By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins are not going to simply bow down to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They proved exactly that when they overcame a pair of bombs from Lightning captain Steven Stamkos in the opening frame and turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 edge through 40 minutes of play on Tampa Bay’s ice.
But the Lightning, who have already clinched the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top point-getters, proved just how difficult it is to put them away, as they responded with three unanswered goals — including the game-winner with 53 seconds left in regulation — to defeat the B’s by a 5-4 final at Amalie Arena.
Brad Marchand put the Bruins on the board with a power-play strike (his 33rd goal of the season) in the first period, and it was Charlie Coyle that provided the game-tying goal with a beautiful second-period finish on the Bolts’ Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Brandon Carlo and Marchand scored goals to round the B’s dominant second-period effort, but it just felt like the Black and Gold completely ran out of gas as the hard minutes and defensive-zone shifts mounted against the Bruins.
It was enough to make you think the B’s were in the driver’s seat of this game on enemy ice.
But the Bruins first found themselves in some final frame trouble when Carlo failed to get his shot on net on an odd-man rush, which allowed Stamkos to roll in on a breakaway against Tuukka Rask, while a lack of a serviceable back-check from any Boston skater allowed Victor Hedman to get to the loose puck first for the Lightning’s third goal of the night.
And after holding Tampa Bay’s league-best power-play unit to zero shots on a four-minute opportunity to preserve their one-goal edge, another failed chance in the offensive zone by a Boston defender — this time on a botched activation from Charlie McAvoy — sent Nikita Kucherov in alone against Rask.
The Lightning are so annoying pic.twitter.com/Vx4nOY5W3v— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 26, 2019
Kucherov, the league’s undeniable MVP, did not miss, and things were evened up at 4-4.
From there, it only felt like a matter of time before the Lightning took over and completed the comeback.
It nearly happened on Tampa’s late-game power-play opportunity, but instead came just seconds after the power play ended, as Anthony Cirelli was alone between the circles for the game-winning goal scored with 53 remaining in the period. Even that goal featured some straight-up inexplicable d-zone mistakes from the Bruins, as David Krejci oddly veered away from Cirelli in the slot, leaving the Lightning forward to get a golden chance on Rask with less than a minute left in a then-tied game.
The Bruins finished with just 17 shots on net, while Rask finished with five goals allowed on 28 shots thrown his way.
Boston defender John Moore left this game in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Moore, who has seen an uptick in his usage and role with the B’s missing half their defense corps, was hammered on a big hit from behind from the Bolts’ Adam Erne and appeared to be favoring his left arm on his way off the ice.
The loss of Moore forced the Bruins to lean on blue line for some big minutes, as Carlo finished with a team-leading 27 minutes, McAvoy logged 26:47 by the final horn, and Zdeno Chara had 23:48, including a staggering 6:46 of shorthanded time on ice.
Considered a game-time decision, Marcus Johansson did not end up drawing back into action for this contest. Dealing with a lung contusion, Johansson is now targeting Wednesday night against the New York Rangers as a potential return date. Same for defenseman Torey Krug, who has missed the last six games due a concussion suffered a Mar. 12 loss in Columbus.
The Bruins get back to work Wednesday night against the Rangers.