The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning kickstarted their week with their first of two matchups in a five-day span. They may very well meet again in another month or two to determine the road to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins entered Tuesday’s matchup at Amalie Arena with a seven-point cushion over the Steven Stamkos-less Lightning. They created a two-goal cushion in Tampa on tallies from Brad Marchand (deemed a game-time decision because of illness) and Jake DeBrusk midway through the second period.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad had their lead cut on Mitchell Stephens’ third goal of the season with 2:32 left in the middle stanza. The Bruins entered survival mode in the third as they had some issues transitioning the puck out of their defensive zone and establishing some attacking time offensively.
Yet, even with a few hiccups, Boston’s D kept Tampa from creating scoring chances in the high danger areas — aside from Tuukka Rask’s breakaway save on Anthony Cirelli — and secured a gritty 2-1 victory to kick off its two-game slate in the Sunshine State.
“It’s definitely an important game,” defenseman Torey Krug said to the press following Boston’s 42nd win of the season. “I think both teams knew going into it that it was gonna be a good matchup, a fun one, a close game.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins now sit nine points clear of the Lightning.
Marchand marches on through illness
The Bruins got a bit of a surprise when Marchand didn’t accompany the team to the morning skate hours before puck drop. But the veteran winger gave it a go in his usual spot with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak after a few extra hours of rest on Tuesday.
Marchand didn’t have his sharpest performance of the season as he battled through a case of food poisoning. Sean Kuraly even replaced for a shift with the Bruins in survival mode in the closing moments.
Yet, Marchand battled on through a season-low 14:36 of ice time. And he produced on the scoresheet as well, tallying the game’s first goal on a beautiful feed from Krug late in the opening stanza.
Brad Marchand now with a 10-game point streak.
1-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/ypD1d86y8o
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 4, 2020
“That’s actually the first time when I was sick that I did anything decent in the game,” Marchand told reporters. “It was just great that we won. This was obviously a big game.”
Marchand also avoided encountering coronavirus as he told the media during his postgame interview session. He’ll have another day to rest up — if needed — before Boston’s second leg of the Florida trip against the Panthers on Thursday.
Offside challenge benefits the Bruins at a pivotal time
The NHL’s general managers reportedly discussed tinkering the parameters surrounding the unpopular offside review process during its annual meetings this week. In an ideal, the rule deserves never to see the light of day again.
Maybe the tweaks will improve the process, but it’s still perplexing how a skater that’s a millimeter offside can all of the sudden wipe a goal off the board. The Bruins saw that first hand in narrow losses to the Avalanche, Canadiens and Capitals earlier this season. This time, they found themselves on the right end on an offside challenge from Cassidy early in the second period.
Yanni Gourde fired home a slap shot from the point for the apparent equalizer. But Tyler Johnson barely jumped over the blue-line before the puck entered the zone moments before Gourde’s would-be tally.
The Lightning’s equalizer was no good! pic.twitter.com/YJJB1eVI7m
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) March 4, 2020
The Lightning could’ve used that tally especially as they entered desperation mode shortly after. The Bruins, meanwhile, received the benefit of the doubt and took advantage shortly after.
DeBrusk breaks his goal drought
The Edmonton-born winger suited up for his 200th game on Tuesday. But he hardly had that on his mind as he carried a 10-game scoring drought to Central Florida.
Over the last three games, Cassidy moved DeBrusk away from his usual linemate in David Krejci and slotted him next to Charlie Coyle on the third line. The fourth-year Boston bench boss then opted to use Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase on the second line with Krejci as he aims to find his ideal lineup between now and the postseason.
This might seem like a demotion with DeBrusk moving down a line. It isn’t. DeBrusk still has a dynamic playmaker next to him in Coyle and the two appear to have developed some chemistry with one another over this short stretch.
The newly formed DeBrusk-Coyle tandem came through with a timely moment in the second period minutes after the successful offside challenge. The play started in the defensive end with Coyle merely tapping the puck out of the zone. DeBrusk won a foot race for that loose puck in the neutral zone en route to his 19th goal of the season — while tripped up — to extend Boston’s lead to 2-0.
Jake DeBrusk buries his first goal since Feb. 8.
2-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/UGk0RhXwE6
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 4, 2020
“Any time it goes in the net it’s always a nice feeling,” DeBrusk told reporters after notching his first goal in nearly a month. “It was nice to contribute at that time of the game against this team.”
DeBrusk has that streaky scoring DNA in him. The third-year forward encountered several droughts throughout his young career only to counter with consistently lighting the stretch over a multi-game stretch. His stellar goal in Tampa may lead him to another one of those lengthy scoring stretches.
“Hopefully, I get hot at the right time,” DeBrusk added.