With the 2017 NHL All-Star festivities in the history books, the Boston Bruins returned to action against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa’s Amalie Arena and began the League’s stretch run with a 4-3 win.
The victory gives the Bruins a three-game win streak with all three wins coming by the same score of 4-3.
Three Bruins, David Krejci (one goal, one assist), Brad Marchand (two assists), and Colin Miller (two assists) set the pace with two points each. Goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 18 Tampa Bay shots in recording the win.
Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn scored twice and defenseman Victor Hedman assisted on all three of his team’s goals. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 31 of 35 Boston shots.
“I felt that our will to win got better in the second and third (periods) and I think that was the difference in the game,” Boston coach Claude Julien said after the game. “We came out in the second with a much better period (than the first period) and in the third period, we kept pushing and got ourselves a real important win here.”
The first period was played as expected from two teams that had the last four days away from the rink. The pace was not up to NHL standards. One highlight of the period saw Boston’s Jimmy Hayes drop the gloves with Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn in a Beanpot bout. Hayes played his college hockey for Boston College. Killorn played at Harvard University.
The other highlight of the period saw Bruin defenseman Colin Miller make sure that the game remain a 0-0 tie when he swiped Jason Garrison’s shot, that had eluded Rask, away from the crease just before completely crossing the goal line. After the game, Rask said he thanked Miller for keeping the Lightning off the scoreboard.
Tampa Bay finished the period with an 8-4 edge in shots on goal but it was a 0-0 game.
The second period was more of the same until Killorn gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 8:41 into the period with his 14th goal of the season. He received a pass from Hedman at the left point, moved into the top of the faceoff circle and sent a slap shot that beat Rask on the ice to his glove side. Tyler Johnson, who fed the puck to Hedman, drew the secondary assist on the goal.
Both teams traded chances until Patrice Bergeron tied the score for the Bruins with both clubs skating four-on-four due to penalties. After some elite skating and puck handling exhibited by Marchand, Bergeron went to the front of the Tampa Bay net as Marchand passed the puck back to the Adam McQuaid at the right point. McQuaid put a shot-pass towards the net where Bergeron got his stick on the puck to deflect it past Bishop at 18:08 of the period. It was the 12th goal of the season for Bergeron and 250th of his NHL career.
As the clock wound down toward the intermission, Krejci found the back of the net with one second to play in the period giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Handling the puck in the Lightning zone, he carried it along the right wing boards towards the blue line before finding Marchand with a pass in the middle of the ice. Marchand took the same route as Krejci then returned the disc to Krejci in the high slot. Krejci held onto it for a split-second before getting a wrist shot off that sailed over Bishop’s glove hand. It was the 12th of the year for Krejci. Kevan Miller was also credited with an assist on the play.
The period ended with the drop of the puck at center ice and Boston led 2-1 and took over the advantage in shots on net with 20 to Tampa Bay’s 12.
The Bruins continued to control the game early in the third period but the Lightning, last Spring’s Eastern Conference finalists, were not going to go down in defeat easily on home ice.
Killorn struck for his second of the contest and 15th of the season 4:46 into the period. Tyler Johnson won an offensive zone faceoff to Hedman, who was at the right point. Hedman skated the puck toward the right corner then sent a centering pass in front of Rask’s crease. The puck hit a skate and landed on Killorn’s stick and the winger sent a one-timer wrist shot past the goaltender’s blocker to tie the game at 2-2.
Zdeno Chara answered Killorn’s goal 3:05 later. Matt Beleskey began the play by winning a puck battle with Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle along the left half-wall in the Lightning end of the ice. Beleskey moved it back to Colin Miller at the left point. Miller saw Chara skating in from his left point position and sent a cross-ice pass to the Bruin captain. Chara sent a booming slap shot past Bishop’s blocker and off the post before the puck settled in the net giving Boston a 3-2 lead. The marker was the fourth goal of the season for Chara.
Boston would open some breathing space with a power play goal by Frank Vatrano at 12:23 of the period while Lightning forward Cedric Paquette sat in the penalty box for high-sticking Adam McQuaid. Krejci, who was a going concern all night, won a battle for the puck along the right half-wall in Tampa Bay’s zone. He passed it back to Colin Miller, who quickly returned it to Krejci. The veteran centerman found Vatrano on the opposite side of the ice and moved the puck over to him a the top of the faceoff circle. Vatrano skated into the circle before putting a hard snap shot behind Bishop low to the netminder’s blocker-side to increase Boston’s lead to 4-2.
Lightning rookie forward Brayden Point would score with 3:04 remaining in the third period from Hedman and Jake Dotchin cutting Boston’s lead to 4-3 before pulling Bishop for an extra skater but the Bruins (26-21-6) would withstand the Lightning attack and leave the Sunshine State with the victory.
“We didn’t quit,” said Bergeron. “That was a great job by everyone.”
After the game, the Bruins hopped on a plane and headed for Washington where they will face off against the Capitals Wednesday night (8:00 pm; NBCSN, SNE, SNO, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.