffs began,” captain Steven Stamkos said after the deciding Game 5. “How we needed to ramp up the physicality. We know we have the players. When you look at Paquette, and Kunitz, and Callahan, they lead the way in that department and that gets us going.”
The Bolts out-hit the Bruins 37-to-29 in Game 5. Over the course of the series they dished out more hits (171-146) than the Bruins.
The power-play goal for Miller was the 10th of the playoffs for Tampa Bay.
Paquette leads all Lightning skaters, by a lot, with 35 penalty minutes. Mikhail Sergachev is second on the team — he has 12 minutes in the box.
Over the course of the final three games in the series, the Lightning did not allow a 5-on-5 goal (4 PP, 1 SH).
Andrei Vasilevskiy was outstanding in the series. After stopping 29-of-32 shots on Friday night, the Russian goalie turned away 27-of-28 shots on net. After allowing five goals in Game 1, Vasilevskiy surrendered seven over the final four games of the series.
Our Three Stars
1st Star: A. Vasilevskiy (27 saves, allowed only one goal)
2nd Star: J. Miller (scored the GW PPG)
3rd Star: B. Point (1 G, 2 SOG)
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals take the ice for Game 6 on Monday night — the Capitals hold a 3-2 series advantage. The Lightning will now play in their third Eastern Conference Finals over the last four years, having lost to Pittsburgh two years ago. It’s been 14 years since the Lightning won their last Stanley Cup.
- With backs against the wall, Islanders win OT battle to force game 7 June 23, 2021
- Captain Stamkos leads Bolts to game 5 onslaught of Islanders June 21, 2021
- Conn Smythe candidate review: Ultimate team glory, but who’s MVP? June 21, 2021
- Fierce rally falls inches short as Pulock blocks game-tying bid June 19, 2021
- Apples, oranges, and hardware: Comparing Vasilevskiy to the best ever June 19, 2021
- Nassau Coliseum quieted as Lightning take 2-1 series lead over Islanders June 17, 2021
- Kucherov plays setup-man, Bolts bump Islanders to even series June 15, 2021
- Islanders able to capitalize on opportunities and win game 1 June 13, 2021
- Lightning-Islanders Stanley Cup Semifinal Preview June 13, 2021
- Goaltending thrives as Bolts knock out Hurricanes in Game 5 June 8, 2021