The Tampa Bay Lightning battled the Eastern Division-leading Boston Bruins head to head and toe to toe tonight for 59 minutes and 27 seconds before Lightning forward Vaclav Prospal converted a pass from Jeff Halpern and scored his 15th goal of the season to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory.
The goal, which came on a Tampa Bay’s sixth power play opportunity of the night, came from a hard shot from the slot. Halpern’s assist, after some nifty work in the left corner to get the pass out to Prospal, was his second point of the game. The Lightning forward scored a goal in period one to tie the game after Boston jumped out to an early lead.
The first period was a back-and-forth affair with neither team emerging from the first 20 minutes of hockey with an advantage.
The Bruins were on the scoreboard first, just 98 seconds after the puck dropped to begin play. While attacking 3-on-2, Phil Kessel took a pass from Marc Savard and beat Tampa Bay netminder Karri Ramo from the slot.
The lead held up until 15:16 of the period when Halpern scored his fourth goal of the season on a wrist shot from the slot off a pass by Matt Pettinger. Defenseman Steve Eminger also got credit for an assist on Halpern’s tally.
The score remained tied for just 15 seconds, the amount of time the Lightning needed to cruise to a 2-1 advantage. Lightning forward Adam Hall popped a wrap-around past Bruin goaltender Manny Fernandez for his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Ryan Craig and Evengy Artyukhin.
Both teams settled into an aggressive forecheck from that point, and the tight checking prompted Lightning defenseman David Koci to battle with Boston left winger Shawn Thornton at the 10:32 mark. Both players got five minutes in the penalty box for fighting, though Koci seemed to get the better of the on-ice dust-up.
Late in period one, the Bruins were able to generate some sustained pressure in the Lightning defensive zone, but it wasn’t until Halpern was sent off for goaltender interference that Boston was able to convert the power play chance and tie the game at 2-2.
Bruin defenseman Andrew Ference got the tying power play goal at 16:42, his first of the season in his 12th game back from an injury, and that’s where the score would remain as the buzzer sounded to end the period.
But before the first period came to a close, veteran Gary Roberts pounded Mark Stuart to the ice and Thornton was called for a cross-check, which gave the Lightning a four minute extra man advantage.
Tampa Bay was unable to generate much in the way of a power play attack as the period came to a close, but the Lightning ended the stanza with 2 goals and 2 fights, both of which they had the best of, and, despite being outshot by the Bruins, 14-9, the game was all even at 2-2.
Period two began with the Lightning still on the power play, but the extra man advantage expired quietly.
Both clubs had opportunities early in the second but neither team could capitalize, although Tampa Bay regained the lead at the ten-minute mark when Mark Recchi, stationed in front of the crease, re-directed a pass from defenseman Josef Melichar past Fernandez and into the twine. The goal was Recchi’s 12th of the season and David Koci also earned an assist, his first of the season, on the play.
Unfortunately the Tampa Bay lead disappeared when Bruin defenseman Zdeno Charo scored his 14th goal of the season, a hard shot from the right faceoff circle which beat Ramo at 15:17 of the second period.
The third period began with the clubs tied at 3-3 and although there were power play opportunities and scoring chances on both ends of the ice, the tie stood until Prospal’s power play goal gave the win to the Lightning.
Karri Ramo finished with 40 saves on 43 shots, including several difficult saves in the third stanza to preserve the win.
This was the fourth game in a row that Tampa Bay allowed 40 or more shots on net; tonight’s shot count was 43-18 in favor of Boston; but this time Tampa Bay came out on top, spelling the end to a four-game losing streak.
Following tonight’s win, Tampa Bay packs for the road; an extended trip which to western Canada which will begin Tuesday in Edmonton.
1 - 0 BOS
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 TBL
2 - 2 Tie