Nearly fourteen minutes had gone by in the Boston Bruins' match with
the Tampa Bay Lightning before Chris Kelly put the first Bruins' shot on
Bolts' netminder Ben Bishop - in between the opening faceoff and that
point in the game came seven Tampa shots on Tuukka Rask and a Shawn
Thornton bout with 6' 6" defenseman Keith Aulie.
But no scoring and no discernible momentum shifts either, just a pickup game with a brief scuffle and a couple of uneventful power plays - and then the second period happened.
|Bruins' Milan Lucic chases the puck in the third period|
Just 27 seconds into the middle frame, Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat's shorthanded goal opened the flood gates, the Lightning scoring three times in less than 10 minutes of play and the Bruins twice, turning a scoreless tie at the first intermission into a brief, dazzling display of offensive firepower...
...Johnny Boychuk hitting the equalizer midway through the final frame, Rask stoning all six shots he faced in the shootout - the iron post stopping the seventh - and Riley Smith ending his 11-game scoring slump beating Bishop with the game winner as Boston earned the extra point by beating the Lightning 4-3 in Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
Palat, Mark Barbario and Valtteri Filppula scored for the floundering Lightning, who dropped 13 points behind the Bruins in the Atlantic Division and to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race - while Daniel Paille, Carl Soderberg, Boychuk and Smith found twine for Boston, who once again climbed to within a point of the conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
After the scoreless first period, Tampa took the lead almost immediately after the second period faceoff, Tyler Johnson picking up a loose puck in the Bruins' attacking zone in the waning seconds of a Boston power play that carried over from the opening frame and split the Bruins' defensive pairing of Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara, prompting Rask to sprint from the crease to make a play on the puck...
...poke-checking the puck away from Johnson but right to Palat who wristed an easy one into the open net for a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead - the Lightning making it a two goal lead less than four minutes later as defenseman Mark Barbario fired a rocket from the high point that a screened Rask saw at the last second second and was able to get down on his pads, but the momentum from the drive helped the puck squirt through Rask's legs.
The Bruins were suddenly back on their heels, as it were, until Gregory Campbell sent an indirect pass to Paille off of the penalty box dashers, Paille gathering it in and initiating a self pass, fighting through the Tampa defense to gain possession of the tumbling puck and finally settling it down as he passed through the low slot moving from Bishop's glove to stick side, moving the puck to his backhand and flipping the no-look shot past a shocked Bishop, and the Bruins had life.
Even more so after Soderberg potted the equalizer a minute-and-a-half later, pulling in a Chris Kelly pass from the bench-side dashers and breaking in cleanly toward Bishop, giving the suddenly besieged netminder a shoulder feign to open up the five hole and the big Swede slid the puck cleanly between his legs, an exasperated Bishop slumping to his knees.
But the tie lasted all of one minute, as Filppula took a beautiful feed from Palat from the boards off an attacking zone faceoff and easily beat a surprised Rask from the slot - a 3-2 lead that the Lightning took into the room at the second intermission.
The Bruins had the game tied six minutes into the final frame, but while Patrice Bergeron and Chara were celebrating as Bergeron had jammed the puck inside Bishop's stick side post, the referee called no joy and whistled the play dead, disallowing the goal - but Boychuk did even the score at the eight minute mark with one of his patented "Johnny Rocket" drives from the high point that Bishop had no chance at stopping.
From that point on, the Bruins dominated the ice, the defensemen planting any Lightning player who tried to get to a puck in the attacking zone by taking away middle ice and forcing everything to the wings, but Bishop turned away several Bruins' scoring chances for the last half of the period, bringing on free hockey...
...which Boston dominated as well, the brutality of the Bruins' play carrying over into a furious five minute four-on-four target practice on Bishop, who came up with stops on four consecutive shots from the slot, sending the game into the dreaded shootout.
In the shootout, both goalies turned away the first six shots they faced, Rask stoning the likes of Filppula, Steven Stamkos and Palat, while Bishop got the best of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and three others - but in the seventh round Tampa's Richard Panik had Rask beaten but elevated the puck into the corner of the glove-side crossbar, setting the stage for Smith's heroics.
Smith's curl and drag dangler giving Boston their fourth consecutive victory as they now head to Sunshine, Florida to meet the Panthers on Sunday before heading to Montreal to face the hated Canadiens on Wednesday.