The only things standing in the way of the Tampa Bay Lightning and their second consecutive win to start the season were a hot goaltender and a few bad bounces in an otherwise hard-fought effort.
The game could have served as revenge of last spring’s Eastern Conference Finals in which Tampa Bay’s exciting postseason run ended in a one-goal defeat in the seventh and decisive game to Boston. Forward Steven Stamkos said Saturday’s game was not about getting even.
“We weren’t thinking of last year,” Stamkos said. “They had a different team and we had a different team. This is a new season now and we came in here focused on tonight’s game and doing what we have to do to win.”
St. Louis tied the game just 1:16 after Rich Peverley put Boston up 1-0. St. Louis beat Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas one-on-one with a wrist shot to the stick side. Vincent Lacavalier made a nice defensive play at center ice to get the play started by stripping Nathan Horton of the puck. Ryan Malone tapped the puck ahead and found St. Louis, who skated in all alone to finish things off. The goal was the Lightning forward’s 300th of his career
It was all the Lightning would muster, however, as Thomas seemed to still be riding the momentum from a terrific year in 2010-11 that earned him the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender at the conclusion of the season.
Thomas finished the night with 25 saves.
Daniel Paille and David Krejci also had goals for the Bruins, who earned their first win of the season. Boston dropped their opening game in a 2-1 defeat to the Flyers on Thursday night.
After earning a win Friday night at Carolina, Saturday’s loss left Tampa Bay with a reminder of the tough test it faces on its season-opening road trip. The stretch of five games in 10 days continues with a contest on Monday night against the reigning Southeast Division champion Washington Capitals.
“We knew coming in that this trip was going to be a good test for us,” Bolts forward Adam Hall said. “Obviously at the beginning of any season you want to come out strong and put your best foot forward, but at the same time we knew a lot of these teams were going to give us their best stuff.”
It showed, as Boston outshot Tampa Bay 42-26 in the game.
Although neither team could find the back of the net in the first period, the clubs combined for three goals in just five minutes to start the second.
After Peverley and St. Louis exchanged goals to open the middle frame, Paille followed up with his first of the season to close out the sequence at 4:58.
The remaining 15 minutes of the second period resembled the first 20 to start the game, with both teams generating a lot of chances, but neither being able to cash in.
“I think we exchanged opportunities too much at both ends,” Lightning forward Ryan Shannon said. “I think obviously we need to limit those opposing chances going back and forth, but I thought when we stuck to our structure, things went well for us.”
Tampa Bay, however, did not limit opportunities down in its own end, and paid the price.
Krejci’s goal off a rebound at 3:07 of the final period increased Boston’s lead to two and Peverley notched his second of the night to make it 4-1 just five minutes later to close out the scoring.