The Tampa Bay Lightning, back-to-back Cup wins stashed in their travel bags, came to town Saturday night and tacked up their 14th win this season, 3-2 in overtime, over the Bruins at the Garden.
Steven Stamkos did what elite scorers on championship teams do, snapping home a short-range snipe off a 2-on-1 break 1:31 into the extra session. It was only eight seconds after David Pastrnak nearly provided his own dramatic ending on a breakaway at the other end of the ice.
As losses go, not bad, especially considering the Bruins were without premier left winger Brad Marchand, who served the final game of a three-game suspension, and star backliner Charlie McAvoy, who needed a night off due to an unspecified non-COVID illness.
Had Jeremy Swayman’s netminding been just a wee bit better, the Bruins would not have been forced to battle back from a 2-0 deficit, and possibly would have rubbed out the Bolts on a night when they held the upper hand in shots (39-25) and had much the better of territorial play.
“Getting that point is big,” said Curtis Lazar, whose first goal of the season provided the equalizer 4:44 into the third period. “Obviously we would have liked two, but I thought, with all the ups and downs of the game, we kept on fighting. We played a lot of good hockey out there.”
It was the Bruins first overtime result this season and moved their record to 12-8-1, leaving them parked at the top of the pack in the wild-card hunt.
Working from behind since late in the first period, the Bruins finally pulled even, and clinched a point, with Lazar’s strike. Rushing over the blue line as Brandon Carlo — a goal and assist the last two games — fired into the zone from the red line, Lazar skated into a fluke bounce off the rear wall, rushed to the net, and roofed a doorstep backhander over Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“I thought the puck was finding me tonight,” said Lazar, who credited linemate Tomas Nosek’s handiwork for helping to set up his goal. “I love my backhand. I don’t know if that’s something you guys know, but that’s kind of my go-to shot, so it was nice to see that one go in.”
The Bruins had the better of the action in the first period, but the Lightning put up the number that counted most: The period’s lone goal, by rookie winger Taylor Raddysh.
Working on the first-unit penalty kill, Raddysh somehow snuck the puck by Swayman at 14:13. Raddysh, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, used his size to his advantage, fending off Mike Reilly as he carried it to the net.
Swayman turned back 42 shots in a 2-0 shutout Thursday in Nashville. The Bolts needed only four to burst his bubble on Causeway Street, and he did not look good on the goal, dropping chest-first to the ice and leaving the short side open for Raddysh to exploit.
Without McAvoy in the lineup, Jack Ahcan was called up from AHL Providence and played in various backline combinations. Like his short stints last season, he was not timid. If a shot was there to take, he took it. Overall, he fit into a vastly modified group that did a strong job against the formidable Bolts.
“I thought they all showed up and competed tonight,” said acting coach Joe Sacco. “[Assistant coach in charge of blueliners] Kevin Dean said the same thing. He was proud of his guys on the back end. And Jack did a good job tonight, played hard.”
Jake DeBrusk, still in the lineup despite asking to be traded, showed some take-it-to-the net moxie at 15:25 when he barreled to the cage out of the right wing circle. He showed a lot of that initiative his first two years in town. If he could keep up that intensity, the coaching staff would be more inclined to move him up the order and perhaps help change his mind about his trade request.
Through 40 minutes, the Bruins still held a lopsided 28-13 lead in shots, but faced a 2-1 deficit, the only solace being that they battled back with Charlie Coyle’s goal late in the period.
The Lightning doubled their lead with only 3:36 gone in the second, again scoring on a weird goal. Ondrej Palat fired off what was meant to be a pass from the top of the left circle, but it ricocheted in the slot off of one of Nosek’s skates and through Swayman’s pads.
Finally, on the Bruins’ 26th shot of the night, Coyle knocked home a clever between-the-legs pass from Erik Haula. Craig Smith started it with a sizzling wrister swatted down by Vasilevskiy. Haula opted to dish the puck left, where it found Coyle waiting to cash in on the short side.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.