BOSTON – The Bruins had a tall order in front of them taking on the most explosive team in the NHL and doing it with Tuukka Rask in the net. A goaltender that has struggled for the balance of this season. But the Black and Gold surprised as they’ve made a habit of doing at points this season, and made a bold statement in taking out the Lightning in a 3-2 win over the Atlantic Division leaders at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
The B’s were all over the Bolts in the first period while outshooting Tampa Bay by a 19-6 margin, putting a couple of scores on the board against a Lightning team that was slow out of the gate playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Charlie McAvoy scored his third of the year on a point blast with traffic in front, but the goal was initially called back due to goaltender interference on Brad Marchand. A coach’s challenge overturned the original no-goal call on the ice, and momentum fell in the Bruins direction.
The first goal was followed with a wicked Riley Nash wrist shot that found the back of the net, thanks to a slick set-up from Danton Heinen. The Bruins went into the first intermission rolling with a two-goal lead. The Black and Gold extended their lead to three goals in the second period when D-man Torey Krug smoked a one-timer blast past Andrei Vasilevskiy, after Ryan Spooner dangled though a pair of Tampa defenders before finding the open D-man all alone in the face-off circle. Tampa fought back and scratched for one in the second on an Andrej Sustr blast from the point, but couldn’t get more despite a close call with a Tyler Johnson net drive off the post. Steve Stamkos closed it to a one-goal game in the third on a cross-ice pass from Nikita Kucherov in the opening seconds of the final stanza.
But that was all the Lightning could muster and they would eventually fall to the Bruins. Tampa has now lost four of their last six games in their first slide of the season.
Rask made eight of his 19 saves in the game during the third period protecting a tight one-goal lead, and captured his first win since the beginning of November to push his record up to 4-8-2 on the season. None of the rest of Rask’s 19 stops were as big as his second period leg pad stop on a Kucherov one-time, sweeping wrist shot in the closing seconds of the middle period that would have been a crushing, momentum-shifting score had he not stopped it.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while the reviews from the Last Jedi start pouring in.
-- USA Today takes an early look at the expected 2018 NHL free-agent class, which will be pretty good with players like John Carlson, James van Riemsdyk and John Tavares leading the way. But take a look at 2019: Tyler Seguin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty. That’s the class that NHL teams should be saving their rainy day funds for.
-- Erik Karlsson isn't concerned that he was asked to provide a no-trade list to Ottawa Senators management, but it sure sounds like the Sens are considering some major decisions right now as they struggle following last spring’s playoff run.
-- PHT writer Adam Gretz has the details of Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella basically blowing off the media after an ugly loss on Tuesday night.
-- Does Auston Matthews have a concussion right now? That is the million-dollar question in Toronto.
-- Johnny Gaudreau threw out a shootout move against the Minnesota Wild that was so nasty Bruce Boudreau was questioning if it was legal.
-- The Calgary Flames are growing in confidence and building momentum as they forge ahead in the Western Conference.
-- For something completely different: As the review pour in, here is a spoiler-free Last Jedi review from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb after he was able to get into a sneak preview earlier this week.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while trying to figure out when exactly I’m going to be able to go see the new Star Wars movie.
*The New York Islanders were crying in their beer over the fact that Brad Marchand side-stepped a suspension and claimed it was because John Tavares didn’t writhe around, kick and scream on the ice like a soccer player. The truth is the play wasn’t the kind of thing that’s going to injure a player under normal circumstances but was clearly a late, uncalled for hit. That’s why it got the five-minute major penalty and nothing more. Threatening to give an award-winning acting performance next time in order to try and get a suspension for an opposing player just sounds like crybaby soup from the Isles. Buckle the chin strap and get ready to play a contact sport next time, particularly if you’re Tavares, who was hacking at Charlie McAvoy’s legs with your stick like you’re Paul Bunyan chopping at a piece of wood. It works both ways, you know?
*The Winnipeg Jets continue to be one of the excellent, unsung stories of the NHL’s first half as they really take hold at the top of the Western Conference.
*Here’s a good piece on Jonathan Quick and what his good health has meant to a resurgent Los Angeles Kings team this season.
*Former Boston College standout goalie Thatcher Demko is way ahead of schedule in the Vancouver Canucks organization, but they’re not looking to rush him.
*Here’s a great video of a youngster playing the Star-Spangled Banner on the violin prior to a New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Well done, young lady!
*Pro Hockey Talk as the details of the Ducks and Red Wings getting into a fight on Monday night ahead of the Bruins traveling to Hockeytown for a Wednesday night showdown.
*For something completely different: A list of the 10 actors who could replace Ben Affleck as Batman now that DC has given up the charade that they’re not intending to replace him underneath the cowl.