The Boston Bruins were forced to turn to a rookie goaltender in the midst of an absolutely abysmal 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
The B's and Lightning entered the pivotal Game 3 of their second round Stanley Cup Playoff series tied at one win apiece, and yet Tampa Bay was the only team on the ice that played with any real intensity and poise. The Lightning took a lead with an Ondrej Palat power-play goal at 12:46 of the first period, and 15 seconds later their lead doubled to 2-0 on a Yanni Gourde tally that was aided by the linesman colliding with Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon.
The second period was more of the same for the Bolts. They had a 4-1 lead 8:35 into the period, and it was their fourth goal that resulted in Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy making a change in net. Jaroslav Halak was pulled after making 12 saves on 16 shots, and he was replaced by rookie Dan Vladar, who made his NHL debut.
The lopsided score and the lack of fight in the Bruins made it a pretty easy decision to go with Vladar and give him some valuable experience, even if it was only for about a period and a half.
"He’s in there battling. Good move by [Brayden] Point on the breakaway. He’s going to score on a lot of guys with that move. Listen, it was a point where we felt that if we need Dan Vladar, maybe this is a better way to get him some work," Cassidy said in his postgame press conference.
"Less a reflection on Jaro. Give him a break. Let’s get a look at him. It was four to one I believe and Tampa got energized from that second period and I think we were deflated. I just had a gut feeling our guys were going to have a tough time pushing back from three goals down, so let’s look at Vladdy. I’ll have to look at it more. There’s a lot of things going on. (Goalie coach Bob Essensa) will talk to Vladdy. I’m glad he got an opportunity to play. I don’t wish it in that circumstance, but it is what it is and he got him some work. Hopefully he’s better off for it down the road."
Vladar gave up three goals on 15 shots, but it's hard to fault him for those tallies. The Bruins played poorly in front of him. After giving up a breakaway goal to Brayden Point, the B's allowed Gourde to walk in unopposed and then failed to clear the rebound before Alex Killorn pounced on it to score his second goal of the game. Killorn's goal gave Tampa Bay a 6-1 lead.
The Bruins need better goaltending, there's no doubt about that. But the B's need to make life a little easier for their goalies, too. Boston is giving up 12 more shots on net per game than it did during the first round series versus the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins must be better defensively or this series could end quicker than anticipated.