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The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning have lived up to the series expectations through the first two games. Both games were decided by a mere one goal.
They needed overtime on Tuesday. This time, the Bruins found themselves chasing things after Brad Marchand’s thrilling equalizer late in regulation.
It didn’t take the Lightning five OT’s this time. They only needed 4:40 to score after the Bruins failed to clear the puck out their zone. Ondrej Palat then buried a loose puck past Jaroslav Halak to secure the 4-3 victory and even the series.
“We had a puck alone behind the net, you know we just rimmed it to nobody, so that needs to be better,” Bruce Cassidy said of Tampa’s game-winner. “And then we recovered on the wall and tried to make a play through the middle, and that got picked off, we didn’t get it out. So I just think we need to manage the puck better in those situations. We didn’t. It has cost us at times in the playoffs, but you know it started with the decision to rim the puck when there wasn’t a lot of pressure. It’d be a nice time to put out a fire and make a clean play.”
Here’s what we learned as the two teams will return to Scotiabank Arena in less than 24 hours.
Come to think of it, the Bruins were fortunate to find themselves in position to steal Game 2.
Cassidy’s squad wasn’t heavily outplayed per se. But their puck management and attention to detail in all three zones wasn’t as strong as it was in the Game 1 win.
They could’ve used Halak to back them out of the latter, especially on both of Blake Coleman’s tallies. Yet, he shouldn’t have been in that position either.
He tried to bail out Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo after Zach Bogosian split the defense and delivered a tape to tape pass to Coleman. The ex-New Jersey Devil went 5-hole on Halak to tie things up at 1-1 shortly after Nick Ritchie’s gritty goal early in the opening stanza.
Then in the third, Coleman found himself on a breakaway attempt after the Bruins relinquished possession in the attacking end. A last-ditch effort from a sliding Connor Clifton slightly altered the puck, but once again, Coleman found the back of the net through Halak’s 5-hole to give the Bolts a 3-2 lead.
Boy, the Bruins could’ve used that Coleman guy, but that’s a story for later.
Cassidy wouldn’t commit on a starter for the second of a back-to-back. He won’t until he meets with the media for his pregame availability.
Both Cassidy and Jon Cooper knew this decision would arrive as soon as the league revealed its second round schedule. With how everything played out, it’s hard to imagine Cassidy choosing Dan Vladar over Halak despite a rather off night for the latter.
Think about it for a second. Vladar, fresh off signing a three-year contract extension two days ago, hasn’t appeared in an NHL game during his brief career. The only realistic scenarios for a Vladar appearance would come via a mid-game relief of Halak — be it performance or injury — or had Game 2 lasted multiple OT’s.
None of this happened to Halak. So barring any last-minute developments, expect the journeyman to return between the pipes for Game 3.
“I feel fine,” Halak said. “We just need to get a good night’s sleep and see how it’s gonna go tomorrow. No one said it was going to be an easy series. We are tied now and it’s basically starting from zero, so we have to forget about this one and move on. Another game tomorrow.”
This isn’t anything new. Every NHL team plays numerous back-to-backs in a given season. Heck, a handful of teams, including the Bruins, already faced a back-to-back scenario inside the bubble.
The Bruins had to play their first back-to-back after the NHL rescheduled their Game 1 tilt with the Hurricanes after Tampa’s epic 5OT tilt with Columbus.
Both teams can breathe a little easier after Game 2 ended a mere 4:40 into a single extra session. Neither the Bruins nor Lightning, however, will remain steady for long in this tightly-knit series.
“Sometimes it’s good to get right back at it when you lose a hockey game. You know we’ll see tomorrow if that’s good for us. You saw their energy early on, they had good push, usually after a loss you have that, you know they may be riding high and going to build off that because they want to even the series. So that’s a tough one sometimes to answer,” Cassidy said.
“Minutes wise we were pretty good I thought, balanced going into the overtime, obviously — only a five minute overtime — so that part was good. I don’t think anybody had to go, no injuries so we didn’t really have to double shift anybody, so that part of our recovery should be OK.”
“To play that two nights in a row, it’s going to be a battle. Like you said, we all play back-to-backs all the time,” Marchand added. “No excuses come playoff time. You have to show up and you have to play. You have to find a way to win. just have to rely on the whole group tomorrow. Everyone is going to have to have their best games if we want to compete with that team.”
You can throw the proverbial conventional playoff book out the window if you haven’t already. If anything, this postseason is anything but, and that trend will likely continue — shortly — in this heated series.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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