TAMPA — The Little Ball of Hate was rolling toward the net with the puck on his stick and visions of tying things up — and silencing the hatred of Amalie Arena crowd.
As Brad Marchand collected Zdeno Chara's pass through the middle, he had a semi-breakaway and barreled at goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Anton Stralman, chasing in desperation, did the only thing he could do. He chopped down on Marchand's hands and the puck skittered off his stick. Marchand immediately lifted his hands and turned his head in a "Where's the whistle?" moment.
It never blew.
The threat, which came with 3:57 left and just seconds after Torey Krug's wicked short side wrister somehow squeezed between Vasilevskiy and the post and pulled Boston within 3-2, was over. And for all intents and purposes, so was the game — an eventual 4-2 win that evened the second-round Stanley Cup playoff series at 1-1.
The noncall infuriated the Boston bench, which rose and groaned simultaneously as referee Kelly Sutherland turned a blind eye.
What made the call sting a little extra was the Lightning scored their first goal of the game on the power play as Krug sat in the box because of a slash that was not nearly as egregious. It was the kind of harmless love tap you see 100 times a game.
"That's the kind of play that they called earlier in the game. They called that all year — a slash up around the hands, I mean, that's automatic. It's a penalty shot let alone a penalty,'' said Marchand, who clearly hated the call but also wasn't looking to dwell on it. "So, tough one there, but I mean, we had some chances on the power play and we have to capitalize.''
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was a little more steamed after a night in which he felt his club was "on the wrong side of three or four calls that impacted the game.''
The Krug penalty was one. David Pastrnak's four-minute high sticking on Victor Hedman in the third period — replays showed that it was Hedman's own stick that bloodied the defenseman's face — was another. A non-icing call just before that hack on Marchand was one more.
Cassidy could have lived with most of the calls, but the Marchand call was the only that really didn't sit well.
"Obviously,'' he said. "He slashed him right on the hands. I just think it's unacceptable to miss that call — it's a hit on the hands. It's one thing if it's a judgment call on the stick but on the hands is usually automatic. So that was disappointing.''
Reliving the play brought back memories of the other calls that Cassidy felt could have been called another way.
"Even the icing before [the Marchand no-call], it's a judgment call but I mean, Torey's there first. Eventually we do get that puck out and bring it back in, so that's on us, we have to manage the puck but they impacted the game and that's what's frustrating,'' said the coach. "Even the Hedman one, we thought it was Hedman's own stick that cut him. Now you're down four minutes. Now we killed that but at the end of the day, [Marchy's] breakaway — I think that should be called in my estimation. I disagree with the non-call. He hit him on the hands and he clearly loses possession of the puck and that's an infraction.''
The chance to tie the game up would have been a measure of revenge for Marchand, who not only hears the heaviest boos whenever he touches the puck in Tampa, but whose late turnover led to Ondrej Palat's eventual game-winner.
It was the most costly turnover on a night full of them.
"We didn't play great — especially early,'' said Marchand. "We turned some pucks over against a good team they're going to capitalize at some point.''
Cassidy, who felt good about the way his team played in general after weathering the first 10 minutes, agreed that it came down to the turnovers.
"We mishandled a couple of pucks tonight around the offensive blue line and even right at the end and it kind of cost us a bit,'' he said. "But they finished. You've got to give them credit.''