B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

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B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

TAMPA – One has to wonder what the Tampa Bay Lightning are thinking after Saturday night’s game. 

It’s probably something along the lines of “Oh crap” after the Bruins completely shut them down while missing their top defensemen pairing, their best all-around player and top line center, their most impactful rookie forward and also losing their best power forward, who was filling in as top line center, in the first period. The undermanned Bruins made a big, fat statement with their 3-0 win over the well-rested, healthy Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena at the end of a long, four-game road trip, and now sit just two points behind the Bolts with 12 games to play in the regular season. 

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It was impressive enough that the Black and Gold won at all against the NHL’s best team while missing so many of their top shelf players, but to do it while also totally shutting down Tampa’s offense was something worth remarking about. The Bruins defense and goaltending had been playing a bit fast and loose for the better part of a month, and had been bailed out time and again by an offense that’s been dropping big numbers lately. 

But the Bruins went into Saturday night determined to leave an impression with the Lightning about what awaits them next month once the playoffs start, and they did it with physical, gritty defense that left Tampa with little space to operate. Even better the Bruins defensemen moved the puck pretty much perfectly and swiftly all night, blocked shots with hard-nosed determination and proved they could do more than survive without Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. 

That’s damned impressive when you consider the opponents from Tampa Bay lining up against them with a chance to clinch their playoff spot, and what’s on the line for both teams headed into the final three weeks of the regular season. 

“We were looking at it as more of a bounce-back against a really good team, and let’s see where we are. I thought we answered the bell,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Probably the biggest win in a long time. We've had some nice comebacks and some high-scoring affairs, but it was nice to get a zero [goals allowed] in the column. It’s been a while. 

“It was just good, solid team defense…winning pucks. It was probably not the prettiest hockey, but I thought the goals we scored were pretty nice ones going to the net. It was playoff hockey. I thought we were better at it than they were tonight. Who knows how the next one is going to go, but we’re going to enjoy this.”

It was clear early on that the Bruins wanted to set the tone both physically and style of play-wise, and they did just that. The pounding physicality clearly bothered the Lightning as Steven Stamkos made an uncharacteristic choice to retaliate against Tim Schaller after he threw a heavy hit on the Tampa Bay star player. That landed Stamkos in the box and set the Bruins up for their first of two power play goals on the evening. 

Those two power play goals were proof enough that the Bruins had their special teams in good order, but it took just a combined 23 seconds of power play time to strike for those two scores against the Lightning penalty kill. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to keep Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay coaching staff up at night before the final two meetings between these two teams. The suffocating defense, the stout physicality and the quick strike offense just completely overwhelmed the Lightning, and things went exactly according to the game plan that Bruce Cassidy had set out for them prior to the game. 

“We’re a confident group back there, and when we play the way we’re supposed to we can compete with anybody,” said Kevan Miller, who played a punishing, physical 21:41 of ice time in the win. “It’s that time of year where we’re pushing for the playoffs, we’re grinding away and we knew as a group after [the Florida loss] we needed to tighten things up. We did that. That’s a tough team over there, so you need to take time and space away from them. As a group we did a great job of that.”

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the Bruins early was David Backes exiting quickly at the end of the first after his right thigh got sliced by an errant skate blade. But even the 33-year-old Backes managed to avoid serious injury despite approximately 18 stitches to close the wound, and was cracking jokes about it as he limped to the Bruins bus postgame.

Clearly things can and will change with two games remaining between the two teams in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Bruins should theoretically be even better and more difficult to beat once they got all of their key players healthy, and that’s got to be a frightening prospect for the Lightning. 

MORE - Talking Points: B's start strong and don't look back vs Tampa

Then again perhaps the Bolts were a little rusty after three days off leading into Saturday night, and they needed to be kicked in the teeth by the Bruins to start getting that hunger back. Either way the Bruins are within a single win of pulling into a tie for the top spot in the East and home ice throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Nobody should be surprised the Bruins did it once again while fighting through injuries and a brutal late season schedule, and that’s a testament to how stubbornly they’ve successfully plowed through adversity this season. 

The dominant win over Tampa on Saturday night just serves as another piece of compelling hockey evidence that something special is building with the Black and Gold. It’s become impossible to deny or ignore as the Bruins continue bucking the odds in a way that should have everybody else’s full attention around the NHL at this point.


Talking Points from the Bruins' 2-1 OT win: A grinding win is what the B's deserved

Talking Points from the Bruins' 2-1 OT win: A grinding win is what the B's deserved

Talking points from the Bruins' 2-1 victory over the Senators. . .


GOLD STAR: Torey Krug now has two goals in two games after not having any in the first 17 games of the season. Krug hammered away at a point shot for the goal in Saturday night’s win over the Maple Leafs, and then in overtime camped down at the net and waited for David Krejci to wheel around the back of the Sens net and float a pass across the front of the ice. Krug finished with points on each of Boston’s goals in the overtime victory and had five shots on net, seven shot attempts, three hits and a pair of blocked shots in 22:06 of ice time. The Bruins needed some skilled players still healthy to really get going offensively and Krug has done exactly that.

BLACK EYE: A literal black eye for Sean Kuraly, who dropped the gloves with mammoth Ottawa defenseman Ben Harpur in the second period and caught an uppercut right-handed punch that busted him wide open. It looked like the punch broke Kuraly’s nose and ripped open his lip, but the fourth line center was back on the bench later in the period bloodied and ready to take another shift. It’s a hard-knock life for Kuraly as a fourth line center, but kudos to him for stepping up and fighting after Harpur quickly dropped the gloves to go after him. The glove drop was so fast, in fact, that Harpur ended up getting an instigator penalty as a result after the fracas was over. Also, the Kuraly/Harpur exchange got Boston the PP that supplied Marchand’s power play strike.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins took over the game in the third period when they outshot the Senators 14-4 and watched Tuukka Rask make a couple of dazzling saves on the good chances that Ottawa was able to generate. Then the Bruins completely dominated an overtime session that befuddled them earlier in the season and got a scoring chance with Sean Kuraly, and then finally with the game-winning connection from David Krejci to Sean Kuraly. The B’s got stronger as the game went on and that shouldn’t exactly be the case on the second half of a back-to-back with less than 24 hours of rest. But the Bruins managed it and got the two points. A great weekend for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand was everywhere for the Bruins. He took an elbowing penalty in the first period while in the offensive zone on the PK, which wasn’t very good. But then he sniped a power play goal in the second period that tied things up and kept the Bruins in a tight back-and-forth game. He leveled Ryan Dzingel in the third period with a big hit as well, and was all over the ice with shots on net, offensive chances and physical play. Marchand led the Bruins with nine shots on net and a couple of registered hits, and stepped up in a way that hasn’t always been easy for him with his partner-in-crime, No. 37, out of the lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of games that Zach Hyman was suspended for his late, dirty hit on Charlie McAvoy in the third period of Saturday night’s Bruins win over the Maple Leafs. That was the right decision by the Department of Player Safety.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “David Krejci made a heck of a pass. I didn’t even see the pass, but I was just able to swing away and luckily it went in.” –Torey Krug to NESN, on his game-winner in overtime where he was just blindly hammering away at the puck.

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Zach Hyman suspended two games for hit on Charlie McAvoy

Zach Hyman suspended two games for hit on Charlie McAvoy

After delivering a brutal hit on Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, Toronto's Zach Hyman has been suspended for two games. 

McAvoy was playing in his second game back from a concussion, making the hit a touchy subject for the Bruins. 

Bruce Cassidy called it, "late and unnecessary" given the hit happened late in the third period of a 6-3 win by the Bruins. 

Fortunately for the Bruins, McAvoy did not miss any time. He was listed as an active participant for the Bruins' matchup with the Senators Monday. 

Hyman made a dirty play, and now he will pay the consequences. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.