Bruins not charged up vs. Lightning
TAMPA — For the Bruins, there was a lot to like about Michael Ryder’s third-period goal last night.
Jordan Caron, playing his first game alongside Ryder and Blake Wheeler on the No. 3 line, did some digging along the boards to win a puck battle. When Wheeler corralled the puck with open space in the slot, the wing-turned-center didn’t hesitate to rip off a shot on goal. Ryder followed up Wheeler’s shot, and when the puck bounced off traffic in front, the right wing was in the right position to dump the rebound into the Tampa Bay net.
“All the guys came to me, and Jordy managed to get it and pull it to the middle,’’ Ryder said. “[Wheeler] threw a shot. I don’t think it was one of the best shots. But it came right to me and I just tucked it in there.’’
Trouble is, there were zero such sequences in the first 40 minutes, especially in a second period in which the Lightning nearly ran the Bruins out of the rink. In just over an eight-minute span in the middle frame, the Lightning tucked three straight pucks behind Tuukka Rask, enough to saddle the Bruins with a 3-1 loss before 16,241 at St. Pete Times Forum.
“We need to play 60 minutes,’’ said defenseman Zdeno Chara. “For the first 40 minutes, Tampa was dominating the game. They deserved to win. We were just too slow to get to the puck. We were losing battles. It’s too late when you get going in the last 20. That’s not good enough. We’ve just got to get ready for the next game. Take what we were doing in the third and take it to the next game.’’
The Bruins threw 12 pucks on goal in the third. But through the first two periods, they managed only 15 total shots, most of them of the snoozer variety against Mike Smith (26 saves).
That is, when they even had the puck long enough to shoot.
From the opening puck drop, the Bruins were chasing the Lightning. Tampa drove the puck in deep, then used its forecheck to hem in the Bruins. The Bruins couldn’t retrieve pucks consistently, nor could they win enough battles to trigger any kind of breakouts. On the few occasions when they won races to the puck, they couldn’t elude the Tampa forecheck. And on the rare instances when they advanced to the neutral zone, the Lightning eliminated passing lanes, slamming the brakes on any speed the Bruins hoped to generate in center ice.
Even the line of Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton, nearly always efficient with their chips, battles, and puck possession, was a stride behind the Lightning for the first 40 minutes.
“Little bit of us not getting to the right areas, not putting pucks in the right areas, and give them some credit, too,’’ Thornton said. “They played their system very well. They didn’t make it easy to get back and recover those pucks, either. They did a pretty good job of getting that puck out whenever we got it in. I think a little bit of it was that we didn’t get our legs going until halfway through the game either.’’
The Lightning kicked off the second-period barrage when ex-Bruin Nate Thompson won a battle in the right corner, then spotted Randy Jones at the point. Rask (33 saves) had Jones’s shot lined up. But at the last moment, Dana Tyrell, who had gained net-front position, tipped Jones’s shot over Rask at 3:26.
“The guy tipped it in front of me, it hit my hand, and went in,’’ Rask said. “It’s a good tip. That’s the way you’ve got to do it in this league to score goals. Very rare when you score a goal on a point shot with no screen or no tip. He made a good tip there.’’
The Lightning doubled their lead, first by playing keepaway from the Bruins along the boards. With the Bruins chasing and out of position, Steve Downie found Martin St. Louis at the left post. St. Louis quickly sent a cross-crease backhand pass to Steven Stamkos, who shoveled the puck in for his 20th goal at 5:15 before Rask could push over to make the save.
“That’s what they like to do,’’ Rask said. “Those little plays, especially St. Louis and Stamkos. They like to make those little plays and just jam the puck in.’’
Tampa capped the outburst when Teddy Purcell found the rebound of a Dominic Moore blast off the end boards. Rask tried to scurry back, but Purcell slid the puck behind the goalie at 11:36.
“It seemed to take a little while for us to figure it out,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Tampa’s system. “They just sit in the neutral zone when they’ve got full control. We weren’t making some very good decisions, turning pucks over, not getting pucks in deep.
“The biggest thing is we have to start playing with more desperation right off the get-go. We’ve done that a few times this year where we take 40 minutes to get ourselves going. We’ve been fortunate enough to get ourselves back in the game in the past. But eventually it catches up to you. It did tonight.’’