After opening the series with a win, the Boston Bruins are now trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 following two losses in less than 48 hours.
The Lightning put their stamp on the series with a demoralizing 7-1 rout of the Bruins Wednesday night on the second night of a back-to-back.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in the first period following a controversial goal by Yanni Gourde in which an official collided with Boston defenseman Jeremy Lauzon — a new addition to the lineup on Wednesday — thus providing a clear breakaway chance for the Lightning.
Unlike the Lightning 24 hours prior, the Bruins couldn’t handle the adversity.
Tampa poured it on in the second period with four goals courtesy of Alex Killhorn, Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev.
Jaroslav Halak was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots, making way for Dan Vladar, who finished with 12 saves in his NHL debut.
Brad Marchand scored the lone goal for the Bruins on a first-period power play.
“They were better than us in every facet of the game. So we got our work cut out for us,” Bruce Cassidy said after the lopsided loss. “But it’s one loss and put our best foot forward in Game 4 try to even the series then by playing a lot better and a lot smarter.”
Here’s what we learned as Cassidy and his coaching staff hope to find a formula for success before Game 4 Friday night.
Tampa Bay’s power play is alive
The usually potent Lightning power play unit entered Game 3 without a single goal in 15 attempts. In Game 3, their potent man advantage scored three times in six attempts.
The Bruins gave the Lightning a plethora of chances with 10 penalties Wednesday night. Tampa Bay used those opportunities to create and keep momentum throughout the 60 minutes of play.
Ondrej Palat gave Tampa a 1-0 lead in the first period with a one-timer, while Sergachev extended it 3-0 in the second period.
Tampa Bay’s power play isn’t dormant anymore. It’s alive and well. The Bruins can’t afford to make frequent trips to the penalty box like they did in Game 3.
Boston already has an uphill battle without Tuukka Rask between the pipes. Falling behind on special teams might mean the end of the Bruins season.
Bruce Cassidy overthought his lineup
It’s hard to question a Jack Adam’s Finalist, especially after guiding his team within a game of hoisting the Stanley Cup a year ago.
Cassidy’s tenure in Boston has been near flawless. However, he trotted out the wrong lineup on Wednesday night.
It’s hard to blame it all on Cassidy after an uninspiring performance by a group of players that allowed seven goals. But things might have been different if he had stuck with a lineup that was working.
Instead, he opted to take Anders Bjork off of the third line in favor of seven defensemen. Additionally, John Moore and Jeremy Lauzon replaced a pair of workhorses in Sean Kuraly and Connor Clifton.
During his pregame media availability, Cassidy said the Bruins would need to rely on the middle-six to pull the weight entering their second game of a back-to-back. That’s hard to do with only five skaters in the middle-six.
Cassidy took what was working for Boston and over thought it. Expect a similar lineup from Games 1 and 2 for Game 4 on Friday.
Lightning spoil Dan Vladar’s debut
The Boston Bruins desperately miss Rask.
Halak, regarded as a 1B goalie by Cassidy, can win a series. But he hasn’t been performing at a high level as of late. When that happens, the Bruins don’t have any viable options behind him.
Tampa’s second-period surge forced Cassidy to put Vladar in for his NHL debut. Starting your first game in a playoff series against an elite squad like the Lightning is a tall order for anyone, especially for a 23-year-old.
Vladar allowed three goals on 15 shots in his first-ever NHL appearance, but that is highly unfair. The Bruins left him out to dry with two breakaway goals as a result of poor spacing and lazy defending.
“I’m glad he got an opportunity to play,” Cassidy said. ” I don’t wish it in that circumstance, but it is what it is and he got him some work. Hopefully, he’s better off for it down the road.”
The Bruins see Vladar as one of their goalies of the future. But given the current situation, they need him as a top tier backup goalie right now. He isn’t ready for that role yet. But, in all honesty, if the Bruins have to pull Halak against Tampa Bay, they’ve probably already lost.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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