After losing three straight games, the Tampa Bay Lightning was an angry team entering the TD Garden to play the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon (March 25). They tried to set the tone early and bully the Bruins in the first period, but that did not work and when the dust settled, Boston grinded out a 2-1 win over the visitors to secure the Atlantic Division title with still three weeks remaining in the regular season.
In what turned out to be a playoff-type battle for 60 minutes, here are four takeaways from the Bruins’ 56th win of the season, their sixth straight and 30th on home ice.
Bruins Survive First-Period Power Play Struggles
Coming into the game, the Lightning pretty much locked up the third seed in the Atlantic Division for the playoffs and a first-round playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs that will more than likely begin in Canada. Whatever coach Jon Cooper’s was message before the game, his team heard it loud and clear.
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Just nine seconds into the game, there were two fights and the Bruins ended up with five power plays in the first 12 minutes, but they were only able to cash in on one of them. They compounded matters by allowing a shorthanded goal as well. Patrice Bergeron got credit for the Boston goal when Brad Marchand’s pass to the front of the net hit his skate, then deflected off of a Tampa Bay skate and past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Just under three minutes later and the Bruins on their fourth power play, Victor Hedman unloaded a shot inside the Bruins blueline and the shot deflected off of Charlie McAvoy’s stick and beat Linus Ullmark to tie the game.
The Bruins finished the game 1-for-7 on the man advantage, but as has been the case during the power play struggles, zone entries are a problem, having a pass-first mentality and not getting a ton of shots toward the net continues to be their downfall. With the regular season winding down quickly, fixing one of their strengths is a must before the playoffs.
Dmitry Orlov & Garnet Hathaway Play Big Part in Win
The best move at the NHL trade deadline by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney was acquiring Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals. Against the Lightning, both players played a big role in the victory. With the game tied 1-1 late in the second period, Matt Grzelcyk’s shot from the point was stopped by Vasilevskiy and the rebound popped up in the air, only to be batted in by Hathaway for his second game-winning goal in Boston since the Feb. 23 trade.
Orlov finished the game with 23:42 in time on ice, second to Hampus Lindholm’s 24:11, but it was his play shorthanded in the second period that was a big moment in the game. Brandon Carlo was whistled for a penalty, then 50 seconds later, McAvoy was called for a high-stick giving the NHL’s third-ranked power play 1:10 of 5-on-3. Orlov played the entire two minutes that Carlo was in the penalty box and finished the game with 4:52 in time on ice shorthanded and was a big reason why the Bruins went a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Orlov finished with a team-high six hits and three shots on the net. His addition to the lineup has been felt in all three situations in games for the Black and Gold. In 13 games since the trade, he has three goals and 12 assists with a plus/minus of plus-11 and averaging over 20 minutes a night.
Bruins Play Complete Third Period
For most of the season, the Bruins have been very good in the third period. Leading 2-1 after 40 minutes, they needed to be again, and once again, they were up to the challenge.
Boston held a 13-11 advantage in shots, but it was the work done down in the defensive end that stood out. They limited the number of high-danger chances for Tampa Bay by keeping the Lightning to the outside and not allowing them to get many opportunities in the middle of the zone. They laid out to block shots and gave Ullmark the ability to see a lot of the shots that went his way. All season long Boston has been a very good team in the final 20 minutes and they were again against a team that in desperate need of a win.
Bottom-Six Set the Tone
The fourth line of Jakub Lauko, Tomas Nosek, and Hathaway combined to score the game-winning goal when Laukko won a battle behind the net and Nosek was able to push the puck back to Grzelcyk at the point whose shot was stopped before Hathaway scored on the rebound. They finished with just 5:16 together in time on ice in the game because of all the penalties, but they combined for five shots and had a 98.76 xGF%.
Not too far behind them was the third line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle, and Tyler Bertuzzi. They only had three shots on the net and finished with a 79.15 xGF% in 6:46 time on ice, but late in the second period after Hathaway’s goal, they had a shift that pinned the Lightning in their own zone that allowed the time to run out in the period.
Nosek and Coyle not only played a big part 5-on-5 but also shorthanded. Nosek was on the ice for 3:15 shorthanded and Coyle for 3:09 in helping the Bruins shut down a dangerous Tampa Bay power play. Several times this season the bottom six has played a big part for the Black and Gold and Saturday was another example of that.
Quick Bruins’ Takeaways
- Patrice Bergeron once again was dominant at the dot. He finished 19-for-26 and had three shots on the net to go with his goal. Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk, and Marchand finished to combine for eight shots landed on Vasilevskiy.
- Ullmark finished with 26 saves and once again, he came up big when the Bruins needed him to. After surviving a scare in the third period when Lindholm collided with him attempting to stop Anthony Cirelli’s breakaway shorthanded, he made four saves in the final 45 seconds to secure the win. His best save was on Nikita Kucherov when he made a pad save going from right to left on the one-timer.
There is no rest for the Bruins who head down to play the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday night (March 26) on the backend of the back-to-back, but with the division wrapped up, it will be a good test against the Metropolitan Division leaders. The Hurricanes have had the Bruins number in North Carolina recently and getting a road victory in the team’s final regular season matchup would be a confidence builder if the two teams happen to cross paths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.