The Bruins made their case against the top team in the league without their two biggest leaders, but their valiant effort fell short in the end.
The wounded Bruins were put to the test against the Tampa Bay Lightning who leads the league with 43 points. The Bs get a high-grade for their play, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The Bruins started strong as Charlie McAvoy made his return after a month and a half on the sideline, and he helped the Bs generate some momentum during the first 60 seconds. The first line capitalized on the momentum after Tampa coughed up the puck in their slot, which resulted in David Pastrnak netting his 20th goal of the season just 2:04 into the first.
The Lightning turned it up a notch as the period progressed and began to sustain more offensive zone time. Tampa finally broke through after 13 shots when Nikita Kucherov made a nice dish to Brayden Point who buried for his 21st goal of the season to tie Patrik Laine for the lead league in goals with 5:01 remaining in the period.
The Bruins tried to tilt the ice back in their favor by applying pressure toward the end of the opening period, but Louis Domingue denied them. The Bs’ best chance came on a breakaway by David Pastrnak who was stoned by the toe of Domingue.
Then as the period was winding down, McAvoy needed to take a penalty with 1:10 left when he fanned on the puck leaving a wide open lane for Tampa. The Bs managed to kill off the first portion of the penalty and went into the locker room knotted at 1-1 in Tampa.
The Bruins killed off McAvoy’s penalty to start the second and again tried to tilt the ice back in their favor, but Tampa’s stars kept poking their heads up to keep the ice level. The Bs’ pressure finally proved too much and forced Victor Hedman to take a tripping penalty on Ryan Donato when the fourth line frustrated the blue-chip blue liner. However, the Bruins powerplay struggles continued as they came up empty on the man advantage.
The Bruins fought hard to hang onto the momentum following the failed powerplay, but couldn’t generate any inside chances. Neither team registered a shot for a six-minute and twenty-second stretch after the halfway mark passed. However, the Bs maintained possession and started to make some plays, but Domingue stood tall again and smothered anything close. The teams went to the second intermission still tied 1-1.
Both teams came out battling to start the final period, but the Lightning pounced on a puck just out of Brand Carlo’s reach at the Bs’ blue line, which resulted in a quick strike by Mathieu Joseph to put the Bolts up 2-1 just 2:40 into the period. Then it looked like the Bruins got a break when Domingue shot the puck over the glass, but the luck went the other way as Steven Stamkos blocked a shot that sent Anthony Cirelli on a breakaway.
Going down 3-1 on a shorthanded goal let all the air out of the Bs and the Bolts took command of the play. But, the Bruins didn’t go down without a fight as they again battled to get some momentum back and managed to make it a one goal game as David Krejci found the back of the net for the first time in nineteen games. Then it was an all out attack by the Bs for the final minute and a half, but they couldn’t find the finishing touch.
Final Score: Lightning 3, Bruins 2
Bruins can’t finish. Scoring goals can provide a boost and swing the momentum, and it did just that for the Tampa Bay Lightning who were outplayed for most of the game. The Bruins possessed the puck for the majority of the game, but only found the back of the net once. It says more that Tampa had the puck less and was able to score three. Those type of quick strikes can give a team life and belief. This is something the Bruins are currently lacking.
The Bruins powerplay was beyond bad. Not only was the powerplay unable to score again, but the Bruins gave up a shorthanded goal that decided the game. If NHL coaches could decline penalties like the NFL, the Bruins would want to be declining all penalties against the opposition as of now with the way their powerplay is performing. It hurts more than it helps.
There is no room for moral victories, but there are a lot of positives to take away from a one goal loss to the league leader given the injuries to key Bs. The Bruins competed hard and gave the Bolts all they could handle until the final buzzer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for the Bs this time around. However, they can build off their play against the Lightning as they embark on a difficult stretch in the schedule leading up to the Winter Classic. The Bruins will see the Maple Leafs, Penguins, Sabres (twice), Canadiens, Ducks, and Predators before the end of the year. There is no rest for the weary with valuable points up for grab before 2019.