The Tampa Bay Lightning established a pair of new milestones in their regular-season-ending, 3-2 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning won 50 games for the first time in franchise history. The Bolts set a new record for points in a season, banking 108 to surpass the old mark of 106 from the 2003-04 Stanley Cup title season.
Ben Bishop stopped 36-of-38 shots and three more in the shootout for the first 40-win season of his career.
Tampa Bay came up short in its bid to finish as the Atlantic Division champions however.
Montreal earned a point in Toronto to claim the division title. The Lightning (50-24-8, 108 points) are the Atlantic runner-up and will play Detroit in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bolts finish the season 21-5-4 against division opponents.
“Pretty remarkable to think what that group’s accomplished this year,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s just been a lot of fun to be with these guys. I told the guys, ‘Sit back tonight and enjoy this.’ We’ve got a few days here to get prepared for Detroit, but they should sit back and reflect on what they’ve accomplished. I don’t know how many teams reach 50 wins in a season, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment from this group, especially with so many moving different parts that have come in and especially in the offseason and the changeover in our team.”
The Lightning end the regular season on a three-game winning streak.
“I think we’ve been able to grow as a team down the stretch,” said Bolts captain Steven Stamkos, who finishes second in the league with 43 goals, 10 behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who wins his third-straight Maurice Richard Trophy. “Guys have stepped up with the injuries. Now the fun part begins. I think we’ve learned a lot from this time last year. We’re ready to put it into playoff mode.”
Victor Hedman was the lone Lightning shootout taker to score on Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask as he netted the Bolts’ second attempt.
Bishop, who finishes the year 40-13-5, saved shootout attempts from Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Loui Eriksson to send the Lightning to a dramatic win.
“Bish was a stud tonight,” Brian Boyle said.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Boston kept fighting late despite having been eliminated earlier in the period when Pittsburgh defeated Buffalo. The Bruins were rewarded when Brad Marchand tied the game with 1:06 left, Marchand wristing a shot into the net off a scramble in front of Bishop to make it 2-2 and send the game to overtime and eventually a shootout.
The Lightning finish 2-1-1 against Boston in 2014-15. The Bruins outshot the Bolts 38-25.
Tampa Bay was paced by a couple of youngsters in the one-goal victory.
Nikita Nesterov scored his second goal in two games and third of his NHL career at 5:12 of the final period to put the Lightning ahead 2-1. The Russian defenseman sent an innocuous-looking shot toward goal from the left point that appeared to take a deflection off a Boston skater in front before fluttering past Rask.
Matt Carle and Jonathan Marchessault earned assists.
Marchessault was recalled from AHL Syracuse Saturday morning after an illness kept Jonathan Drouin out of the lineup.
Midway through his fourth-ever NHL game, Marchessault scored his first league goal.
The 24-year-old capitalized on a turnover in the Bruins’ zone between the circles. Marchessault skated into the right circle and from the dot fired a shot over the left shoulder of Rask at 5:08 of the middle frame.
Marchessault said he had about an hour and 40 minutes to make his flight to Tampa after finding out he had been recalled during breakfast while on the road with the Crunch in Bridgeport, Conn.
“I was definitely running to catch the plane,” Marchessault joked.
Boston (41-27-14, 96 points) knotted the score almost immediately, Eriksson slotting a rebound past Bishop stickside six minutes into the second. Dennis Seidenberg started the scoring play with a partially-blocked slap shot from the blue line that Chris Kelly latched onto inside the right circle. His shot was turned away by Bishop, but Eriksson was there for the follow.
Tampa Bay enters the Eastern Conference Playoffs as the third seed, the same as a year ago when they were swept by the Canadiens in the First Round.
“We’re a different group,” Cooper said. “We know each other now. They know me. I know them. We’re closer. Our system’s in place. It’s different. I have no idea how the series is going to turn out. We don’t know, but I know we are more positioned to put our best foot forward this year than we were last year.”
Keep checking tampabaylightning.com for updated start date/time of the Bolts’ opening game of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Detroit.