What a difference a couple of days can make. Following their 6-2 loss in Game 1 of their second round series against the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning knew they had more to give. They knew what was at stake in Game 2. The line of Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat, tasked with shutting down Boston’s top line, had a dreadful opening game of the series. The Bolts’ top shutdown trio finished Game 1 with a combined plus-minus of minus-12 in the loss. They knew they had to be better.
With Game 2 in the books, one could say that Point and his linemates emphatically made their point. As a result, the Lightning got right back into the series.
Point, Palat, and Johnson combined to go plus-6, along with seven total points, as Tampa Bay knotted up their best-of-seven series with a 4-2 win in Game 2 at Amalie Arena. Point tallied a goal and three assists, while Johnson scored a crucial second period goal and Palat notched the eventual game-winner to go along with an assist. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Lightning did a great job of bottling up Boston’s attack, limiting Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand to four assists. That line had combined for 11 total points in the first game of the series.
Tampa Bay’s penalty killing unit also came up large, killing off all four power plays they saw, including a 1:45 5-on-3 that could have shifted the momentum back in Boston’s favor.
The Lightning couldn’t have scripted a better opening 18 minutes of the opening period.
Tampa Bay came out like a team possessed during the first period, recording the first 10 shots on goal of the game. All four lines, particularly the second and third lines, held a massive puck possession edge. The Bruins were under siege. It all paid off in the form of a power play goal for the Lightning at the 11:47 mark, when Yanni Gourde collected a beautiful pass from Point and wristed a shot that hit Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and rolled into the net, giving Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins didn’t record their first shot on goal until 5:58 remained on the clock, which was followed by a Johnson roughing penalty. Only 15 seconds later, Ryan McDonagh took a boarding penalty when he hit Brad Marchand from behind. As a result, Boston had the aforementioned 5-on-3 for for nearly two minutes. They threw everything they had at Vasilevskiy, but he came up with multiple timely saves. In addition, he received some help from the post as a David Pastrnak shot struck iron. Ryan Callahan also chipped in with a huge shot block while Steven Stamkos won a key faceoff that allowed the Bolts to clear the zone. Callahan played like his hair was on fire throughout the evening.
However, the Lightning failed to build off that positive momentum. Following what some might consider a questionable icing call, the Bolts’ top line was stuck out on the ice against Boston’s top trio. With 1:30 left, some beautiful puck movement by Bergeron and Marchand led to Charlie McAvoy taking a pass from Marchand in the slot and sniping one past Vasilevskiy, tying the game 1-1.
Over the course of the second period, the Lightning engaged in a physical brand of hockey as the game got more chippy.
A few scrums broke out, as both teams made it readily apparent that they weren’t going to be exchanging Christmas cards or any sort of well-wishes any time soon. The officials also let a lot of things go both ways for the most part, as playoff officiating began to take hold. With 9:46 left in the middle period, Johnson broke the tie with his third goal of the playoffs. Palat sprung Point down the left wing with a great pass to start off a rush. Point pulled up, surveyed the scene, and sent a beautiful pass to Johnson. Johnson skated into the slot, cut to his right, and roofed a shot Rask, putting Tampa Bay up 2-1.
The Lightning’s penalty killing unit, which had an outstanding first period, killed off another Boston power play late in the period, not allowing the Bruins to get many chances with the man-advantage. Through two periods, the Lightning held a 18-13 edge in shots, but also out-hit the Bruins by a 35-17 margin. Vasilevskiy didn’t have to make many saves, but the ones he came up with in the second period were timely, including one on a one-timer by David Backes.
Early in the third, Lightning shooters tested Rask multiple times, only to see the Bruins’ goaltender come up big. Vasilevskiy also came up with a big stop on Jake DeBrusk, who split the Lightning defense and cut to the net, only to see his shot turned aside.
With 12:29 left in the third period, the Lightning gained a tremendous chance to add to their lead. Pastrnak clipped Victor Hedman with a high stick, drawing blood and giving the Bolts a four-minute power play. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the double minor turned out to be a wasted opportunity, as they only generated one great chance. Some great forechecking by the Bolts forced a Bruins turnover, leading to J.T. Miller collecting the puck. He fed it to a wide-open Nikita Kucherov in the slot. However, his shot hit Rask in the chest and the Bruins killed off the penalty.
Vasilevskiy came up with a couple of big saves soon after, including a top-notch stop on Bergeron in front. That would set the stage for the eventual game-winner.
A Marchand turnover just outside of his own blue line led to Point grabbing the puck and feeding a streaking Palat. Palat carried the puck down the wing and zipped a high shot over Rask’s left shoulder. His second goal of the playoffs gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead with 5:52 left on the clock.
Boston wasn’t done, though, as Torey Krug beat Vasilevskiy after a faceoff win with an incredibly soft goal. Krug’s simple shot from the boards from a sharp angle bounced off Vasilevskiy and in. All of a sudden, the Lightning’s lead shrunk to 3-2 with 4:02 remaining.
With Rask pulled with under two minutes left, Point put the exclamation point on this night when he collected a loose puck in the Bruins’ zone. Motoring down the ice, he crossed the red line to avoid an icing call, then fired a shot into an empty net with 26 seconds remaining to make it a 4-2 final.
These two teams will resume their series on Wednesday night for Game 3 at the TD Garden in Boston. Puck drops at 7 pm.
-The Lightning have won eight of their last nine Game 2’s dating back to the start of the 2015 postseason. They are 10-3 all-time in Game 2’s after losing Game 1 of a series.
-Tampa Bay’s all-time record in Game 2’s now sits at 16-6, including an 8-4 mark at Amalie Arena.
-This was the second straight game that both Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were held without a point. They had registered at least a point each in each of the first five games of the playoffs.
-Johnson’s goal gives him 24 career playoff goals. That ties Vincent Lecavalier for third-most playoff goals in Lightning history.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Brayden Point – One goal and three assists, plus-2
2nd Star: Ondrej Palat – The GWG and one assist, plus-2
3rd Star: Tyler Johnson – One goal, plus-2, team-high five shots on goal
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