By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Slammed into a two-goal hole on a David Pastrnak power-play putaway shortly into the second period, the Lightning decided to throw the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the above-ground swimming pool at the Bruins.
Luckily for the B’s, Jaroslav Halak was up to the task, and simply stole the middle frame on his way to a 3-2 Game 1 win.
“When they come, they have their chances,” B’s center Charlie Coyle remarked. “[But] Jaro is there to shut the door on a number of good chances to keep us ahead. Could be a totally different game. But we have to help him out as much as we can.
“We also have so much confidence in him. He’s a great goalie, he’s been huge from us and that’s what we need from him. When they slip in there and we break down a little bit, he’s there to shut the door.”
Hit with 18 shots in the second period, the 35-year-old turned aside all 18, and with no save bigger than his robbery of Barclay Goodrow to keep the Black and Gold in the driver’s seat of this contest.
“He was dominant that period,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the victory. “The other two goals, I think one went in off Charlie [McAvoy], the other one had eyes, so they certainly got a couple of fortunate ones, but boy did he make some saves in the second where they probably deserved better. And I thought their guy did too, made a great save on McAvoy and a couple others in tight, [Ondrej] Kase on a breakaway. I thought both goalies did their job.
“We just happened to be one save better.”
This is the point of it all, too, really.
It’s one thing for Halak to outduel the Mrazek-Reimer tandem in Carolina. It’s a-whole-freakin-nother thing to hang with a 2020 Vezina Trophy finalist in the Bolts’ Andrei Vasilevskiy. (I’m not exactly sure that I would’ve had him on my Vezina ballot, but that’s an argument for another day. Especially if it helps my point.)
And Halak did exactly that to give Boston a 1-0 series lead.
Finishing with 35 stops by the night’s end, the Slovak netminder’s blemishes come by way of a screen from McAvoy for Victor Hedman’s first goal of the evening and then another puck off McAvoy and through Halak for Hedman’s second. This is a dangerous game to play, I know, but there’s a legit chance we’re talking about had McAvoy come through with a clean block on both of those shots from Tampa’s Norris defenseman.
“We had our chances,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I think there’s a reason he’s been in this league for so long: he can stop pucks.”
With the win, Halak improved to 4-0-0 with a .930 save percentage since taking over for the opted-out Tuukka Rask.
Halak will look to keep it rolling in Tuesday’s Game 2.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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.