The Bruins will have two extra days to assess what went wrong in Game 3.
Such as the penalty kill, which gave the Lightning six chances and allowed three goals.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper, his power-play stick in an 0-for-15 rut this postseason, moved Nikita Kucherov to the left circle, the space formerly occupied by the injured Steven Stamkos. Instead of a one-timer threat in the right circle, the left-shooting Kucherov now quarterbacks the formation from his strong side.
The move worked. Kucherov, the 2019 leading scorer (128 points) and Hart Trophy winner, assisted on all three power-play goals in the Lightning’s 7-1 beatdown of the Bruins, while drawing the ire of Bruins such as Charlie McAvoy with his chippy game.
After watching the tape, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy felt his team had good structure to stop Ondrej Palat’s one-timer in the first period, which deflected off Zdeno Chara’s stick. On the other two power play strikes, Cassidy found issues in pressure and positioning.
Tampa’s power play features four left sticks — Kucherov on the left wall, Palat on the opposite side, Mikhail Sergachev up top, Alex Killorn in front of the net — and righty Brayden Point in the high slot. Overplaying the most dangerous player, Kucherov, is a risk.
On the second PPG they allowed, the Bruins collapsed to close off Kucherov’s cross-ice and slot options. That left Sergachev plenty of room to roam. Kucherov found his defenseman out high, who launched a one-time missile past Jaroslav Halak.
The Bruins were guilty of chasing Kucherov on the third PPG. Employing a move Connor McDavid often uses on Edmonton’s dangerous man-up, Kucherov circled out of the zone and accepted a pass as he was flying back into the zone. Kucherov’s cross-seam pass to Palat created a rebound goal for Killorn.
“He does a good job. He’s a good player, power play, five on five, so he’s going to make plays,” Cassidy said of Kucherov. “So where we probably didn’t do a good enough job is dictating where the shots come from.
“Maybe you got to throw some different looks at them and pressure them if they’re having success. At the end of the day we gave up too much five on five and on the [penalty kill], took too many penalties, which is uncharacteristic of us. It happens, they took advantage of it, so, like I said, we’ll look at it and certainly do some things better the next game.
“Our penalty kill has been good all year, been good in the playoffs. Chalk that one up to their power play just being better than our kill and we’ll adjust.”
If the Lightning get Stamkos back in action — no word on that front — the Bolts could be even more dangerous. The Bruins already have their hands full.
Kuraly banged up
The Bruins were missing a valuable penalty killing forward. Cassidy said fourth-line center Sean Kuraly was “dealing with an injury” and wasn’t able to play in Game 3. He didn’t say whether Kuraly would be back in the lineup for Game 4, which is expected to be Sunday . . . Doesn’t sound like Cassidy will again use 11 forwards and seven defensemen in Game 4, unless the various ailments his club is dealing with dictates otherwise. “We were protecting ourselves against — what if the game gets stretched on,” Cassidy said. “We went into overtime the night before, three in four nights. Again, a couple of bumps and bruises. That was the decision. Bigger guys. I thought we needed to control the front of our net better after Game 2. We didn’t do a good enough job there. Bigger bodies can sometimes help that. It didn’t work out that way.” Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore, the extra defensemen who dressed in place of Connor Clifton, were eager (11 combined hits) but not particularly effective. It was Moore’s first action since March 10 . . . Torey Krug had a frustrating night. After an angry scrap with Tyler Johnson, he earned a 10-minute misconduct for shooting the puck a little too hard at referee Wes McCauley after a stoppage. Krug landed one shot on goal and had six attempts blocked . . . The Bruins have been shorthanded the second-fewest times (32) of the eight teams remaining. Only Vegas (28) has been penalized less. “Hopefully that’s a one-off,” Cassidy said. Their 81.3 percent success rate on the kill is fourth-best . . . Point (6-9—15) moved into third in league scoring and is squarely in the Conn Smythe race. The favorite is Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (7-13—20), who has been electric for the Avalanche.