BOSTON -- The Bruins are one of the NHL's most high-powered teams offensively. They rank No. 2 in goals scored with a deep roster that rolls four lines all capable of finding the back of the net.
In fact, the Bruins have won 23 games this season by three or more goals.
But not every matchup is going to be a high-scoring affair, especially in the playoffs -- where teams tighten up defensively, the physicality is ratcheted up and referees tend to call fewer penalties. The great teams are able to win low-scoring games against quality opponents in high-intensity atmospheres, and the Bruins proved once again Saturday that they are capable of doing that.
The Bruins defeated the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 at TD Garden.
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This was a playoff-style game. Despite all of the high-end skill on both sides, this matchup was all about will and determination. Which team was going to emerge from a 60-minute slugfest?
"I think 85 percent of it was will, by both teams," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "It just made for a really good hockey game, maybe a late 1980s, early 1990s type of hockey game, but it's great because we're going to face this in the playoffs. We're going to face games where it's physical and it's hard. I really liked the way we responded. After the first period, I thought we really got to our game 5-on-5, and I just thought everyone started winning foot races, which is a huge indicator of not being deterred by any physicality that comes our way."
It took just nine seconds for tempers to flare when a near line brawl broke out at center ice following the opening faceoff. Garnet Hathaway fought Pat Maroon, and Jakub Lauko went toe-to-toe with Ross Colton.
"We had an inkling Tampa Bay was going to want to play a very energetic and emotional game," Montgomery said. "I didn't know it was going to happen (nine seconds in). We start (the fourth line) at home a lot because they get us off to a good start, and they did again today. That game-winning goal by them was instrumental in our victory."
These fights were just the start for the fourth line of Hathaway, Lauko and Tomas Nosek -- a trio that played so well and impacted the game positively in all three zones. The Bruins had a 6-2 advantage in shot attempts, a 3-1 edge in shots on net, a 3-0 lead in scoring chances and a 1-0 goal differential during the 5:15 of ice time the fourth line of Lauko-Nosek-Hathaway played at 5-on-5.
With the score tied at a goal apiece late in the second period, a strong forecheck by Lauko and a puck battle win by Nosek sent the puck to the point, where Matt Grzelcyk fired it toward Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Hathaway muscled his way to the front of the net and pounced on the puck when Vasilevskiy couldn't handle it cleanly. Hathaway's goal ended up being the game-winner for the B's.
The Bruins will need scoring from their bottom-six to win the Stanley Cup. They cannot rely too heavily on stars such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to carry most of the scoring burden against elite teams.
Hathaway is a bottom-six forward who can give the Bruins a couple goals, and one of the reasons why is because he'll go to the tough areas of the ice and win battles for the puck, like he did on the game-winning goal Saturday.