|Bruins cannot bottle Lightning in loss||03.25.10 at 9:34 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins could not bottle up the Lightning at TD Garden en route to a 5-3 loss on Thursday night. Tuukka Rask took the loss by allowing five goals on 18 shots after coming into the game the NHL leader in goals against average at 2.02. Antero Niittmaki shut down a Bruins attack that mustered an astounding 50 shots but only the three goals.
Tampa Bay came out of the gates hot. Just 49-seconds into the game Steve Downie fed Steve Stamkos coming down the slot right at Rask. Downie put it right on Stamkos’s tape and it was any easy goal. There was a mild controversy if Stamkos was offsides on the rush but no ruling was made. The Lightning would go up two ate in the first period when Dennis Seidenberg botched a pass to Michael Ryder rolling up the right wing that turn Vincent Lecavalier instantly turned for a break the other way. Lecavalier would shoot/pass from the wing to a rushing Martin St. Louis. The puck and St. Louis reached Rask at the same time and the forward won the battle and slipped the puck into the net at 18:05.
Boston would gain one of those goals back with 26.8 seconds left in the first period. David Krejci battled on the half-wall to win the puck and passed the puck in front of Niittymaki onto the stick of Zdeno Chara who deflected it through the crease to cut the Lightning lead in half.
Tampa pushed its advantage back to two in the front half of the second period when Paul Szcezchura spotted the puck on a turnover in the Bruins zone on the right circle and sent a shot on Rask that was stopped but slipped through the crease somehow to make it 3-1 at 6:50.
Johnny Boychuk got the goal back for Boston at 10:42 in the second when he beat Niittymaki through a stretching, far side five hole for his fifth of the season.
Stamkos struck again within a minute of the end of the second period on the power play when he fired a one-time rocket from the top of the left circle that streaked through traffic and passed Rask to make the score 4-2.
Szczechura got his second of the game at 3:00 in the third on the power play when he took a feed from St. Louis in the slot in front of Rask and beat the goalie high glove side to make it a three goal Tampa advantage. Boston closed it to two at 11:50 when Mark Recchi scored his 16th of the season by banging the puck into the net from the within the crease.
Steven Stamkos — An impressive effort by the 20-year-old former No.1 overall pick. He was a constant thorn in the Bruins side en route to a two goal performance that gave him 45 for the season.
Paul Szczechura — The Lightning center scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season in his 48th game of the year for Tampa.
David Krejci — The Bruins center looked a lot like his 2008-09 self as he set up the Bruins first two goals and was active with the puck all game long.
Turning Point — Stamkos’ second goal at the end of the second period stopped any chance of a comeback that the Bruins may have had as it increased the Lightning lead back to two goals. The Bruins are 3-22-0 (including Thursday) this season when they trail by two goalsl at any time during a game.
Key Play — The the Bruins biggest breakdown of the game cost them on what turned out to be Szczechura’s first of the game in the second period. The Lightning chased the puck into the Bruins zone and maintained a forecheck that ended up with Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference attempting to clear the puck from behind the goal line that ended up right on the stick of a charging Szchechura. All the center needed to do was wind up and fire. Rask stopped it initially but the shot’s momentum carried it through the crease.
|Bruins look to cool Lightning||02.11.10 at 11:14 am ET|
The Bruins know the recipe that will take to climb back into solid playoff contention — goal scorers doing their job, streaky shooting and a hot goaltender to carry the load. It is an easy formula that can propel a team on long streaks that eventually lead to extended spring hockey.
For an example, the Bruins only need to look across to the other bench on Thursday to the Lightning. Tampa Bay has won four in a row and is 10-1-2 in its last 13 games to pull itself out of the Eastern Conference basement to be tied for the seventh and eighth playoff spots with Philadelphia. With 63 points the Lightning stand two ahead of the ninth-place Bruins.
Antero Niittymaki is on fire. The Tampa goaltender is 7-0-1 in his last eight games with a 1.09 goals against average and a .965 save percentage. Thought Tuukka Rask was playing well for the Bruins? Rask is 2-0-2 on his current point streak and and his 2.01 goals against for the season is second in the NHL but Niittymaki has been the best goaltender in the NHL over the last month.
On the offensive end, the Lightning have been putting up some points behind Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. The duo has propelled Tampa over the last nine games, scoring 16 of its last 22 goals. Stamkos in particular looks impressive. The first overall pick in the 2008 draft already has 33 goals through 58 games this year and another 30 assists on top of that. For a second year player to be able to put up those kind of numbers makes scouts heads turn and gives the denizens of the Tampa area dreams of a superstar in the St. Petersburg Times Forum for years to come. Stamkos has five goals in his last five games.
St. Louis, the wily veteran southpaw forward, also has five goals in the last five games and has 20 goals and 46 assists for the season. His six game-winning goals are good for fifth in the NHL.
Look for Bruins captain Zdeno Chara to be near every time that Stamkos touches a skate to the ice at the Forum on Thursday. Yet, the fun does not stop there. The Lightning are deep with threats on their first two lines with Vincent LeCavalier, Ryan Malone and Alex Tanguay all in the mix. LeCavalier is third on the team in points with 55 (15 goals, 40 assists) and Malone has 21 goals to trail only Stamkos in that department. For a comparison, the lowly Bruins offense has no player with more than 36 points (Patrice Bergeron) or 18 goals (Marco Sturm).
If the Bruins want to really get back into the mess that is the Eastern Conference playoff race, they will have to win games against the teams ahead of them and right now that means cooling down the Lightning. If Boston can claim a regulation two-point victory (something it has only done twice since Jan. 5) it will create a three-way tie for the final spot in the conference and set the Bruins up to rise above the demarcation line if they can claim points against the Panthers on Saturday.