The Boston Bruins are one loss away from exiting the Toronto bubble after losing 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of their second-round series.
Here are some talking points from Game 4:
GOLD STAR: Ondrej Palat has been a killer in this series for the Lightning. Palat scored each of the game's first two goals and gave Tampa Bay a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the first couple of periods. The first goal was a nice play where he cruised to the front of the net and found a spot in the interior B’s defense before converting a pass from Brayden Point, while the second goal was a one-timer that beat Jaroslav Halak’s glove hand for a crushing 2-0 lead.
Palat finished with the two goals and a plus-2 rating in 18:42 of ice time while putting up five shots on net, one hit and three takeaways in a stellar performance. Palat has been an absolute Bruins assassin in this playoff series with four goals and six points in four games.
BLACK EYE: The Bruins have circled the wagons for Nick Ritchie, but his mistakes were unforgivable in this game. He jumped Cedric Paquette – a guy who's looking for him to do exactly that before he turtles and draws a penalty – and landed in the penalty box after pummeling him, then hit Yanni Gourde far too late with a dangerous hit away from the boards that earned him a five-minute major.
The Lightning scored on that power play to take a 3-0 lead that the Bruins couldn't surmount. That’s two games in a row where Ritchie’s lack of discipline has hurt the Bruins and dug them a hole against a superior Lighting team that’s taking advantage of every chance Boston is giving them.
I expected Ritchie to be benched in the third period, but instead Bruce Cassidy kept rolling him out there and covered for him after the game. I guess the B’s are all-in on Ritchie at this point.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins were still locked in a 1-0 game in the second period and showed signs of taking control of the game, but then disaster struck in the form of Tampa Bay's second score, a soft goal on Halak.
Nikita Kucherov fed Ondrej Palat with the saucer pass and Palat smoked a one-timer under the bar that Halak simply missed with his glove-hand save attempt.
It was a gut punch for the Bruins that pushed them down by two goals and was followed less than two minutes later by Ritchie bludgeoning Gourde with a late hit that put the B’s shorthanded again. Once that sequence happened, it was game over for the Bruins and probably series over with the B’s down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
HONORABLE MENTION: Hand it to Jake DeBrusk for being the only player who was able to light the lamp in Game 4. DeBrusk scored on a nice play shooting through an Ondrej Kase screen to make it a 3-1 game in the third period, but that’s as close as the B’s would get after the power play score.
DeBrusk finished with seven shot attempts and was pretty engaged while playing the body and using his skating legs throughout his 14:45 of ice time.
The second line was at least a little better in Game 4 while generating some chances. For the second game in a row, however, the Tampa defense was able to stymie the Perfection Line and pretty much bottle up Boston’s offense just as it did in the teams' playoff series a couple of years ago.
BY THE NUMBERS: .899 – the save percentage for Jaroslav Halak in this series vs. Tampa Bay, which is not going to get it done.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've just got to get shots through. There's no excuse for it.” – David Krejci, in a very terse postgame press conference in which he was clearly upset at being down 3-1 to the Lightning again a couple of years after the Bruins lost to Tampa in five games.