What we learned: Bruins gain ground on Lightning with crucial win
After Thursday’s ugly 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, the Bruins knew they needed a much better effort against the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Although produced with two completely different-looking teams on the ice since their last meeting — a 3-2 home victory for Boston on Nov. 29 — the end result remained the same. With their 3-0 shutout of the Lightning Saturday night, the Bruins have now won eight of their last 10 against their Atlantic Division foes.
Without their star center (Patrice Bergeron), top defensive pair (Zdeno Chara & Charlie McAvoy), and their second line left-winger (Jake DeBrusk), the injury-plagued Bruins needed a full 60 minutes to take down the Bolts. Ultimately, however, the B’s did just that as they earned their third straight win over Tampa in arguably their most impressive victory of the season.
Here’s what we learned:
Bruins once again find first-period success against Bolts
It’s no secret that the Bruins have had some serious issues in the opening stanza thus far this season. Yet those troubles seem to slip away whenever they face Tampa Bay.
In their 3-2 victory over the Lightning back in November, the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead which was bolstered by two first period tallies. On Saturday, they repeated the feat, as Torey Krug (three assists) set up first David Pastrnak and then David Backes to give the Black and Gold a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
There is no doubt the Bruins are a resilient bunch. Their first period struggles, combined with their overall success, show just that.
An injury scare for David Backes
Here’s a good-look at the laceration David Backes suffered tonight. This is from his skate back to the bench, you can clearly see the bloody-area above his knee. Backes continues to one of hockey’s toughest players. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/oQ0l9kAWZy
— Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork) March 18, 2018
Shortly after notching his 12th goal of the season to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead, Backes and the rest of the Bruins had themselves one heck of a scare. While sliding into the crease alongside Lightning forward Yanni Gourde, the latter’s skate found an unprotected area of Backes’s right knee, cutting the veteran wide open.
Backes was seen immediately grabbing the maimed area before hobbling off the ice and into the Bruins dressing room. Boston would later announce that Backes needed stitches for a laceration above his right knee, and would not be returning to Saturday’s contest.
After the game, head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that Backes did indeed need approximately 18 stitches but didn’t provide much information about the veteran’s status going forward.
“I don’t want to say he dodged a bullet, because it’s an unfortunate accident. But it looks like he will be okay, and from there I don’t know — I don’t have an update,” Cassidy reported. “[We’ll] see how it is tomorrow, and we will classify him as day-to-day. But other than that, I don’t know if he will be ready for Monday.”
Tuukka Rask shines in victory:
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 18, 2018
No matter what Tuukka Rask does on the ice, Bruins fans like to send criticism his way. Whether it’s not being able to make that clutch save or failing to come up with that big win, there’s almost always negativity directed at the Black and Gold netminder.
On Saturday, Rask responded to his detractors by making several big-time saves on his way to picking up a huge win.
Rask stopped all 23 shots faced for his third shutout of the year. The 2014 Vezina Trophy winner has won all six of his last starts despite posting a less-than-Vezina-like 3.61 goals-against average over that span.
Bruins earn two vital points:
Nash ➡️Nash ➡️🚨 pic.twitter.com/eotRZBwFw9
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 18, 2018
Going into Saturday’s slate, the Bruins trailed the Lightning by four points for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. They knew a regulation loss to their divisional foes would hurt more than a loss against any other team in the league.
Even with a handful of key players out of the lineup, the Black and Gold responded by putting forth one of their best efforts of the season to pick up two key points. With the win, the Bruins now trail the Lightning by just two points with a game in hand.