Boston Bruins

Dec 4, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) reacts after scoring the game winning goal against Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) during an overtime period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The return of the Bruins-Lightning rivalry Saturday night at TD Garden, even if it came without some of its typical star power on both sides, did not disappoint.

Up until the overtime frame, anyway, as the Bruins rallied from down two but ultimately fell by a 3-2 overtime final.

With nothing but the Bolts’ Andrei Vasilevskiy in front of him, David Pastrnak barreled down towards the Tampa Bay net with Mikhail Sergachev in hot pursuit. And with the game on his stick, Boston’s No. 88 was unable to beat Tampa’s No. 88 — perhaps with the help of a hook from Sergachev — for a look before the Bolts made their push towards Jeremy Swayman.

And on a chance led by Steven Stamkos, Stamkos did not miss on an absolute rocket through the 23-year-old Swayman.

It was a bitter end to their night, of course, but one that didn’t leave the acting Boston bench boss disappointed in his group.

“We played hard tonight,” B’s coach Joe Sacco said after the overtime loss. “We competed. Nobody really took the night off. We had everybody on board and it was good to see. We can build off that game for sure.”

Especially with the way it started for the Black and Gold.

Unable to score on a power-play chance to basically start the night, the Lightning used a Boston power-play chance to break things open with a Taylor Raddysh shorthanded goal. In what was the first goal of Raddysh’s career, Raddysh beat Swayman short side, but only after he used his own momentum and took advantage of Mike Reilly’s indecisiveness towards a 50-50 puck in the neutral zone for the breakaway look converted on Swayman.

Tampa carried that 1-0 edge into the first intermission and doubled it at the 3:36 mark of the second period when an Ondrej Palat slapper went off Tomas Nosek’s skate and through Swayman on what was the Bolts’ seventh shot of the night.

The Palat goal was doubly painful for the Bruins, too. It came just moments after David Pastrnak absolutely obliterated the post on a heavy shot (his second post of the evening) and before the B’s hit the post again… only to go down and immediately surrender the goal that dug them into a multi-goal deficit against the best goaltender in hockey.

But the Bruins began their push when Erik Haula made a sweet feed to Charlie Coyle to bring the Bruins back within one before the end of the second, and tied things up in the third off a nifty backhand roofer by Curtis Lazar.

Swayman made 22 saves n the losing effort, but came through with some ultra-clutch stops to send this one to overtime in the first place, including stops on Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat in the final minute-plus of regulation.

Boston was forced to play this contest without defenseman Charlie McAvoy due to a non-COVID illness. With McAvoy out, along with Jakub Zboril (lower body), Connor Clifton jumped back into the Boston lineup while Jack Ahcan was let out of the P-Bruins COVID lockdown and summoned to Boston for his first appearance of the 2021-22 season.

“Jack did a good job tonight,” Sacco said. “He played hard. We wanted him to move the puck, transition it, hopefully be able to make plays at the blue line, but be responsible defensively, and he did that.”

Saturday was also the third and final game of winger Brad Marchand’s three-game suspension.

Up next, the Bruins will embark on three-game tour of Canada with stops in Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary. In fact, six of Boston’s next seven games will come away from TD Garden, with a Dec. 14 meeting with the Golden Knights the lone outlier.

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