By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
You can't lose focus for very long against a team as skilled and aggressive as the Tampa Bay Lightning. But everyone on the ice wearing a spoked 'B' had a momentary lapse, twice, and that was the difference in an otherwise thoroughly entertaining game that Tampa won 5-3 on Saturday night at TD Garden.
At the center of attention is the Lightning's two shorthanded goals in the first period, which came on their first two shots of the game. Tuukka Rask should have been able to stop both of them.
"I would've liked to make a couple saves there, obviously," Rask said. "It's tough to go down 2-0 with two shots on net, but that's how it goes sometimes."
Rask would like to have both goals back, but he was merely the last line of defense on a pair of team-wide breakdowns. Anthony Cirelli opened the scoring after he beat David Pastrnak to a wandering puck off a faceoff in the Tampa zone, sparking a shorthanded rush the other way. Rask couldn't bail the power play out.
The second score started with Cedric Paquette pickpocketing Torey Krug against the boards to create a fresh zone entry. Yanni Gourde then retrieved the puck and found an open Mikhail Sergachev in the high slot while four Bruins ... basically watched.
Rask will get the majority of the attention for the two shorthanded goals. There's no excuse for giving up two shorties on two shots. But nobody has an excuse. The power play got caught napping, the goalie wasn't locked in, and Bruce Cassidy didn't totally get his message across.
"I’m just looking at how the chances were manufactured, and that was the five guys on the ice outworked by four. That’s where it starts," said Cassidy. "Of course, we could have used a save and maybe two, and all of a sudden, they probably just forget about it and keep playing, but that doesn’t happen every night. He’s been rock solid for us, Tuukka, so it’s a bit of the guys like, hey you just can’t give up these chances.
"We just didn’t have it early on tonight in terms of having the urgency against a team we talked about will try to score shorthanded goals, so it wasn’t like it surprised us. This is in their DNA, so that’s the frustrating part as a coach. We kind of knew they would attempt that, and they were able to do it even though we talked about it."
The overarching story of the game isn't who came out with two points (the Bruins still hold a seven-point lead over Tampa in the Atlantic Division), but rather the 94 (!!!) minutes of penalties amassed once the game started descending into a pier 6 brawl every 40 seconds. Old time hockey. A preview of things to come, perhaps.
A playoff series between these teams would most certainly be as electric as the back half of Saturday's game. But all this good old-fashioned violence won't mean much if the Bruins can't avoid egregious mental errors throughout the lineup, especially against a team that could have both Ryan McDonagh and Steven Stamkos back by the time their potential playoff series would happen.
The Bruins showed in each of the last two games against Tampa that they're better equipped to beat them in the playoffs than they were two years ago. They just need to show it for 60 minutes.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].