Thursday night's tilt between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning was the story of two completely different games, combined into one. The first 30 minutes belonged to the Bruins. Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, before extending that lead to five in the second. At that point, the visiting Bruins appeared to be on their way to an easy blowout win. However, the Lightning had other ideas, scoring twice each in the final two periods, trimming Boston's five-goal advantage to 5-4. Luckily for the Bruins, that was as close as Tampa Bay would get, giving the B's their third straight win.
Physical play was a frequent occurrence in this game, and it got started early. Shawn Thornton and Matt Walker met outside of the Bruins' offensive zone, electing to drop the gloves at the 3:16 mark of the first period. Thornton controlled the fight, landing a few punches of his own, while not allowing Walker to throw much of anything.
Thornton's domination of the fight sparked the Boston bench, and the visitors opened the scoring just over a minute later. Miroslav Satan chipped the puck down the left wing boards, connecting with Marc Savard below the goal line. Savard carried the puck around the back of the cage, wrapping a pass through the slot to Satan. Satan had a tough angle to work with, but still managed to knock the puck into the wide open side of the net.
Midway through the opening stanza, the Bruins extended their lead. Tampa Bay tried to clear the puck out of the defensive zone, but Andrew Ference kept the play alive at the left point. Ference tried sending a shot through, but a defender got in the way. However, the puck deflected to Michael Ryder, who hammered a slap shot in toward the net. Milan Lucic got a piece of Ryder's attempt, tipping it in past Antero Niittymaki.
A little more than four minutes later, Boston continued the offensive surge, building the lead to three. Blake Wheeler started the play in his own zone, passing ahead to Michael Ryder in center ice. Ryder carried the puck into the offensive zone, before returning the favor by passing back to Wheeler. Wheeler went to his right, while Ryder went left. With Niittymaki committing to Wheeler, that left Ryder open in front. Wheeler found his open teammate, and Ryder had little issue slamming home the goal.
Less than a minute after that, the Lightning got caught being undisciplined. Miroslav Satan and Steve Downie got tangled in the corner, with Downie delivering an extra shot, thus earning an extra minor penalty. Looking to stick up for their teammate, the Bruins made Downie pay the hard way, lighting the lamp for the fourth time in the opening stanza. Patrice Bergeron got the puck at the left point, tapping a pass low to Marc Savard in the left circle. Savard wristed a shot on goal that got stopped by Niittymaki. The rebound of Savard's shot deflected out to Michael Ryder, who roofed his second tally of the period. With his two goals, Ryder now has eight goals in nine games against Niittymaki.
The Bruins' offensive outburst in the first period brought an early end to Niittymaki's night between the pipes. Tampa Bay's starting goaltender was pulled at the end of the opening stanza, after allowing four goals on 21 shots. Boston outshot the Lightning 21-13 in the first period, while grabbing a commanding 4-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Mike Smith took over between the pipes in the second period, and he was greeted with a goal less than five minutes in. Marc Savard chased down a loose puck in the right corner of the offensive zone, centering a pass into the slot to Daniel Paille. Paille backhanded the puck toward the middle, with a Lightning player deflecting the pass out to Zdeno Chara at the point. Chara spun and fired a slap shot in on goal, getting a tip from Milan Lucic, as well as Martin St. Louis. Those two redirections fooled Smith, beating him through the legs.
As the period wore on, Steve Downie took center stage once again, getting under the skins of the Bruins' players. This time, Downie got caught up with Zdeno Chara. Downie gave Chara a few shots, leading the Bruins' captain to respond, dropping his gloves, and drilling the Tampa Bay forward with a series of punches. Chara did pick up the extra minor, but Boston's penalty kill was successful in keeping the Lightning off of the scoreboard.
Unfortunately for Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, the shutout didn't last much longer, as Tampa Bay finally scored a few minutes later. Steven Stamkos won an offensive zone face-off back to Victor Hedman at the right point. Hedman threw a shot in on goal that Rask stopped, but the rebound kicked out to Martin St. Louis. With Rask scrambling to recover, St. Louis calmly tapped in the rebound with his backhand.
In the final few minutes of the middle frame, Boston's defense was put to the test, as it was forced to kill a 4-on-3 power play. The Lightning took advantage of the extra ice, scoring once more before the period came to an end. Kurtis Foster got the puck at the right point, cycling the puck around the boards for Martin St. Louis behind the cage. St. Louis stickhandled briefly, before passing back to Foster. For the second time on the play, Foster went to St. Louis, setting him up with a slap pass at the top of the crease. St. Louis kept his stick on the ice, tipping in his second goal in less than four minutes.
St. Louis' two goals gave Tampa Bay some life, but the Bruins still had a pretty solid 5-2 lead when the seconds period concluded.
The score stayed that way for the first half of the third period, and Boston appeared to be in good shape. However, the Lightning had other ideas, continuing their comeback with 8:51 left to play. Martin St. Louis flipped the puck into the offensive zone, connecting with Steven Stamkos on the right side. Stamkos spun off of his defender, while also dropping a pass back to Victor Hedman at the point. Hedman sent a wrist shot in through traffic, getting a deflection from Steve Downie for Tampa Bay's third goal of the evening.
With less than four minutes remaining in regulation, Tampa Bay cut the lead even more, causing fans around Boston to worry. Derek Morris turned the puck over in his own zone, allowing Martin St. Louis to create an offensive chance for the Lightning. St. Louis curled around the back of the goal, tossing a pass out to Victor Hedman for a shot from the point. Hedman's shot got stopped by Rask, as well as a rebound chance by Steve Downie. However, the Bruins' netminder wasn't as fortunate on Downie's second shot, as he made the score 5-4 in favor of the visitors.
The Lightning did get close, but that was as close as they would get. The Bruins tightened up defensively in the final few minutes, holding on for a 5-4 victory.
Tuukka Rask picked up his third straight win for Boston, making 31 saves on 35 shots. Antero Niittymaki was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots in the first period, but received a no-decision, as the Lightning scored four goals of their own. Instead, it was Mike Smith getting the loss for Tampa Bay, despite allowing just one goal on 15 shots.
The Boston Bruins will look for their fourth straight win on Saturday night, when they conclude the pre-Olympic portion of the schedule against the Florida Panthers. The Providence Bruins are in action on Friday night, as they play host to the Hartford Wolf Pack.
1. BOS Satan (3) (Savard, Morris) 4:24
1. BOS Lucic (4) (Ryder, Ference) 11:21
1. BOS Ryder (14) (Wheeler, Morris) 15:44
1. BOS Ryder (15) (Savard, Bergeron) (PP) 17:19
2. BOS Lucic (5) (Chara, Paille) 4:53
2. TBL St. Louis (21) (Hedman, Stamkos) 16:10
2. TBL St. Louis (22) (Foster, Stamkos) (PP) 19:02
3. TBL Downie (12) (Hedman, Stamkos) 11:09
3. TBL Downie (13) (Hedman, St. Louis) 16:47
1. BOS Thornton- Fighting 3:16
1. TBL Walker- Fighting 3:16
1. BOS Satan- Tripping 7:55
1. TBL Ohlund- Cross Checking 7:55
1. BOS Satan- Roughing 16:41
1. TBL Downie- Roughing (Double-Minor) 16:41
2. TBL Ohlund- Holding 7:47
2. BOS Chara- Holding 13:35
2. BOS Chara- Roughing 13:35
2. TBL Downie- Roughing 13:35
2. TBL Fedoruk- Interference 17:04
2. BOS Ryder- Holding 17:15
2. BOS Krejci- Holding 18:40
3. BOS Chara- Delay of Game 2:47
3. BOS Wideman- Hooking 11:51
BOS Tuukka Rask (13-7-4): 35 shots, 31 saves
TBL Antero Niittymaki (replaced at 0:00 2nd): 21 shots, 17 saves
TBL Mike Smith (10-13-6): 15 shots, 14 saves
Shots on Goal:
Three Stars of the Game:
1- BOS Michael Ryder
2- TBL Steve Downie
3- BOS Marc Savard