The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-1, on Sunday, eliminating Boston in five games en route to the third round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Call it an Eastern Conference Finals Appearance Dynasty if you want, but Tampa has one thing in their sight if they can get four more wins this postseason— winning their 2nd Cup in franchise history. This year’s appearance in the Eastern Conference Final marks just the third time in the last four years that the Lightning are a participant (2015 vs NYR, 2016 vs PIT & 2018).
For the first time in the series, the team that scored first in the game lost the game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 28 shots against for a .964 save percentage in the win for the Lightning, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask turned aside 19 out of 21 shots faced for a .905 SV% in the loss.
Tampa got out to a quick start in the overall flow of the game, controlling its pace and puck possession as the Bruins got out to another slow start.
Charlie McAvoy gave a quick cross check to Brayden Point about seven minutes into the first period and gave the Lightning their first power play of the afternoon. The Bolts did not convert on the skater advantage.
Boston outlasted the ten-minute mark in the opening frame, unlike the previous two games in the series where the Lightning held a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period.
David Backes bumped Anthony Cirelli into Boston’s net and was handed a minor penalty for interference at 11:52. Tampa’s 5-on-4 power play was short-lived as defender, Victor Hedman, held Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, and received a minor infraction for holding.
Marchand was also penalized for embellishment on the call, so the Lightning would still be on the power play at 12:04 of the first period.
Late in the first, Dan Girardi, checked Sean Kuraly without the puck and the Bruins went on the power play. About a minute later, Cedric Paquette, tripped David Pastrnak at 18:06 of the first period and Boston’s 5-on-4 advantage became a 5-on-3 advantage for 56 seconds.
Shortly after Girardi’s penalty expired, David Krejci (3) received a pass from McAvoy and fired a one-timer past Vasilevskiy as the Lightning goaltender was moving side-to-side in the crease.
McAvoy (4) and Patrice Bergeron (10) had the assists on Krejci’s power play goal at 19:12 of the first period and Boston jumped out to the lead, 1-0.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were ahead on the scoreboard, 1-0, and in shots on goal, 9-7. Boston also held on to an advantage in blocked shots (6-5), while Tampa was leading in hits (13-9) and giveaways (3-2) after one period. The B’s were 1/2 on the power play and the Bolts were 0/2 on the man advantage through 20 minutes of play.
Much like the start of the game, the Lightning came out of the gates in the second period at full throttle as Boston was making turnover after turnover.
Those turnovers proved to be costly past the halfway mark in the second period, as Krejci gave up the puck to Point (4) who promptly buried a shot in the twine with Rask out of position due to Krejci’s complete redirection of the play.
Point’s goal was unassisted and tied the game, 1-1, at 10:43.
Shortly thereafter, Rick Nash, took a shot from a teammate off the right knee and needed some assistance down the tunnel. The elder Nash on Boston’s roster would return to the action.
J.T. Miller followed through on a hit delivered to Bruins veteran, David Backes, wherein both players collided helmets and Backes fell to the ice, motionless, save for reaching for his head. He did not return to the game.
No penalty was assessed on the play.
Bergeron was sent to the box for tripping Ondrej Palat at 13:31 of the second period and the Lightning capitalized on the ensuing man advantage just 29 seconds later.
Miller (2) fired a shot home at 14:00 of the second period to give Tampa a one-goal lead, 2-1, on what would become the game-winning, series-clinching, goal. Nikita Kucherov (6) and Steven Stamkos (7) notched the assists on the goal.
With the Bolts ahead by one on the scoreboard after two periods, shots on goal were even, 14-14. Both teams had a power play goal and the Bruins had a slight advantage in blocked shots (10-8).
Boston went stride for stride with Tampa in the third period, as Rask kept his team in the game, but the Bruins could not muster a shot on goal that would go past Vasilevskiy and even the score.
Late in the third, Ryan McDonagh tripped up Pastrnak and was sent to the sin bin for two-minutes. Boston could not capitalize on the power play as time ticked down from under five minutes to go to under two minutes left in regulation.
Bruce Cassidy used his timeout with 3:16 remaining in the game and pulled his goaltender for an extra skater with a little over 90 seconds left in the season.
A faceoff in the attacking zone resulted in a defensive zone win for the Lightning, where Anton Stralman had a clear lane to flip the puck the length of the ice into the empty four-by-six frame in Boston’s end.
Stalman (1) scored his first goal of the 2018 postseason and made it, 3-1, Tampa at 18:31 of the third period. Hedman (6) had the only assist on the goal.
Rask vacated the goal again with less than a minute left, but it was all for naught as the Lightning finished the Bruins’s playoff hopes.
After a 60-minute effort, the Bolts had a 3-1 victory, clinching the series, 4-1. Boston finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 28-22, while the Lightning led in blocked shots (17-12), hits (37-29), giveaways (9-8) and faceoff win percentage (55-45). Both teams went 1/3 on the power play on the afternoon.
Tampa head coach, Jon Cooper, heads to his third career Eastern Conference Final behind the bench with the Lightning, while the Bruins fall to 0-24 all-time when trailing, 3-1, in a best-of-seven game series.
Boston was without defenseman, Torey Krug, on Sunday as a result of his lower body injury sustained in Game 4. Nick Holden made his Bruins playoffs debut in Krug’s place.
The Lightning await the winner of the Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins series to find out who they’ll battle in the last playoff round before the Stanley Cup Final. Washington currently leads their series with Pittsburgh, 3-2.
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