A raging rush of emotion took over the Bruins-Lightning matchup at the Garden Saturday night.
From purely a results standpoint, the Bruins were losers, 5-3, the Black and Gold watching their four-game winning steak get clipped after allowing a couple of shorthanded goals over a span of 62 seconds in the first period.
Otherwise, though, a sellout crowd of 17,850 watched a spirited, entertaining tug-of-war between Atlantic Division rivals that included four fighting majors, four 10-minute misconducts, and a total 94 penalty minutes on a night that harkened back to the days when bloody scraps were as much a part of the game as wooden sticks and leather skates.
Losses come in all shapes and forms, including such soul-crushers as the Bruins Game 7 defeat to the Blues in last year’s Stanley Cup Final. Then there are L’s like Saturday night, when 2 points disappear into thin air, but not before the building is infused with the acrid smell of two teams with a growing, intense dislike for one another.
“There’s a value in sticking up for one another,” said Boston coach Bruce Cassidy, his charges remaining stuck at 98 points in the standings, 2 short of being the first franchise to reach 100 this year. “There’s a value in responding, of course there is …. some nights it’s more important than the outcome. We wanted to respond.”
What set the table for teasing out Boston’s emotion was Barclay Goodrow’s high hit (elbow) on Bruins newcomer Ondrej Kase with 5:01 gone in the first period. Goodrow eventually would trade punches with Chris Wagner in the first spirited bout of the night, but it was that initial elbowing minor on Goodrow that ironically set the stage for the Bolts victory — and for pulling them within 7 points of the Bruins atop the division standings.
Only seven seconds after the Bruins went on the power play, the Bolts raced up ice and stuck in the 1-0 lead on an Anthony Cirelli shot that beat Tuukka Rask (25-8-6) on the short side. Only 62 seconds later, Goodrow still parked in the penalty box, Mikhail Sergachev ripped home a feed from Yanni Gourde to make it 2-0. Only 6:10 into the night and the Bruins were down by a pair, both of them shorties.
“The second one, I didn’t pick it up until it was in the net,” explained Rask. “One of those you have to be sharper and give your team a chance there. Especially on a power play. Those tough plays happen sometimes when there’s an odd-man rush — you want to be there for your teammates, but it didn’t happen today.”
The Bolts bumped it up to 3-0 on a Cedric Paquette goal (even strength) early in the second before the Bruins staged a rally, first with a Charlie McAvoy goal (No. 5) off the rush and then a Sean Kuraly strike (No. 6) that initially escaped the eyes of the officiating crew.
Play continued for another 17 seconds before the night’s featured bit of mayhem broke out in the neutral zone, highlighted by a Cirelli cross-check to Zdeno Chara’s back that felled the towering Boston captain. By the time it was sorted out, Chara had a fighting major and Kuraly a 10-minute misconduct, matched by Pat Maroon’s fighting major and Erik Cernak’s 10-minute misconduct. Bolts assistant coach Todd Richards also got tossed from the game.
All in all, Exhibit ‘A’ of two teams that haven’t liked each other for a while, particularly back to Round 2 of the 2018 playoffs when the Bolts eliminated the Bruins in five games.
Making it all the better, there’s a good chance they’ll meet sometime again this spring in the postseason. The Bolts took the four-game series, 3-1, and they proved Saturday, even without top gun Steve Stamkos in the lineup, they’re hardly intimidated by the Garden’s environs.
“That’s part of this game,” said a composed Chara. “You’re going to have games like that, a little bit more chippy than other games. We always have an emphasis to have each other’s backs — to play as a unit, a team. You saw tonight, everybody responded the right way.”
The Bolts sprung out to a 4-2 lead early in the third on an Alex Killorn power-play goal. David Pastrnak drove in his league-leading goal No. 48 to close to 4-3 at 6:37, but with 1:02 to go Nikita Kucherov clipped the puck from David Krejci and fired in an empty-netter for the 5-3 closer.
“I think both teams kinda went toe-to-toe,” said Cassidy. “There’s a lot of value in that. We pride ourselves in that. In fact, it was discussed this year [by some in the media] that we didn’t have enough of that and I certainly feel we do. We certainly tried to prove that tonight and tried to win the game at the same time.”