The pressure kept coming. From the drop of the puck, the Bruins had brought a better version of their game, controlling the puck, controlling the action, spending sustained time in their offensive zone. It seemed inevitable that they would score on the Lightning’s Anders Lindback.
Then it finally happened, 17:09 into the second period. And again, 20 seconds later.
It was yet another excellent effort against the Lightning, a team that seems to bring out the best in the Bruins. The teams have faced each other three times already in the first five weeks of the season, with all three games — two shutouts — going to the Bruins, including Monday afternoon’s 3-0 win at TD Garden.
The Bruins have won their last three games, taking advantage of their season-long five-game homestand by going 3-0-1 in the first four games, with wins over two teams ahead of them in the standings.
“I think our team’s playing better all the time,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think we looked a little bit more like the team we want to be. We played a pretty good team, and I thought our guys handled themselves well.
“I think our team had been going through a bit of a slump here. We didn’t play with the energy and the cohesion that you need to play well. Through a schedule like ours in hockey with 82 games, you get those. We had been trying to fight our way out of it. I think right now we’re finding our game slowly but surely.”
The game was marred by a moment that might have lasting ramifications for both the Lightning and the Atlantic Division.
With 7:11 left in the second period, Steven Stamkos crashed into the Tampa Bay goal as he backchecked Dougie Hamilton. His left skate blade hit the post, followed by his right leg slamming into it. The Garden went quiet as Stamkos tried to get up, and crumbled back onto the ice in pain.
He was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher; the center broke his right tibia.
The Garden remained hushed for a while, but the sellout crowd perked up when Patrice Bergeron made good on the active day from the team’s top two lines in the first and second periods — including posts hit by Jarome Iginla and Brad Marchand — when he connected for his third goal in two games, at 17:09.
It came on a scrum in front of the net, with the goal initially awarded to Torey Krug, and then to Bergeron for sending the loose puck into the net.
The second goal, at 17:29, came when Daniel Paille went down the left side of the ice and finished with a backhander past Lindback.
“The responsibility lies in us when you go out there after a goal to follow up with a good shift,” said Gregory Campbell, who got his first point of the season with his assist on Paille’s goal. “It doesn’t have to be necessarily a goal but it definitely has to be a momentum shift for our team and to continue that.”
The Bruins also relied heavily on a defense that was without Adam McQuaid against a high-powered offense in the Lightning. McQuaid was replaced by Matt Bartkowski, and the Bruins didn’t seem to miss a beat.
“That’s what I liked about our team — our energy level was high, our alertness, our anticipation,” Julien said. “Our back pressure was probably as good as it’s been all year, and we’ve talked about that for a while.”
There was a lot to like about the win, though there is still more for the Bruins to do to become the team they want to be.
“I think each game over the last three has been a little bit better for us as a group,” said Iginla, who added an empty-netter with 59 seconds to go. “I think we kind of went into a wall there as a team, and teams go through that during the course of a year and you want to make it as short as possible and get back to everyone feeling good about it and playing and finding that consistency.
“We played a couple of teams that were ahead of us in the standings that we’d want to catch. But we not only won those games, we found a way to win some close ones. Pretty tight checking, great goaltending, all the way around — Bergy, Marchy flying — everybody’s really contributed in the last few games. We can all feel good about ourselves being part of the win, and that’s what you want to do.”