What we learned: Bruins keep Lightning in playoff picture
With both teams losers of their last three, and both teams desperate for points during the late playoff push, Thursday’s contest was a must-win for both the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Trailing the Bruins by five points for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, a win for the Lightning would keep them within striking distance of the suddenly ice-cold Bruins.
On the other hand, a win for the home team would without a doubt better the Bruins’ playoff chances and all but mathematically end the Lightning’s hopes of punching a ticket into the league’s second season.
Instead of snapping their three-game losing streak and build some momentum into a huge game against the Islanders Saturday night in New York, the Bruins put forth another ugly performance, losing to the Lightning 5-3.
To make matters worse for the Black and Gold, the Toronto Maple leafs had no problem in their matchup with the New Jersey Devils, and thanks to their victory now hold a three-point lead over the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Here is what we learned from the Bruins’ fourth straight loss.
Bruins lucky to survive first period:
It wasn’t the prettiest period of play the Bruins have had this season. Since taking over as interim head coach of the Bruins, Bruce Cassidy has often referenced how much the coaching staff stresses the importance of being “on time” as in being ready to go from the first drop of the puck.
“We’ve got to be accountable for our actions, and I told them, ‘Listen, it’s my job as a head coach to prepare the team to play.’ And we weren’t ready at the puck drop, so I’ll be accountable for that part of it” Cassidy told the media Thursday. “On the ice, when those breakdowns or lack of focus, as you talked about, happens, then they’ve got to hold themselves accountable, as well.”
Despite being outshot by just one, (10-9) the game’s opening 20 minutes was dictated by the Lightning. Thankfully for the Bruins, Tuukka Rask was “on time,” making several key saves to keep the game scoreless
Bruins and Lightning trade quick second period goals/strong>
44 seconds, 22 seconds and 95 seconds. That’s all it took for the Tampa Bay Lightning to tie the Bruins at one, at two, and eventually at three.
After David Pastrnak’s 32nd of the year gave the Bruins the lead, Tampa quickly struck back with Brayden Point’s 13th goal of the season. Later in the period the Bruins jumped back out to a one goal lead thanks to Zdeno Chara’s shorthanded tally, but with Brandon Carlo in the box, Nikita Kucherov’s league leading 16th power play goal knotted things up. He then would extend that league lead to 17 later in the game.
To stick with the theme of the period, Riley Nash’s patience paid off as his wrap around attempt pin-balled off of Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, yet again giving the Bruins the lead. 1:35 later, Anton Stralman joined in on the fun, knotting things up at three.
“That’s the last thing you need honestly. Everybody knows that. You try to address it I guess – that’s the last mistake you need to do – but sometimes those things just happen,” Rask said about the sloppy second period. “When it happens three times in one game it’s kind of inexcusable. It’s something that we should be better at and today it was a tough night for all of us.”
The Bruins held three second period leads. They led for a grand total of 163 seconds.
Peter Budaj steals game in third period:
Before the Lightning took and extended their third period lead, the Bruins had a handful of chances to retake the one-goal advantage, but Lightning goalie Peter Budaj was having none of that. Standing tall with eight third period saves, Budaj managed to keep the game tied, and eventually, the Lightning would go on to score three times in the final period.
Thursday’s loss sets up Bruins biggest game of the season Saturday:
Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s contest, the road to the playoffs was going to be a difficult one for the Bruins. But now thanks to Thursday’s loss, that road just became more difficult.
Friday night the Islanders travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. A win by the Islanders would tie them with the Bruins for the last wild card spot in the East. Either way, Saturday’s contest will be the Bruins’ most important to date.
“We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror,” David Backes said.
“We’re going to do it tonight and tomorrow, have a great day tomorrow, and get to New York and put a 60-minute game on the ice where it doesn’t matter what they’re doing. We’re going to impose ourselves and have that game where we just start to finish, make the plays, bail each other out, stick together, and win a game.”