With the series tied at a game apiece, the Lightning travelled north to face the Bruins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy entered Game 3 looking for his first career victory at TD Bank Garden in Boston, MA. Ondrej Palat, on the other hand, was looking to build on his success from Game 2. When the final horn sounded both of them were pleased — Tampa Bay secured a 2-1 series advantage by beating the Bruins 4-1 on Wednesday night in Boston.
After netting the game-winning goal — third of his career — and adding an assist on Sunday night in Tampa, Palat got the visiting team on the board first in Game 3. As has been the case so many times during their tenure in the Bay Area, Tyler Johnson found Palat streaking toward the net from the left-circle. Sliding to his right, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was out of position as Palat’s attempt elevated over his stick-side shoulder and under the crossbar for his third goal of the playoffs.
Moments later the 27-year-old made it a two-goal Lightning lead. His second goal of the night proved to be the difference. With the goal, he passed Ruslan Fedotenko for seventh on Bolts’ all-time list of playoff game-winning goal scorers. This time it was defenseman Victor Hedman who set up the opportunity when his slap-shot redirected off the stick of Palat, beating Rask. Palat now has ten multi-point playoff games in his career — three of them have come this season.
The line of Palat, Johnson, and Brayden Point has been spectacular recently, and they came inches away from providing a first-period hat-trick.
Palat was thiiiis close to a first period hat trick. pic.twitter.com/dcFRkeenFJ
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) May 2, 2018
Defenseman Dan Girardi, who picked up an assist in Game 3, says it’s the core-guys that are leading the way for the Lightning in these playoffs.
“I think you have to give a lot of credit to the core guys here,” he told NBCSports. “Obvioulsly [Steven Stamkos] leading the way, [Hedman], guys like [Johnson], [Palat], [Nikita Kucherov] that have been here a lot and been through some playoff runs.”
A first for Vasilevskiy
With a career 2-5 record against the Bruins before Game 3 — each win coming at Amalie Arena — Vasilevskiy, for the second straight game, held the Bruins in-check. The Russian goaltender has now recorded wins in three of the last four meetings against Boston. The Vezina Trophy finalist has allowed only three goals in those three wins.
Throughout the season, the Lightning goaltender saw an average of 32 shots per game. During the three games in this series, he’s faced 23, 20, and 29 shots, respectively. For someone that was vocal about the rigors of a full season earlier this year, fewer shots could help lead to less fatigue.
The top-line of Kucherov, Stamkos, and J.T. Miller were held off the scoresheet until the final minute of play when Stamkos added an empty-net goal to secure the victory. Kucherov finished third in the NHL with 100 points during the regular season and has yet to record a point in this series.
Tampa Bay is now 6-0 this postseason when scoring three or more goals. They’ve won their last 12 playoff games when reaching the three-goal mark. Despite ranking 27th in the NHL with a 48.2% face-off win percentage during the regular season, the Lightning are second among playoff teams with a 53.2% success rate in the face-off circle.
After a 1-for-5 showing in Game 3, the Lightning have scored on just three of their last 22 power-play chances. The lone power-play goal on Wednesday was the empty-netter by Stamkos.
Rookie Anthony Cirelli scored his first career playoff goal in the second period. His goal gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead.
Our Three Stars
1st Star: Palat (2 goals)
2nd Star: Vasilevskiy (28 saves on 29 shots)
3rd Star: Hedman (2 assists)
Game 4 is in Boston on Friday night. Hedman, tied with 35, has a chance to pass Martin St. Louis as the franchise record holder in playoff assists.
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