The first meeting lived up to the billing.
In a meeting of Atlantic Division rivals and two of the NHL’s best teams, the Bruins scored a pair of power-play goals against the Lightning. They lost a pair of leads. Brad Marchand dented a pair of posts with snap shots.
But the Bruins lost, 4-3, in a shootout, and were left thinking about what they must fix before another pair of high-test division games, both against Toronto (Saturday, Tuesday).
Sixty-five minutes of hockey Thursday kept the Bruins (5-1-1) on the hunt for production outside their stellar top line (14 of the team’s 19 goals this season). David Pastrnak, who tied Edmonton’s James Neal for the league lead in goals (eight) scored twice, and Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play.
“We win that game tonight if we get secondary scoring from anybody,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Having said that, our record is pretty good without it. But I don’t think it’s sustainable.”
Despite that and issues defending Tampa’s rush — all three visiting goals came on the attack — Boston was knotted, 2-2, after two periods. The teams traded goals in the final five minutes to send it to overtime.
Great theater, it was. Matt Grzelcyk had a mini-breakaway in OT, the Garden crowd ready to explode. The Bruins had a two-on-one chance when Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh got tangled with each other beside Tuukka Rask (34 saves on 37 shots). Sean Kuraly rang the post, Boston’s third clank of the night. Rask stoned Alex Killorn twice at the other end.
Then Marchand headlocked Point as time expired. Why not have a rumble in the corner before heading home?
Steven Stamkos turned out the lights, beating Rask with a wrister after the netminder denied Victor Hedman, Point, and Nikita Kucherov in the shootout.
The Lightning (4-2-1) got the better of the even-strength play, but the Bruins went 3 for 5 on the man advantage. Pastrnak cashed in to tie the score with 3:05 left. After Boston University product Kevin Shattenkirk scored with 4:47 remaining, the defenseman trailing the rush undetected, Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli tripped Pastrnak in the neutral zone, setting up a monumental power play.
It started poorly. Ondrej Palat broke in alone on Rask (31 saves through three periods) and tried to go five-hole, but the keeper slammed the wickets. But Pastrnak, who struck four times against Anaheim on Monday, sent a turnaround shot off Shattenkirk’s twig.
“Right now we’re lucky we have the power play rolling,” said Torey Krug (two assists). “They can kind of bail us out sometimes. Our goalies are going. When you combine those things, you’re able to collect some points, but you’re not exactly happy with how you’re playing. So we’ve got to pay a little more attention to detail.”
This was not the pair of teams the Bruins welcomed to start this mini-homestand. The Ducks and Devils are not in the same class as the Bolts, who set a league record for wins (62) last season.
The Bruins are in that category, though they didn’t look it at times. It’s early, and every team is finding its game. But the Bruins will have to be sharper before an away-home series with Toronto this Saturday and Tuesday. Getting veteran center David Krejci (upper body) healthy would help, though he missed his second game in a row Thursday.
The Bruins lost a 1-0 lead when Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy let Point split by them and Point beat Rask over the glove with 1.6 seconds left in the first period. It was a major lift for Tampa, and a blow to Boston, which has been poor in second periods of late.
“It changes the dynamic of the game,” Krug said. “That’s a goal we can not let happen. Right now our team IQ’s a little bit low. We’ve got to find a way to be a little smarter.”
They got that lead when Pastrnak slammed home a power-play goal at 9:34 of the first period. Bergeron won a faceoff clean, then got it back in the bumper after a swing to the point. He touched it to Pastrnak, who potted his seventh of the season. It took all of six seconds.
After the end-of-period brain cramp, the Bruins regained the lead on a gaffe by Tampa’s penalty killers, and a nice look by Krug. The defenseman got the Lightning formation moving by rolling to the right hash, then finding Marchand at the top of the point. By the time Marchand fed Pastrnak, Bergeron was a stride ahead of McDonagh, with enough room to shovel home a slap-pass to the slot from Pastrnak.
The lead lasted about three minutes. Jake DeBrusk missed connections with Brett Ritchie on a drop pass entering the offensive zone. Killorn chugged the other way, and with McAvoy fishing for a shot block, Rask left a rebound at the goal line. Mathieu Joseph scored an easy tap-in.
After being outshot, 29-21, over the first 40 minutes, Bruins controlled that area, 16-7, in the third period and overtime. And the penalty kill, which held Tampa’s electric PP to an 0-for-4 showing, didn’t allow Tampa a good look when Grzelcyk took a hooking penalty in a 2-2 game 8:25 into the final frame.
DeBrusk, who had an excellent OT, had a chance to win it in the shootout after Charlie Coyle, Pastrnak, and Marchand couldn’t beat Andrei Vasilevskiy (33 saves on 36 shots). DeBrusk’s try was blockered aside.
“Shootouts is 50-50,” Pastrnak said. “It’s too bad we weren’t able to get the two points.”