Stanley Cup Playoffs: Tampa Bay Lightning battle back to extend series lead in OT

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Steven Stamkos
(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Steven Stamkos /

The Tampa Bay Lightning battled back to force an overtime period, allowing the Bolts to extend their series lead to 3-1 over the Boston Bruins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning faced a pivotal challenge tonight at the TD Garden in Boston. Coming into tonight’s game, the Lightning led the series 2-1 over the Boston Bruins. A victory in Game 4 would give the Bolts an opportunity to not only seize a definitive lead but the ability to close out the series on Sunday at home.

The Lightning generally finds themselves in a good position when they strike first and strike hard. This is exactly what the Bolts did against the Bruins tonight. Just over four minutes into the period, Brayden Point seized control of the puck in the neutral zone and sped towards the Bruins zone.

On his way to the net, Point beat both Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy before shooting the puck. Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask would initially make the stop, but Point would dig deep for his own rebound and sink the puck in the back of the net to give the Bolts the early lead.

The Bolts would get the first crack of the night at the Power Play as Bruins forward Rick Nash was whistled for Tripping against Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Before the Nash penalty expired, the Bruins would send another man to the sin bin as Chara was whistled for Delay of Game, giving the Bolts a 19-second 5-on-3.

The Bruins would kill off the penalty to Nash, but the penalty to Chara was a whole other story. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov would join his linemate Steven Stamkos in getting a particularly annoying monkey off his back by picking up his first goal of the series, giving the Lightning a 2-0 lead over the Bruins.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Not long after the halfway point in the period, the Bruins would finally get an opportunity with the man advantage as Lightning forward Yanni Gourde was whistled for Tripping.

The good news is the Lightning were able to kill off the penalty and return to full strength. Unfortunately, their luck wouldn’t last long.

Minutes after the expiration of the Gourde penalty, the Lightning would head back to the Penalty Kill as Stamkos would get called to the box for an Illegal Check to the Head against Rick Nash. This opened the door for David Pastrnak to capitalize and bring this back to a one-goal game.

The Lightning would have an excellent opportunity to swing momentum back in their direction late in the period as Nikita Kucherov fired off a monster of a shot, but the resounding ding of the crossbar put an end to that possibility. When the buzzer would sound, the Lightning would lead the Bruins 2-1.

Unlike previous games in the series, there wasn’t much of a disparity in shots on goal between the Lightning and Bruins in the first period. The Lightning edged out a slight advantage, outshooting the Bruins 11-9 in the first 20 minutes of play. This could have a lot to do with the changes Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy made heading into tonight’s contest. This included adding forward Ryan Donato to the lineup.

The Bruins must’ve had a really good talk during the first intermission because the Bruins made it known early they had no intention of making the same mistakes they did in the first period. Regrettably, the Lightning made it fairly easy for the B’s to tie the game up.

A whole 43 seconds into the second period, Lightning forward Tyler Johnson would get whistled for Tripping against Pastrnak. With less than a minute left in the Power Play, the Bruins would tie things up with a goal from Patrice Bergeron. At this point, the momentum was completely in the Bruins side.

The Lightning would have another opportunity to regain control of the game, but once again the attempt was thwarted before it could really materialize. Stamkos had an amazing breakaway, but the celebrations quickly turned to sighs when Rask robbed Stammer with a glove save.

Through the halfway point in the period, the Bruins had complete control of the narrative. Through the first 10 minutes of the second period, the Bruins would outshoot the Lightning 10-2. This is completely unacceptable for a team with as much talent as the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Things escalated to a whole other level late in the second period. Brad Marchand made a highly questionable hit on Ryan Callahan. Needless to say, Callahan wasn’t real pleased and decided to confront Marchand. This is where things got particularly nasty.

After the two came face to face, Marchand thought it was a bright idea to lick Callahan on the underside of his nose. This has got to be the single most disgusting thing we’ve ever seen play out on the ice.

In what realm does this seem like a good idea? How Ryan Callahan was able to restrain himself and not drop Marchand on the spot will be one of those mysteries we may never understand.

Marchand’s nastiness aside, the Bruins essentially controlled the entire second period of play. When the buzzer sounded to end the period, the Lightning and Bruins would be tied at one, but the shots on goal would tell an entirely different story. The Bruins outshot the Bolts 4-14 in the second period for a two-period total of 15-23 in favor of the Bruins.

The Lightning would need to make a statement in the opening minutes of the third period if they wanted to regain control of the game and somehow bring home a victory in Game 4. Regrettably, this is easier said than done against a team like the Bruins.

The Bolts looked like they were ready to get back in the game when the third period started, but the momentum shift was brief at best. A little over five minutes into the period, the Lightning would head to the Power Play as Bruins forward Noel Acciari was whistled for Hooking against defenseman Victor Hedman.

The Bruins would use this as an opportunity to catch the Lightning unaware and seize total control of the game with a goal from Patrice Bergeron. This would serve as Bergeron’s second goal of the game and sixth of the postseason. The Bruins would now lead the Lightning 3-2.

Before the penalty to Acciari expired, the Lightning would take a penalty as Tyler Johnson was whistled for Slashing against Zdeno Chara. While Johnson did indeed take a slash at Chara, (1) it was for a very good reason and (2) Chara sold the living heck out of the slash.

If we’re being even here, Chara should’ve been called for Tripping against Johnson, but all the refs saw was Chara overselling a tap from Johnson, drawing the penalty. This has pretty much become par for the course when it comes to the NHL’s officiating. Uneven is being entirely too nice when it comes to this discussion.

On the bright side, the Lightning wasn’t quite ready to relegate themselves to a loss just yet. Kucherov gained control of the puck from McAvoy and quickly passed the puck over to J.T. Miller. Miller sent the puck over the Stamkos who wasted no time in pulling back his stick and firing off a resounding shot which beat Rask and tied the game once again.

70. Final. 4. 23. 3

Both teams would give their all in the remaining seven-plus minutes of the third period, but neither the Bolts nor the Bruins would be able to seize control of the narrative and emerge with the lead. When the buzzer sounded to end the third period, the game would be tied at three goals each.

This is the first time in the series these two teams have forced an overtime period. Both teams have a lot on the line tonight and neither one is willing to go down without a fight. If the Lightning wanted to come home with the victory, they would have to make a statement…and quickly.

Everyone here in the Bolts Nation was on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the overtime period. In the opening minutes, the Bruins spent a lot of time in the Lightning’s defensive zone. As you can imagine, the nerves were real for Lightning fans.

Less than five minutes into the overtime period, the nerves of the Bolts Nation dissipated and made way for sheer elation as Dan Girardi deflected a shot from Alex Killorn which beat Rask and hit the back of the net to extend the Lightning’s series lead to 3-1 over the Boston Bruins.

Tonight’s encounter with the Bruins wasn’t exactly the solid game many of us here in the Bolts Nation was hoping for but wins come in many different fashions. When all is said and done, the win is what matters.

Now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are headed home to the Sunshine State. They will have tomorrow off, but Sunday will be a whole different story. On Sunday afternoon, the Lightning will charge back into the Amalie Arena to take on the Bruins in Game 5.

If the Lightning brings home the victory, they will officially punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final. The Bolts Nation shouldn’t start the celebration just yet. The Boston Bruins have their back against the wall and there is no denying they will be looking to get back in the series and send the series back to Boston.

Tonight, the Lightning saw a different Bruins team. They were faster, more aggressive with the puck, and feistier than usual (if that’s even possible.) You can bet when the Bruins bring their game to Tampa they will be looking to display some of the same characteristics.

Next: Steven Stamkos Got A Huge Monkey Off His Back

The puck is scheduled to drop at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. This time, the game is set to be shown on NBC instead of NBC Sports. This is an important matchup for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s hoping they keep momentum on their side and close the series out in front of their hometown fans.