A hard-fought effort, even in defeat, served as no indication of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent play on Thursday night.
Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher each scored goals, and Anders Lindback made 22 saves, but as the Bolts fell to the Boston Bruins 4-2 in front of a 10th consecutive sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The defeat snapped Tampa Bay’s modest two-game win streak, while the Bruins’ victory was their second in as many games.
“Our players definitely competed today, although this was probably the most intense game all year by far,” Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher said. “That [Boston] was a great team out there, and the way they played, that’s why they’ve only lost two games.”
Although nearly two years removed from a Game 7 finale in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, Thursday night’s contest had a lot of that same playoff-type feel to it, as both sides competed hard and entertained fans with a lot of back-and-forth action.
Nathan Horton had two goals for the Bruins and Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand also scored for Boston, which improved to 7-1-1 on the road the season.
Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton had two assists in the win, while goaltender Tuukka Rask turned aside 24 of 26 shots against.
“The effort was there and everything else,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said.
It hardly took any time at all for the Bruins to get out to a quick 2-0 lead just 3:50 into the game.
Horton opened the scoring just 71 seconds following the opening puck drop after collecting a rebound and backhanding a shot past Lindback for a 1-0 lead.
Bergeron then doubled the advantage just 2:39 later to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
“We had a good start,” Horton said. “I think that’s what carried us throughout the game.”
Tampa Bay, though, came right back to pull even with the Boston nearly midway through the middle frame.
Stamkos first brought the Lightning to within one at 8:13 of the first when his wrist shot from the high slot beat Rask to make it 2-1.
Conacher tied it at 9:00 of the second after finishing off a 3-on-2 odd-man rush and snapping a shot past Rask, as well as an eight-game goal scoring drought.
The Lightning rookie now leads all NHL first-year players with six goals and 15 points.
Marchand made it 3-2 at 13:58 of the second, with his ninth of the year standing up as the game-winner, as an initial shot by Tyler Seguin bounced right onto his teammate’s stick to reclaim Boston’s lead.
Horton’s second and final goal of the game capped the scoring at 2:33 of the third.
“We battled back and we worked hard,” Stamkos said. “There was no worry with our work ethic, but again, we have to find a way to score and create some momentum. That’s on us. We have to be better.”