Boston Bruins

Mar 3, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) is congratulated as he scores a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

By Ty Anderson,

Don’t let the score fool you. Everything about the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the Lightning on Tuesday night was gigantic.

In Tampa with a seven-point edge for the top spot in the Atlantic Division (but without a win in two prior head-to-heads with the Bolts this season), a loss would have opened the door for a Stamkos-less Lightning squad to make a serious push for the top spot in the division. Especially if they followed up that win with another one in a Saturday night rematch in Boston.

But with goals from an under-the-weather Brad Marchand and slumping Jake DeBrusk, the Bruins instead pushed their Atlantic-best point total to 96 and took serious control of their road to a potential Stanley Cup redemption tour this spring.

“I think both teams knew going into it that it was gonna be a good matchup, a fun one, a close game,” B’s defenseman Torey Krug, who assisted on Marchand’s first-period goal, told reporters after the Black and Gold’s victory. “For us to go up nine points — especially before Saturday’s game when we play them again — it’s definitely an important two points to collect.”

That collected began with the aforementioned Marchand goal, too, which saw Marchand and Krug get the Bruins spinning before some cycling created space for Krug to corral a loose puck and feed Marchand’s leg for the 28th goal of the year for Marchand. The timing of the goal was just plain overpowering, too, as the Bruins finally broke through and capitalized on their strong opening frame by scoring with just 55 seconds left in the frame. (Huge.)

Carrying their momentum into the second period with a ferocious start that saw them hammer six of the period’s first seven shots on Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Bruins were dealt a lucky break when a would-be goal from the Bolts’ Yanni Gourde was wiped off the board on a coach’s challenge that confirmed Tyler Johnson was offside on their o-zone entry.

The B’s used that break to their advantage, too, as they doubled their lead on a Jake DeBrusk goal through Vasilevskiy for DeBrusk’s first goal in his last 11 games (and first since scoring in Boston’s Feb. 8 win over the Coyotes). And it was your classic DeBrusk goal, as DeBrusk straight-up outraced Tampa’s Zach Bogosian for a loose puck, drew a delayed penalty on a breakaway, and then nullified it with the smooth finish on Vasilevskiy.

“I haven’t seen that in a while,” DeBrusk, who is now up to 19 goals on the year, offered. “It’s always nice, kind of just the play overall; That’s kind of what I want to be, use my speed and effort. Was just nice to contribute.”

But thanks to a Mitchell Stephens goal with 2:32 remaining in the middle period, the B’s quest for two points would not be complete without a white-knuckle third period at Amalie Arena.

In what felt like their most survivalist final 20 of the season, the Bruins were out-attempted by a staggering 22-7 mark in the third period. But led by a smothering defense and aggressive support from their forwards, the Bruins truly limited the Lightning’s actual chances on goal, as the Bolts hit Tuukka Rask for just seven shots on goal over that 22-try period.

The Lightning really struggled to find quality looks during that seven-shot segment, too, as they generated just a handful of Grade-A looks, with no look greater than a breakaway bid from Anthony Cirelli — and with Cirelli breaking through the Charlie McAvoy-Zdeno Chara super-pairing to earn such a chance — denied by Rask with 14 minutes remaining in the third.

Rask would finish with stops on 20 of the 21 shots thrown his way for his 25th victory of the season.

As Marchand gutted through an illness (he apparently dealt with some food poisoning from some bad salmon), forward Anders Bjork once again sat as a healthy scratch. This was Bjork’s second straight healthy scratch, which saw him join forwards Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman, as well as John Moore, in the press box.

With the high of this game behind them, the Bruins will look to avoid a letdown of sorts when they head to Sunrise for a Thursday night meeting with the Panthers. You can expect a desperate Panthers squad to come to the rink, too, as they wake up on Wednesday morning five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.