The Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely dominated the Boston Bruins, earning a 4-0 shutout in their final regular-season meeting of the 2017-18 season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a huge task in front of them tonight. Despite losing captain Steven Stamkos to a Lower-Body Injury, the Lightning would need to bring their ‘A’ game as they took on the one team who has had their number all season long, the Boston Bruins.
While not finishing at the top of the Atlantic Division would not be the worst thing in the world that could potentially happen, a win against a team like the Bruins would definitely give the Lightning some momentum heading into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Lightning fans saw on the ice in the first period of play was vastly different from the one that took the ice on March 29 at the TD Garden in Boston. The Bolts were aggressive with the puck and the defense was able to limit the number of chances the Bruins got in the zone.
It would be the Lightning who would receive the first crack at the Power Play as Bruins forward Danton Heinen was sent to the sin bin for two minutes for Tripping against Lightning forward Cedric Paquette. The Bolts would make a good effort but simply couldn’t convert on the opportunity.
The Bruins would also get their first opportunity with the man advantage in the first period. Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev would make his way to the penalty box for two minutes for Tripping Bruins forward David Krejci. The good news here is the Lightning would prevent the Bruins from getting a single shot on goal during the Power Play, thus successfully killing it off.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning would finish off the period on the Power Play as Bruins forward David Pastrnak would head off for Tripping against Lightning forward Ondrej Palat. When the buzzer would sound, the Lightning and Bruins would remain scoreless. The Bolts would start the second period with 1:53 left on the Power Play.
Despite the challenges the Lightning were facing coming into tonight’s game, the Bolts essentially dominated the first period of play. The Lightning outshot the Bruins 17-8 in the first 20 minutes of play, limited the Bruins shots on goal during the Power Play, and controlled the faceoff circle.
The first period could easily be considered a playoff-caliber game. It’s blatantly obvious both teams had a goal coming into tonight’s contest. In the end, it’s going to come down to the team who wants it more, the team who’s willing to fight for every inch and leave it all out of the ice.
While the first period of play had a lot of positives on both sides of the ice, the second period of play was all about the Tampa Bay Lightning. The floodgates opened at 5:01 in the second when Lightning forward Brayden Point picked up his 31st goal of the season with assists from Nikita Kucherov and Braydon Coburn.
Under six minutes later, the Lightning would strike again with a goal from defenseman Victor Hedman. The Lightning fought hard to keep the puck in the zone. Braydon Coburn got control of the puck right outside the faceoff circle and passed it back to Hedman, who wasted no time in putting the puck on the net.
There were around six minutes left in the period when Lightning would strike for the third time. This time, it would be Chris Kunitz who would pick up his 13th goal of the season to give the Lightning a three-goal lead over the Bruins.
The crowd at the Amalie Arena let out a frustrated groan as the Bruins contested the Kunitz goal on the ground of Goaltender Interference. Lightning fans would be lying to themselves if they said these calls usually go in the favor of the Bolts. Albeit, this time, it was pretty apparent there was no Interference.
It took a moment for the “hockey gods” in Toronto to review the play, but when all was said and done the call on the ice would stand and for a single moment in time the world would stop spinning. Fans should mark this date down on their calendar…the Lightning actually won a challenge.
The Lightning would finish off the period on the Penalty Kill as Victor Hedman would score a one-way ticket to the sin in for Interference against Danton Heinen. Hedman seemed a little thrown off by the penalty, but at the end of the day, there is no arguing with the referees; even if they do make a weak call.
Despite the penalty to end the period, the Lightning essentially dominated the second period. Much like the first period, the Lightning outshot the Bruins in the second period. This time, it would be by 13-16 for a two-period total of 21-33. Yes…the Lightning had 33 shots on goal at the conclusion of the second period.
The Bolts continued to dominate in the faceoff circle as well. Through two periods of play, the Lightning would control the faceoff circle 43-57. The Lightning has played excellent hockey through two periods. The Bolts would need to continue this style of play into the third if they wanted to come home victorious.
There was good news to start the third period of play. The Lightning was able to kill off the penalty to Hedman and get back in control of the game. Speaking of control, the Lightning would pick up their fourth goal of the game off a tremendous play by forward J.T. Miller. This would be Miller’s 23rd goal of the season and his 10th as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Starting at 6:49 in the period, the Lightning would get two consecutive Power Play opportunities. The first would come as the notorious Brad Marchand would get whistled for Hooking against Nikita Kucherov.
Prior to the expiration of the Marchand penalty, the Bolts would find themselves with a short 5-on-3 as Tim Schaller was called for Delay of Game. The Bruins would kill off both penalties and return to full strength fairly unscathed. Well…other than being down 4-0 in the third period.
The Boston Bruins gave the Tampa Bay Lightning everything they had in the second half of the third period, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. Tonight, the Lightning would break the curse which has plagued them all season long as they shut out the Bruins in their final meeting of the regular season.
This was a tremendous game for the Lightning; something the team really needed heading into the final two games of the regular season. The Bolts defense was solid all the way through; the offensive kept continual pressure on the Bruins, and Andrei Vasilevskiy played the way fans have come to expect from him.
For the first time all night long, the Bruins would outshoot the Bolts in the third period. In the final 20 minutes, the Bruins outshot the Lightning 12-3 for a three-period total of 33-36 in favor of the Lightning. The Bolts continued to dominate in the faceoff circle, ending the game with a 43-57 Faceoff Won Percentage.
The Lightning set two new franchise records in tonight’s victory over the Bruins. The first of these two records is for most points in a single season with 110 points. This surpasses the record set by the 2014-15 team who set the bar with 108 points.
The second record of the evening came at the hands of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy set a new franchise record for shutouts in a single season, picking up his 8th shutout of the season against the Bruins. This surpasses former Lightning netminder Nikolai Khabibulin who registered seven in his time with the Bolts.
While the road is going to be difficult, there is still a chance the Lightning could recapture the top spot in the Atlantic Division. If the Bolts are going to achieve this lofty goal, they will have to finish off the season playing the exact same way they did tonight against the Bruins. The Lightning has a bad habit of playing to their opponents and not their own abilities.
Considering both teams the Lightning face to finish off the season, the Lightning will definitely need to play to their own abilities and not their opponents. At this point, both the Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes have essentially been eliminated from playoff contention.
Tonight’s shutout victory was a definitive step in the right direction. A victory like this goes a long way when it comes to shifting momentum in the favor of the Bolts. At this point, it’s all about keeping the momentum going until the final buzzer sounds to end the regular season.
The season series may have met its conclusion, but this may not be the last time these two teams meet. There is a solid chance the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins will meet in the playoffs. The Lightning has been down this road with the Bruins before and everyone here in the Bolts Nation knows what a hard-fought series this could turn into.
Next up, the Lightning will open the doors to the Amalie Arena for one final time this season as they host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. This is the first game of a season-ending back-to-back series which will culminate on Saturday night at the PNC Arena as the Lightning take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
After tonight’s 4-0 shutout victory over the Boston Bruins, Lightning fans are riding a serious high. Here’s hoping this high continues on into the weekend after the Bolts pick up another pair of victories. If the Bolts play the way they did tonight, this definitely shouldn’t be a problem.