By: Jeremy Perrigo
Tampa Bay traveled to Boston Wednesday to take on the Bruins in the second night of back-to-back games. The Lightning took down the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 Tuesday night with goals from young-stud defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and veteran Dan Girardi. Boston came into Wednesday reeling from a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Sunday afternoon. The Bruins knew they would need a better effort in front of goaltender Tuukka Rask if they were to take points out of their tilt against the league-leading Lightning. Forwards Brad Marchand, David Backes and Ryan Spooner all returned to the lineup after missing significant time with injuries
Boston came out with energy in the first 20 minutes, seemingly aware of the need to silence the red-hot Lightning early on.
That early spark paid off for the Bruins 7:27 in, when they capitalized off a Charlie McAvoy point shot that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was screened by Marchand on the doorstep. The call would originally be deemed no-goal on the ice for goaltender interference, but upon a Boston challenge, the call was reversed to give the B’s the 1-0 lead.
Boston would continue to pressure Tampa in their own zone, forcing Vasilevskiy to make big saves to keep his team in the game, something the 23 year-old has done throughout the first two months of the season for his team.
The Bruins’ pressure would prove too much for the Tampa netminder to handle as Riley Nash broke into the zone and fired a shot top-shelf, glove-side, to extend Boston’s lead to two with 2:47 left in the period.
No other goals would come in the period. Boston outshot Tampa by a wide margin of 19-5, winning 56.7% of faceoffs.
Sergachev and Marchand would each be sent off for interference and embellishment respectively, 4:22 into the period. On the ensuing 4 on 4, Boston dominated in the Tampa zone. Spooner would make a quick back-hand pass from the hashmarks, finding Torey Krug in the right circle. Krug wasted no time, firing a one-timer on net to beat Vasilevskiy, extending the Bruins’ lead to 3-0.
Tampa would finally find the back of net just past the halfway mark of the period when Andrej Sustr tossed a puck on net from the right point, beating a screened Tuukka Rask for his first of the season.
Tyler Johnson would streak down the right side and fire a puck off the far post that deflected behind Tuukka Rask. Johnson carried his momentum towards the net, running into Rask and causing a scrum to the side of the Bruin goal. At first glance it looked as though the puck had gone into the net, but upon further review, the puck traveled across the front of the net, parallel with the goal line, and out the side of the net.
Tuukka Rask was forced to come up big with a save on Nikita Kucherov late in the period, keeping the score at 3-1 heading into the final 20 minutes.
Shots on goal continued to favor Boston 32-12, yet Tampa did put pressure on the Bruins towards the end of the period. The B’s took held the advantage in the faceoff dot at 53.6%.
Brandon Carlo would take a penalty for interference on Kucherov just 46 seconds into the period. Tampa wasted no time capitalizing on the opportunity when Sergachev fed Kucherov in the right circle, who faked a shot, freezing players in front of the net, and passed the puck cross-ice to Steven Stamkos who fired a one-timer into an empty net.
Tampa picked up the play in the final frame, pressuring the Bruins more in their own end. Their efforts showed on the scoreboard, as they outshot Boston 9-4 in the period. However, the Lighting, even with a minute of 6 on 5 with Vasilevskiy on the bench, were unable to find the game-tying goal.
Final Score: Boston 3 / Tampa 2
Shots on goal in the game Boston 36 to Tampa 21. The Bruins won 56.8% of faceoffs going 0/2 on the powerplay. Tampa outhit Boston 26-15 and went 1/2 on the powerplay.
Next Game: Saturday, December 2 at Philadelphia, 1pm EST.
Tuukka Rask picked up his first win since November 6th against Minnesota, and the team looked much better in front of him Wednesday night than in recent outings. Charlie McAvoy was making plays and getting the puck out well, and Noel Acciari was breaking up key plays in the Bruins’ end to maintain the lead.
While Tampa Bay has struggled to find points from their top scorers in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos in recent games, they were still a tough match for the Bruins, coming into the night the top team in the league with 36 points. Sure enough Stamkos scored a goal assisted by none other than Kucherov, but for the most part Boston did a good job of bringing the play to the Lightning end of the ice, forcing Andrei Vasilevskiy to make multiple strong saves to maintain a tight game.
The Bruins travel to Philadelphia Saturday for a matinee against a struggling Flyers team. If they put forward the same effort in that game, like they did at home against Tampa, there should be no reason why the B’s do not come up with another two points.