TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Lightning hoped to use tonight as a game to measure their growth over the past two weeks. Instead, the Bolts learned that old habits die hard in their second loss to Atlantic Division rival, the Boston Bruins, this season at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“This was a little bit of a statement game for us and I guess it turned out to be a statement game, just not the way we wanted,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “I felt like we were the old Tampa Bay Lightning. We went back to some poor habits, which led to poor execution, which led to poor play.”
“They’re a very structured team and they played physical,” captain Martin St. Louis said. “Just from the get-go we didn’t play with the grit we needed to have and it starts with me. Tonight I didn’t have the grit and the aggressiveness I needed to have to help the team when they were struggling.”
Despite a 2-0 deficit a little more than 20 minutes into the game, the Lightning seemed to keep pace with the Bruins, but two goals separated by less than a minute near the end of the second solidified their fate. Boston added another goal in the third for a 5-0 final, giving Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask his first shutout of the year.
Netminder Ben Bishop was handed his first loss of the season, falling to 5-1-0. Bishop allowed four goals on 17 Bruins’ shots before being replaced in favor of Anders Lindback, who completed the game.
“That wasn’t the way we wanted to play, especially at home in front of our fans,” Bishop said. “It’s unacceptable. We have to put this in the past now and we have a very hard test coming up against Chicago. We can be a lot better and we will be.”
Less than two minutes into the start of the game, the Bruins struck first with Milan Lucic feeding David Krejci a pass in front of Bishop’s net. Lightning blueliner Victor Hedman tried to bat the puck out of the crease, but Krejci was able to get the bouncing puck into the net at 1:32 for a 1-0 lead. The tally was Krejci’s first of the season.
The Bruins added three unanswered goals during the middle period of play. First, with Jarome Iginla screening Bishop, Adam McQuaid was able to send a wrister past the Lightning netminder from the point for a 2-0 lead at 4:37 of the second. McQuaid’s tally was unassisted and his first of the year.
The next two came less than a minute apart to extend Boston’s lead to four. A Bruins’ turnover in the neutral zone led to a Boston rush and Patrice Bergeron going five-hole on Bishop for a 3-0 score. Then 55 seconds later Chris Kelly added his first goal of the game. With Bishop dropping to the butterfly position too early, Kelly managed to hold off his shot and maneuver around Bishop’s leg for their third goal of the period and a 4-0 lead.
“It’s tough to play catch up hockey against a team like Boston,” St. Louis said. “You just have to take it one battle at a time and I thought we did a poor job at that.”
Bishop was then relieved of his duties after 25:33 of time in net.
“Sometimes the team needs a momentum shift and sometimes you’re not doing your job,” Bishop said. “There are 82 games though, so you can’t let one game get to you.”
Boston was not finished on the scoreboard entering the third though, adding another goal early into the frame. Shawn Thornton continued to open up the score with a wrister from the left face-off circle that beat Lindback, going top shelf for a five-goal lead 34 seconds into the final stanza.
With an earlier opportunity in the second period, it was strike two for Steven Stamkos by Bruins’ netminder Tuuka Rask in the middle of the third. Purcell passed across the crease to Stamkos, who was stationed next to Rask glove side, but the shot went right into the Boston goalie’s glove, sealing Tampa Bay’s fate.
UP NEXT – With a rare four days in between their next contest, Tampa Bay will exercise an off-day tomorrow, before an expected 11 a.m. practice Monday morning at the Times Forum. The Bolts next three games come against the defending Stanley Cup champion, Chicago Blackhawks, as well as two Atlantic Division foes, the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers.