TAMPA — The Bruins had a good game plan for 40 minutes against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning. Secondary scoring, structured puck possession, and assertiveness in all three zones all contributed to their 4-2 lead after two periods Monday night at Amalie Arena.
The final 20 minutes, however, were different.
A fatigued Bruins squad at the end of their four-game road trip — playing with five defensemen following John Moore’s first-period exit — got careless with the puck. The talented Bolts saw this and quickened the tempo with odd-man rushes and quality scoring chances.
Perennial Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman, Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov, and talented young winger Anthony Cirelli struck in a roughly 14-minute span to put a damper on an otherwise solid Boston roadie.
Here’s what we learned as the Lightning put the lone damper on Boston’s solid trip with their 5-4 victory.
Bruins get a harsh lesson following third-period collapse
Giftwrapping any team with numerous quality chances doesn’t bode well more often than not. It’s a bigger recipe for disaster when the likes of Kucherov, Hedman and Steven Stamkos and an uber-talented Lightning squad stare at you directly across the ice.
The Bruins had their issues keeping Stamkos away from his patented office at the right faceoff circle. He made them pay with his pair of trademark one-timers in the first period that led to his 40th and 41st goals of the season.
Yet, without Moore, the Bruins D stayed composed and found their rhythm in the second. That allowed their depth to shine when Charlie Coyle — who played his best game as a Bruin in the losing effort — Brandon Carlo and Brad Marchand (his second of the night) scored in a 5:50 span to give Boston a two-goal cushion.
They could’ve left Tampa with two points and even more momentum. The secondary scoring depth and overcoming Moore’s injury with five defensemen would’ve highlighted this piece otherwise.
Instead, the Bruins got caught flat-footed once Hedman banked home a rebound off the boards on Stamkos’s missed breakaway attempt to kick start Tampa’s comeback.
The Lightning are so annoying pic.twitter.com/Vx4nOY5W3v
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 26, 2019
Then came another 2-on-1 with McAvoy playing the pass and letting Tuukka Rask see Kucherov. The talented Russian found the top corner for his 38th goal of the season.
I'm calling the police pic.twitter.com/1XF0ZY6ZMd
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 26, 2019
Ciarelli capped off the come-from-behind win when he found space in the slot for his 18th of the season. Game. Set. Match.
— Hockey Daily (@HockeyDaily365) March 26, 2019
“Poor decisions [and] stepping up in the rush with their best players behind us,” summed Cassidy. “I can understand when you’re behind [in the game] and those things happen, but it should’ve never happened.”
A learning lesson for a Bruins team that rarely had an issue clamping down on opponents when they have a lead — until Monday.
Bruins rebound following missed 5-on-3, but what could’ve been …
Tampa pounced on its scoring chances in the third. The Bruins also had their share of quality opportunities despite being out-shot, 28-17. Yet they didn’t capitalize on a 5-on-3 power play attempt late in the first period and went into the locker room trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes.
They didn’t let that rattle them, though. The Bruins looked like a different team after they only notched four shots on net on 14 attempts in the first. All four lines found the score sheet in the second sparked by Coyle’s second goal in a Bruins uniform and Carlo’s second tally of the season.
But what could’ve been had the Bruins capitalized on that two-man advantage late in the opening period …
They could’ve established momentum with a goal or a quality power play attempt. But they had to claw their way back before Coyle kick-started the three-goal second.
“It was a 4-2 game for us, and I thought we did a good job [of bouncing back],” Patrice Bergeron said following his two-assist night. “There’s a few [chances] that I’m sure we’d like to have back and have a second chance at it. But really tonight I thought the bottom line was we got outplayed away from the puck in their zone, and it cost us.”
Bergeron’s latest milestone overshadowed in losing effort
His accolades speak for themselves: five Selke’s, two Olympic gold medals, and a Stanley Cup (just to name a few). And Bergeron’s play spoke louder than any point totals during his first 15 seasons in Boston.
This year is no different. Bergeron notched his career-high 74th point with a secondary assist on Marchand’s power play tally at 8:30 of the first period, with David Pastrnak also assisting. He extended that point total to 75 following another secondary assist on Marchand’s second of the night at 14:32 of the second.
And he notched that new career-high despite missing 16 games with a shoulder injury. Another remarkable feat for arguably the best two-way player in league history.
But the longest-tenured Bruin didn’t waste any time basking in his latest accomplishment. Instead, the ever professional Bergeron stayed in the moment before leaving downtown Tampa with his teammates.
“It’s one of those things that I’ve been told about lately. And it is what it is, you know,” Bergeron said about setting a new career-high in points. “It’s nice in a way that things are going well, but ultimately you want to do the job and get the results and the wins.
“Like I said, it was a really good road trip. A lot of good things to take away from it. We had a good 40 minutes but we needed 60. We can’t have [just] 40 minutes against a team like Tampa.”
There will be a time when Bergeron reflects on his impressive accolades. Monday was not one of those times.