Steven Stamkos scored a pair of goals– including the eventual game-winner– in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday at Amalie Arena.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (13-8-1 record, 2.78 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 22 games played) made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in the win for the Lightning.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (13-4-3, 2.24 GAA, .926 SV% in 20 games played) stopped 28 out of 31 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the loss.
The B’s fell to 20-7-6 (46 points) on the season, but remain in command of the Atlantic Division, while the Bolts improved to 16-11-3 (35 points) and jumped to 4th place in the Atlantic .
Boston fell to 8-6-1 on the road this season and 2-2-1 in the 2nd game of back-to-backs this season.
The Bruins are now on a five-game losing streak for the first time under head coach, Bruce Cassidy. The last four games have been regulation losses, which marks the first time that Boston has lost four straight games in regulation since the 2016-17 season (when Claude Julien was fired and Cassidy was promoted/hired).
Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) were all out of the lineup due to injury against Tampa.
Kuhlman, Senyshyn and Anton Blidh (shoulder– injured in the preseason) have all resumed skating according to Cassidy.
Miller, on the other hand, has not as a result of yet another setback in his recovery.
Cassidy made no adjustments to his forwards from Wednesday night’s, 3-2, loss in Washington to Thursday night’s lineup against the Lightning, but he did replace Connor Clifton on the blue line with John Moore.
Clifton joined Par Lindholm and David Backes as Boston’s short list of healthy scratches in Tampa.
Shortly after puck drop, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, squared off with Lightning forward, Pat Maroon, as the two players exchanged fisticuffs 27 seconds into the first period.
Both players received five-minute majors for fighting in what was just the 7th fight this season for Boston and 2nd in as many days as Chara fought Tom Wilson in Washington on Wednesday night.
Moments later, Brad Marchand wrapped around the Tampa net and sent a quick pass to Patrice Bergeron (10) in the low slot whereby the league’s current longest tenured alternate captain slid the rubber biscuit past Vasilevskiy while the Bolts goaltender dropped his stance.
Marchand (30) and Charlie McAvoy (11) notched the assists on Bergeron’s goal at 4:26 of the first period as the Bruins took the, 1-0, lead.
Of note, Bergeron skated in his 1,052nd career NHL game– tying current Boston General Manager, Don Sweeney, for 3rd all time in franchise history.
Only Ray Bourque (1,518) and Johnny Bucyk (1,436) have played in more games in their tenure with the B’s.
Midway through the period, Moore tripped Alex Killorn at 12:44, but the Lightning weren’t able to capitalize on their first power play of the night.
Heading into the first intermission, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite being outshot, 7-4, by the Bolts.
Tampa also led in hits (17-9), but Boston led in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (3-1), giveaways (2-0) and faceoff win percentage (64-36).
Entering the second period, the Lightning were 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.
Ryan McDonagh kicked things off in the middle frame with an interference minor at 2:12 of the second period, but Boston once again struggled all night long on the power play– failing to convert on their first skater advantage of the night.
About a couple of minutes later, Matt Grzelcyk collided with Anthony Cirelli and inadvertently tripped the Lightning forward, yielding a tripping minor.
But Grzelcyk wasn’t the only skater heading to the penalty box as Kevin Shattenkirk took exception to the trip and tried to fight the Bruins defender.
As a result, Shattenkirk received a roughing infraction and the two teams took each other on at 4-on-4 for two-minutes at 4:48 of the middle frame before resuming full strength.
Moore tripped Killorn once again midway through the second period at 12:29.
This time around, the Bolts’ power play struck fast.
Stamkos (12) wired a shot in the back of the net after Bergeron won the draw back to Chara, but Chara was stripped of the puck along the wall by Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov (22) had the only assist on Stamkos’ first goal of the game and the Lightning tied it up, 1-1, at 12:35 with the power play goal.
Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday, Tampa and Boston were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite the Lightning leading in shots on goal, 21-16– including a, 14-12, advantage in the second period alone.
The B’s led in blocked shots (10-7), giveaways (4-0) and faceoff win% (55-46) entering the second period, while Tampa led in takeaways (8-6) and hits (23-16).
The Lightning were 1/2 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Sean Kuraly hooked Mathieu Joseph at 2:43 of the third period and presented Tampa with yet another power play opportunity.
Late on the ensuing skater advantage, Brayden Point (11) scored a one-timer goal to make it, 2-1, Bolts after Rask made the initial glove save on Kucherov before the Bruins couldn’t clear the zone and thus helped Tampa in their efforts for Point’s goal.
Kucherov (23) and Victor Hedman (21) had the assists on Point’s goal at 4:07 and the Lightning were in full command of the game.
Moments later, Stamkos went to the sin bin for hooking McAvoy at 10:28, but Boston was powerless on the power play once again– even after taking a timeout with 8:36 remaining in regulation to draw up a plan.
Late in the third, Stamkos (13) sniped a shot from almost center on in the high slot after Boston failed to clear their own zone and witnessed an unfortunate bounce land on the Lightning captain’s stick before he fired the puck over Rask’s glove to give Tampa a two-goal lead at 15:13.
Stamkos’ unassisted effort made it, 3-1, for the Bolts and held up to become the game-winning goal.
He now has six goals in his last four games.
About a minute later, Moore (1) snuck in from the point for the Bruins and received an indirect pass from Anders Bjork before beating Vasilevskiy on the short side and bringing the B’s to within one.
Bjork (5) and Chara (8) had the assists on Moore’s first goal of the season at 16:45 of the third period in his fourth game back since missing the first 28 games due to offseason shoulder surgery.
There was a span of 1:32 between Lightning and Bruins goals, but the Bolts maintained a, 3-2, advantage over Boston and that was all that they needed even after Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker with 1:58 remaining in the game.
At the final horn, Tampa won, 3-2, and handed Boston their fifth loss in a row, despite outshooting the Lightning, 13-10, in the third period alone.
The Bolts finished the night leading in total shots on goal (31-29), as well as hits (32-20), while the B’s finished Thursday night leading in blocked shots (12-10), giveaways (9-4) and faceoff win% (52-48).
The Lightning finished the action 2/3 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 0/2 on the power play in Tampa.
The Bruins fell to 11-3-0 when leading after the first period and 13-5-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Boston wraps up their four-game road trip (0-3-0) Saturday in Sunrise, Florida with a matchup against the Panthers. The Bruins return home for a four-game homestand next Tuesday (Dec. 17th) against the Los Angeles Kings before hosting the New York Islanders (Dec. 19th), Nashville Predators (Dec. 21st) and Washington Capitals (Dec. 23rd).