It had been a while since captain Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning were happy with their game. Entering Thursday’s tilt against the Boston Bruins, however, the Bolts had won two of their last three. One win a 7-1 domination against the San Jose Sharks, the other an impressive 48-shot victorious effort in Sunrise. Early in the season, Tampa Bay were far from satisfied. One of their two “measuring stick” wins however, came against none other than the Bruins.
Red hot Stamkos
Steven Stamkos entered this tilt with four goals in his last three games, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have an impact on this one.
There’s always a playoff feeling when the Bruins come to town, and for good reason. The two teams went head-to-head in 2018, with the Lightning taking the series in five games. The postseason atmosphere was evident early. Very early.
Poking the bear
On the first shift of the game, Patrick Maroon dropped the gloves with Zdeno Chara. That was not only an effort to fire up his teammates, but a statement from Maroon. A statement that the Bolts were willing to play the B’s style of hockey, and that they weren’t going to be pushed around.
Maroon held his own against the 6’9″ Chara, landing some blows. All in all, it was an excellent start for the Lightning.
Setting the tone
Speaking of excellent starts, Tampa Bay owned the opening few shifts in this hockey game. They were hard on the forecheck, and didn’t spend hardly any time in their own zone. The shots were 7-4 Bolts after one period of play, but one moment defined the period.
No room for error
As mentioned, the Lightning didn’t spend many lengthy sessions in the defensive zone. However, they had one unfortunate sequence in the period, and Boston took full advantage.
As Brad Marchand circled the net with speed, Andrei Vasilevskiy seemed to get stuck at the side of the cage. He lost his balance, and Patrice Bergeron was there to deposit the disk into a yawning four-by-six.
Boy, did Vasilevskiy ever bounce back from that miscue. He was phenomonal in the second frame.
He robbed David Pastrnak twice from the same spot on the ice, a dangerous spot. The second look, Pastrnak was wide open, and Vasilevskiy shut the door.
Stamkos ignites Bolts
Sometimes, something as minuscule as a minor penalty can turn a game on its head. John Moore tripped up Alex Killorn and the Bolts headed to the power play.
A beautiful play from two of the Lightning’s horses tied the game. Nikita Kucherov made an excellent play to set up Stamkos, who really could not have been more wide open. He wired it through the five hole of Tuukka Rask to tie the game 1-1.
Tale of two half-periods
The second period was a peculiar one, because play was carried by each team for essentially half the twenty minutes. First, the Bruins were all over the Lightning. Then, the Moore penalty completely flipped the script of the period.
The shots tell the tale of this two-story second. The Bruins busted out to a 9-3 advantage on the shot clock. Tampa Bay would then respond with an 11-2 advantage in the latter portion of the frame.
After the tying goal, Tampa Bay did an excellent job maintaining possession in the Boston zone. They won puck battles in the corners, and got plenty of pucks on net.
Close but no cigar
One of those pucks on net was courtesy of Jan Rutta, and it laid in the goalmouth behind Rask, just inches from the line. Unfortunately for the Bolts, Chara was able to clear it away harm free.
The two teams headed to the dressing room after two periods of play tied 1-1.
Man advantage magnificence
After Stamkos’ man advantage marker in the second, it was Brayden Point’s turn in the third. Again, it was Kucherov with a fantastic setup. A no-look pass from behind the net was on the tape of Point, who ripped a perfect shot upstairs over the shoulder of Rask.
With the Lightning up 2-1, a red hot Stamkos gave the Bolts a two-goal cushion. Some great forechecking by his line-mates Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli turned the puck over, and Stamkos released an absolute howitzer to beat Rask. It was his sixth goal in his last four games.
Despite allowing a late goal from Moore to make it a 3-2 hockey game, the Lightning did an excellent job on the whole of limiting grade-A chances in the third period. The Bolts would hold on for a 3-2 win. It was their third in four games, and their fourth straight victory over Boston on home ice.
Our three stars of the game
- Steven Stamkos: 2 goals
- Nikita Kucherov: 2 assists
- Andrei Vasilevskiy: 27 saves
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