Lightning interim head coach could be forgiven if he is thinking that if it weren’t for bad luck, the Lightning would have no luck at all, of late. Even when his defenseman, Paul Ranger, plays a 2 on 1 to perfection and breaks up the cross-ice pass, the puck rolls off Ranger’s stick and into the Lightning net.
That was the second of three first period goals that Boston scored within a four minute span. The scoring opened at 6:44 of the period when forward Milan Lucic, standing in front of the Lightning crease, took a pass from defenseman Dennis Wideman and flipped the puck into the Tampa Bay net. The goal came on the second of what was virtually back-to back penalties called on the Lightning. They escaped without damage when Steven Stamkos was sent off at 2:55 for hooking but were victimized by Boston’s power play, the best at home in the NHL with a success rate of 32.6 %, with Paul Ranger in the box for slashing.
Just over three minutes later, Phil Kessel stickhanded sharply into the Lightning zone, skated down the slot and tried a pass which banked off Ranger’s stick and into the net, making the score 2-0, Boston.
Michael Ryder completed the first period scoring for the Bruins 77 seconds later, as he connected on a shot from the center of the faceoff circle to Lightning goaltender Mike Smith’s right to extend the Boston lead to three.
Coming back from a three goal deficit is no easy task against any team, but it can be especially daunting if the scoring advantage is held by a team like the Boston Bruins, who came into tonight’s contest riding a 16-2-1 streak.
Facing an uphill climb, the Lightning set out to battle back into the game as the second period got underway.
The opportunities were there, first when Boston winger Chuck Kobasew was whistled for interference, just 45 seconds into the period, and again at 9:25 when Marc Savard was sent off for hooking. Seven seconds into Savard’s penalty, P.J. Axelson broke in alone on Smith and was pulled down from behind by Martin St. Louis. Axelson’s penalty shot, a deke to his backhand, was snared by Smith’s glove inches before entering the net.
Lightning winger Adam Hall set the wheels in motion for a comeback attempt when he made contact with the puck as it floated in mid-air and sent it behind Boston netminder Tim Thomas for the Lightning’s first goal of the game and Hall’s second of the season. The goal, at 13:06, was assisted by Evengy Artyukhin and Paul Ranger.
As the period progressed, penalty calls kept haunting the Lightning as Steve Downie was sent off for roughing at 17:13, and he was joined in the box 48 seconds later by Jussi Jokinen, called for holding.
The resulting 5 on 3 advantage for Boston led to their second power play goal of the contest as Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara fired the puck past Smith from the high slot to re-open a three goal lead with less than two minutes remaining to be played in period two.
Faced with the daunting prospect of closing a three-goal gap with one period remaining, the Lightning skated the final twenty minutes with determination.
Tampa Bay fired shot after shot on Thomas, finally getting the puck past him at 9:27 when Vincent Lecavalier got his team-leading 11th goal of the season, assisted by Martin St. Louis and Paul Ranger. For Ranger, it was his second assist of the night.
Tampa Bay continued to press the attack, and with Smith on the bench for the extra attacker, forward Paul Sczcechura forced the puck into the Boston net with 18 seconds remaining to be played for the first NHL goal of his career. Marek Malik and Andrej Meszaros assisted.
The late goal put Tampa Bay behind by only one score, 4-3, but that’s as close as they would come as Boston forward Axelson put the puck into the empty Lightning net to end the contest with 10 seconds remaining.
For the Lightning, the result was another hard-fought effort with nothing in the points total to show for the work. In the third period, Tampa Bay outshot the Bruins 15 – 4 for a game total of 29 shots for the Lightning, led by St. Louis with five, to 24 for Boston.
Tampa Bay continues on to Buffalo for Wednesday night, the second stop in a four-game road swing before returning to Tampa to face Colorado on December 18th.
1 - 0 BOS
2 - 0 BOS
3 - 0 BOS
3 - 1 BOS
4 - 1 BOS
Martin St. Louis
4 - 2 BOS
4 - 3 BOS
5 - 3 BOS
Holding the stick