When you win a Game 1 on the road, you naturally tend to get greedy and also want to do the same thing a few days later. Boston destroyed Tampa Bay, 6-2, in Game 1 on Saturday afternoon so you had to know that the Lightning would do everything in their power to win Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Monday night. The Lightning win was not without some controversy – as there were several questionable calls by the officials – but regardless, Tampa Bay got what it needed in a 4-2 victory.
The Eastern Conference semifinal series is now tied at one, with Game 3 in Boston on Wednesday (7, NBCSN). Tampa Bay was the No. 1 seed in the East for a reason, and it has already shown in this series that it is anything but a pushover.
“We’re in the playoffs, you’re not going to walk through teams,” said Boston left wing Brad Marchand, who had a pair of assists in Game 2. “We have home-ice advantage now, we’ll go home. This game’s over, it’s done with and we’ll move on.”
You can’t put together two more different performances in back-to-back contests than the ones turned in by Tampa Bay’s young center Brayden Point. His line had the unenviable task of trying to slow down Boston’s top line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and in Game 1 they failed miserably at it with Point finishing with a ghastly plus-minus of minus-5. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper surprisingly stuck with that impossible matchup, and on Monday it worked out much better for the home team as Point piled up a career-high four points with a goal and three assists. Tampa Bay needed that unlikely production, too, as its two biggest stars in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are both scoreless in the first two games.
After a slow start in Game 1, Boston doubled down on that poor approach as Tampa Bay outshot them 10-0 over the first 13 plus-minutes and grabbed a 1-0 lead on rookie forward Yanni Gourde’s goal. The Bruins bounced back though with rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy’s first career NHL playoff goal late in the first but other than that their offense was stuck in neutral most of the night. Their second goal was a bit of a gift as Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (18 saves) let in a routine shot by defenseman Torey Krug with 4:02 left to play in regulation to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2. Obviously, it’s hard to win when your forwards don’t score any goals and it’s not like Boston didn’t have any chances as its power play went 0-for-3, including a two-man advantage for 1:45 in the first.
The refs didn’t cost Boston a win in Game 2, but you can only hope that they are better in the rest of the series. A cheap slashing call on Krug in the first period was more mystifying when Marchand walked in on a possible tying breakaway right after Krug’s goal and was hacked (an almost automatic penalty or even penalty shot) with no call. Pastrnak was also whistled for a double-minor high sticking penalty but replays showed that Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman actually hit himself in the face with his own stick. Oh, and goaltender Tuukka Rask’s (27 saves) net was off its moorings for about 20 seconds in the first period before anyone seemed to notice.
Boston went 3-1 at the Garden in the first-round vs. Toronto so you should expect another great atmosphere on Causeway Street for Games 3 and 4 (Friday, 7 pm on NBCSN).