The Bruins returned home tonight after being away from the TD Garden for over two weeks. With less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, every game is going to be critical as positioning for playoff standings will be on the mind for the B's. Coming into tonight's game, the Bruins were tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 81 points, good for second place in the East. Their opponent tonight: the Lightning. Perfect timing.
The Bruins have a 15-12-3 home record this season, which is not terrible. However, they need to start making the Garden a tough place to play as the season winds down. When you have two Hart Memorial Trophy candidates coming into the Garden tonight (Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis), any home ice advantage would help. The key for the Bruins tonight was to stay out of the penalty box. Stamkos leads the league with 16 power play goals and St. Louis leads the league with 27 power play assists. Talk about a difference maker.
An interesting statistic coming into this game: the Bruins were a +47 as a team and the Lightning were even at 0. So it is against anybody's better judgment for the Bruins to just shoot the puck? After all the Lightning have a 3.0 goals against average and that ranks them 25th in the league. They give up a lot of goals and the Bruins needed to take advantage of that tonight.
The fans saw Daniel Paille return to the line up as Tyler Seguin got the healthy scratch for this game. This game got off to a really fast start for both teams. Each team had several scoring opportunities. Even though Tampa Bay out shot the Bruins 10-8 in the first period, Boston clearly had more quality chances. The puck hit the post on both ends of the ice, but goaltenders Tim Thomas (BOS) and Mike Smith (TB) held both team scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Smith would like to forget the last time he traveled to Boston since the Bruins put up 8 goals that night, a game in which Smith was pulled.
Eric Brewer from Tampa Bay got things started quickly in the second period when he scored the first goal of the game and his ninth of the season. Just over two minutes later, Steve Kampfer tied the game up at one. It was Kampfer's first goal in the last 18 games. The physicality and the chippy play picked up in this period. A couple of questionable tactics from Lightning players caused Gregory Campbell and Mark Recchi to send their tempers flying. Shawn Thornton was licking his lips to fight with Steve Downie but that never took place. Instead, Milan Lucic dropped the gloves with Eric Brewer and won that scrap pretty decisively. Oh yes, the score was tied at one after two.
NESN play-by-play commentator Jack Edwards pointed out something that holds water: Tampa Bay loves to take dives and cause tempers to flare. It's a shame that a team like the Bruins will fight through all of the hits and the chippy play. But when a team like the Lightning takes the easy way out by diving, it is a disgrace. It is a shame that players like that exist in the NHL.
It was nice to see the cooler heads prevail in the third period. The Bruins clearly dominated the entire period and held the puck more than 50% of the time. Lucic scored his 28th goal of the season after shooting the puck over six bodies in front of the Tampa Bay goal. On that goal, David Krejci recorded his 200th career point by picking up the assist along with Nathan Horton. The Bruins held on to win this important game by a score of 2-1.
Gold Star: Tomas Kaberle...he finished with a + 1 for the night, but he is not being recognized for what he puts up on the stat sheet. His play tonight was nothing short of perfect. Just watching him move the puck and create lanes for passes is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. He will be vital in the Bruins playoff run, particularly on the power play.
Black Star: Shawn Thornton...it was exciting to see him wanting to drop the gloves. But fans forget to realize that it was because of him that Tampa Bay brought the puck into the B's zone and scored their goal. Instead of trying to take his head off, he should have played some defense. Take it easy in those situations Shawn.
That is seven in a row for the Bruins. They will welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Garden on Saturday night. They will see Alexei Kovalev in a Penguins' jersey for the first time. He is a great player, but he is no Sidney Crosby.