Beating the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning takes a near perfect effort. The Bruins were nearly flawless against the Stanley Cup favorites Thursday night at TD Garden.
Yes, the Bolts were coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Rangers in New York and didn’t land in Boston until early Thursday morning. Even then, Tampa went into its second tilt of the year with Boston carrying a stellar 6-2 record when playing its second game of a back-to-back.
The Bruins, though, brought their ‘A’ game in every area of the ice and dropped that record to 6-3.
“You know, we were sitting here waiting for them, and they played last night. That definitely factors into it. We’re playing for a little more than they are right now I think as well, in terms of the standings, so some of that factored in to our urgency,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following Boston’s 4-1 victory.
“But I do believe we wanted to put our best foot forward. It’s the team that knocked us out last year, so I wouldn’t say a message, but we do want to let them know that we’re a good hockey club as well, and we’ve changed a little since the last time we’ve seen them.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins — now with points in 15 straight — snapped the Lightning’s 10-game win streak to finish 11-0-2 in February.
The Bruins put together an aggressive gameplan all night and didn’t give Tampa much room to breathe.
Their tone setter came early when David Backes took exception to Adam Erne’s post-whistle hit into Tampa’s net just 2:54 in. Backes’ responded with a takedown of Erne that energized the Bruins’ bench.
“Yeah, he got up and let him know that that’s not acceptable,” Cassidy said about the bout. “It’s not the way it’s going to work out tonight. He’s going to push back. Good for that kid. It was a good scrap. He plays hard [Erne], but it was good for our group just to say hey this is how it’s going to be tonight. That’s the way it is most nights.”
The results didn’t come immediately, but the Bruins stayed poised and then piled on.
The Bruins remained poised against Louis Domingue
Cassidy’s squad peppered Louis Domingue with 41 shots Thursday night. The Bolts could’ve been run out of the building earlier had it not been for the effort of their backup netminder.
The Bruins only had one goal to show for their dominant effort through 40 minutes. They missed on several close chances be it on Domingue’s highlight-reel saves — including his flashy glove stop on Joakim Nordstrom in the third — or close range shots that missed by inches.
The Bruins didn’t falter, though. Instead, they kept the pressure on Domingue and opened the floodgates in the third.
Noel Acciari, in his first game wearing a fishbowl visor following dental surgery, gave the Bruins some much-needed insurance at 11:47. Patrice Bergeron added his 22nd of the season a mere 45 seconds later. Brad Marchand capped off the three-goal span in 1:28 with a jedi-mind trick tally that led to Domingue breaking his stick out of frustration.
“Yeah, he made some big saves,” Marchand said. “They also had some big blocks at the right time, but eventually we kept going and the next four, five shots we had three goals, so yeah that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Domingue was on top of his game. The Bruins were better, however, and snapped Domingue’s 11-game win streak.
The Bruins needed a goal-scoring catalyst after leading scorer David Pastrnak broke his thumb following a team event. Enter Jake DeBrusk, a streaky goal scorer who hadn’t scored in 12 straight games prior to Pastrnak’s injury.
He’s been a different player since. The 2015 first round selection netted gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead on their second period power play at 8:43; Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask assisting.
He’s scored in all different varieties: snap shots, tip-ins and breakaways, you name it. He got a lucky bounce on his 21st of the season on one of Domingue’s rare blunders of the evening.
“Compared to what it was before, I’m just getting some nice bounces right now — it went off the
defenseman’s stick into the net — and also some great passes,” DeBrusk said. “So I’m just trying to continue to execute and try to put that puck in the net as much as possible.”
DeBrusk had a coming out party of sorts with his Game 7 performance against the Maple Leafs last April. He’s taking his game to a whole new level in Year 2.
The Edmonton-born winger and son of Louie is Boston’s main secondary scoring option. His chemistry with David Krejci and new arrival Marcus Johansson gives the Bruins a cohesive second line that they desperately needed all season long.
DeBrusk’s confidence is at an all-time high. It’s showing through his aggressive puck pursuit and willingness to go to the dirty area.
“Energetic,” Cassidy said about DeBrusk’s recent run. “His legs are there. You can see it. He’s winning foot races on a regular basis, and right now there’s not many guys that can catch him once that puck goes one way if they haven’t already started. He’s going to the dirty areas and his overall game is better.”
“As a coach, I want to see him grow his game,” Cassidy added. “That’s part of the process for these young guys, and if you want to win in the long run, you’re not going to score in seven in eight games when you’re playing in those tighter games, and you still have to bring that other stuff. That’s the message I hope Jake is getting out of this too, that he’s delivering in other areas.”
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