Each playoff game between the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning was expected to be passionate, dramatic and tight, but the B’s mailed in a no-show performance and lost, 7-1, at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night.
Played against the backdrop of an historically tumultuous evening in the sports world — the NBA, WNBA, MLS and some MLB games were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a boycott of their NBA playoff game over the racial strife occurring in Kenosha, Wis., after a police shooting of a Black man — the B’s simply laid an egg.
By the time it was over, the Bolts’ dormant power-play had woken up for the three goals, Jaroslav Halak had given way to untested rookie Daniel Vladar and the B’s road leading to the Stanley Cup suddenly looked awfully rocky.
Before they checked out, the Bruins found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the first period, thanks to a bad decision and some bad luck.
The B’s were skating hard and playing physically in the first period. At one point, Patrick Maroon took out the legs of John Moore at the whistle and Nick Ritchie appeared to offer Maroon a dance, but Maroon kept his mitts on.
A short time after that, Ritchie took a big hit along the boards and responded with a slash of Kevin Shattenkirk. The next thing the Bruins knew, they were down 1-0. Breaking an 0-for-15 power-play drought, Ondrej Palat fired a shot from the right circle that ramped up off Zdeno Chara’s stick and beat Halak’s shortside.
Then, just 15 seconds later, Yanni Gourde put the Bolts up 2-0, thanks to an assist from linesman Devin Berg. With Gourde scooting into the offensive zone along the right boards, Jeremy Lauzon was backtracking to defend him when he ran smack into Berg, allowing Gourde to break in all alone. Still, Gourde made a pretty play, cutting in front of the net and lifting the puck over a sliding Halak for the 2-0 lead.
Things then got away from the B’s early in the second period. Patrice Bergeron was called for high-sticking on Palat and the Lightning immediately made them pay at 2:14. Nikita Kucherov teed up Mikhail Sergachev and the the defenseman blew a slapshot past Halak’s glove hand for 3-0.
The B’s did get one back and, again, it came off the power play. With the addition of David Krejci to first power-play unit, Brad Marchand has been moved to the net front position, where he’s been effective in the past. And at 4:56, he scored a goal that was near identical one of his Game 2 goals. Parked at the right side of the net, Marchand simply redirected Torey Krug’s pass into the net.
But the B’s minds and bodies were not in this one. Charlie McAvoy was sent off for delivering a forearm to the back of Kucherov’s head and the Lightning made it 4-1 with their third power-play goal. Alex Killorn got position on Moore and was able to shovel home a fat rebound off a Palat shot and that was almost it for Halak, who playing the second half of a back-to-back and appeared to need the rest.
Coach Bruce Cassidy allowed a few more minutes run off to let Vladar get ready and, in the next stoppage of play, the rookie who had never seen NHL action before Wednesday, made his debut to relieve Halak.
It was not a fun one for the kid. After making a few initial saves, his teammates hung him out to dry as they tried to make a game of it, but it was a feeble attempt.
With the B’s spinning their wheels in the Tampa zone, Killorn sprung Brayden Point for a clean breakaway and the young veteran gave Vladar his Welcome to the NHL moment. Making a deke that brought Vladar to his belly, Point made it a 5-1 game.
It did not end there. On another odd man rush, Gourde’s shot went wide but the puck bounced off the end boards and right onto Killorn’s stick for an easy goal.