Less than 24 hours after a heartbreaking overtime defeat on Tuesday night, the Boston Bruins looked to rebound in Game 3 against a Tampa Bay Lighting team still without captain Steven Stamkos. It didn’t take long for the emotion of Game 2 to wear off, as the Bruins looked flat for most of the contest, surrendering the game’s first three goals en route to a 7-1 blowout loss.
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Tampa Bay’s commitment to a heavier, more physical style of play was evident throughout the game, and their struggling power play finally found its footing thanks to a particularly undisciplined outing by the Bruins. The Bruins’ pushback was suspect throughout the contest, leading to a lopsided Lightning advantage in critical areas.
Big Bad Bolts?
One of the biggest takeaways from Round Two has been the Lighting’s commitment to a gritty, more physical game. After bowing out to the Columbus Blue Jackets in four straight last season, the Lightning have clearly made a commitment to a heavier brand of hockey, adding Patrick Maroon and Zach Bogosian as free agents, and dealing for Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow at the deadline.
The Bolts have been much more difficult to play against this postseason, exacting their revenge on the Jackets in Round One before matching up with the B’s in the Second Round.
Problems on the PK
The Bruins have tried to match the Lightning’s physicality throughout the series, and have been drawn into several careless penalties as a result. Despite killing off Tampa Bay’s first six power-play opportunities through the first two games, the Boston penalty kill was exploited in Game 3. Following a rather selfish slashing penalty to Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Palat snapped the Bolts’ 0/16 streak at 12:46 of the opening frame. The parade to the box continued with a careless high stick by Patrice Bergeron, resulting in the 3-0 goal by Mikhail Sergachev.
This one was particularly problematic, as the Bolts’ power play quarterback moved the puck around the zone with ease, facing little to no pressure from winger Par Lindholm. Ultimately, the B’s were just 50% on the kill, an issue they will need to remedy to have any hope of climbing back into the series.
The lack of pushback from the Bruins in Game 3 should also be noted, as a 2-0 deficit at the end of the first period quickly doubled, and chased veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the net in favor of rookie Dan Vladar. The B’s struggles continued from there, as they provided the kid with little to no support, surrendering multiple breakaway opportunities within minutes of the swap.
Clearly pressing for offence, the Bruins made numerous mistakes, leading to grade-A chances for the potent Lightning offence. Brayden Point, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov beat Vladar, as the Bolts coasted to a 7-1 victory, facing very little offensive attack from the Bruins.
The Possession Game
The B’s were not only outshot 31-24 (18-8 in the second period) but they were also a complete mess analytically speaking. As they have throughout the series, Tampa Bay dominated the possession game in the final two frames, to the tune of 52.5% Corsi For. The Bolts’ ownership of the puck led to 54.6% Expected Goals For, continuing yet another negative trend in the Bruins’ game in this series. If Boston can’t find a way to disrupt the Lightning’s possession game, this may not be the last time we see Halak chased down the tunnel.
The Bottom Line
Following such a heartbreaking loss on Tuesday night, many expected a spirited response from the Bruins in Game 3. Injuries to Stamkos and Ryan McDonagh have left holes in the Lightning lineup, but the Bruins have been unable to capitalize on back-to-back nights. Hopes of any lingering momentum from Brad Marchand’s tying goal late in the third period of Game 2 were quickly extinguished, as the B’s simply could not match the Bolts’ intensity on Wednesday night.
The Lightning’s grittier style lured the Bruins into multiple undisciplined penalties, and the penalty kill allowed three back-breaking goals on six attempts. The lack of urgency on the kill carried over to even strength, and multiple Bruins gaffs ultimately led to the lopsided 7-1 final. The B’s will undoubtedly have to clean up these areas as they look to even the series in Game 4 on Friday.