Bruins

Bruins vs. Lightning takeaways: B's bounce back with statement win

Bruins

Two points would've counted all the same for the Boston Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night no matter how they won.

But after their winning streak can to an end with a whimper against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, it can't be overstated just how impressive Boston's 5-2 win over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions -- who currently own the NHL's best record -- was for the Bruins.

Could Rask re-join B's without stint in minors?

David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, now playing on different lines, each scored twice while Linus Ullmark made 27 saves as Boston held the Bolts off the scoreboard until the third period in moving to 18-11-2 on the season.

It was Ullmark's first win vs. Tampa Bay in six chances; the former Buffalo Sabre was 0-5-0 before Saturday (Jeremy Swayman started in Boston's overtime loss to the Lightning in December).

Here are some of the key takeaways from the big win for the Bruins, who are 4-1 since the calendar flipped to 2022.

Pastrnak, Hall awakening from hibernation

In four games since the New Year, Pastrnak had just one point, a goal against the New Jersey Devils, giving him 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) over 30 games this season. 

Not horrible numbers, but it's been a far cry from the Pastrnak we're used to, the one who had 374 points (175 goals, 199 assists) in 341 games for Boston over the last five seasons.

Though neither of his two goals against the Lightning were the kinds of seeing-eye snipes Pastrnak has become renowned for, the avalanche has to start rolling somewhere.

 

His first goal, just 1:11 into regulation, was the result of nothing more than the age-old adage of getting pucks on net:

The second strike for Pastrnak, meanwhile, was the result of cleaning up a rebound -- with some nifty footwork -- on a shot by Taylor Hall:

Hall had helpers on both of Pastrnak's goals, giving him six points (two goals, four assists) in five games since Boston's return to action on New Year's Day.

With Marchand scoring a goal 0:26 into the second period on a feed from Patrice Bergeron, not to mention a bevy of other scoring chances for both the Marchand-Bergeron-Craig Smith and Hall-Erik Haula-Pastrnak lines, the case to keep the Perfection Line separated continues to grow stronger.

Plus, it's not like the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak has made a difference in either of Boston's recent postseason setbacks against Tampa. Speaking of which...

Trouble with Tampa not as present as in past

In two games against the Lightning this season, the Bruins have earned three of a possible four points, having forced overtime in a 3-2 loss against them on December 4 at TD Garden prior to Saturday's triumph.

A small sample size, of course, but after the struggles Boston has had with Tampa in recent seasons, it's important to string together some impressive performances against a team that's sure to be waiting for the B's at some point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins and Bolts didn't face one another in 2020-21 due to pandemic-induced realignment, but prior to that, Boston had gone 2-5-1 against Tampa in the regular season between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons -- in addition to postseason losses to the Lightning in the second round of both the 2018 and 2020 postseasons, the Lightning eliminating the Bruins in five games each series.

Boston is scheduled to play Tampa Bay again on March 24 at home and on April 8 in Florida.

The Bruins have 38 points and are in sole possession of the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Though Boston still has games at hand with basically every contender in the East, they're still eight points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic and seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first wild-card. Add it all up and a matchup with Tampa Bay in the first round of the postseason is a very real possibility.

Nice night for depth pieces

Charlie McAvoy wound up not playing after all on Saturday, despite initial optimism he'd return to the lineup. That gave the Bruins a chance to check out 23-year-old Urho Vaakanainen, who logged 14:23 in his season debut. Most importantly for Vaakanainen, Boston's first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, is that he wasn't on the ice for either Tampa Bay goal.

Anton Blidh was, in essence, promoted twice on Saturday: first into the lineup at all, initially skating on the fourth line, and later jumping up to the third line after Nick Foligno left with a lower-body injury.

 

For his efforts, Blidh scored his second goal of the season, though Oskar Steen's pass to set it up was just as noteworthy:

Team discipline takes step in right direction

After serving a season-high 28 penalty minutes against the Wild on Thursday, the Bruins committed only four minor penalties on Saturday for a total of eight penalty minutes.

Tampa's power play has been surprisingly average to date this season -- it was 15th in the league at 19.6 percent entering play Saturday -- but the Bruins didn't need to be the team to awaken what's surely a sleeping monster.

Trent Frederic, who had 16 PIMs on Thursday, stayed out of the box entirely.

Taking four minor penalties is still something less than ideal, but turning in a clean sheet on the penalty kill is a nice touch for the B's.

Boston is on the road against the Washington Capitals on Monday at 7 p.m. in the nation's capital before returning home for a seven-game homestand on Wednesday.