Final: Tampa Bay 5, Boston 3
Recap: Thanks to a Vinny Lecavalier goal, the Lightning controlled play in the first period and took a 1-0 lead into the middle frame. Nathan Horton evened things up with a backhander at the 4:28 mark and again with 3:12 left in the second after a Tom Pyatt goal, as the Bruins and Bolts headed into the third tied 2-2.
Ryan Malone put the Lightning back on top when he banged in his tenth of the season at 4:58. But the resilient B’s made it 3-3 when Dan Paille cashed in on a shorthanded breakaway, beating Mathieu Garon with a backhander.
With just 3:45 to go, the back-and-forth tempo continued as Dominic Moore’s fourth of the campaign put Tampa up 4-3. Steve Stamkos added an empty-netter with 21 ticks left, sealing the deal on a 5-3 win for the Lightning.
Records: Tampa Bay 18-23-4, 40 points; Boston 29-13-1, 59 points
Key Play of the Game: A lot of plays probably qualify for this spot, but the most egregious boo-boo came via a silly decision by Joe Corvo. On the play that led to Tom Pyatt’s goal in the second, Corvo foolishly chased after a deflected puck, skating way over to the far boards. This left someone wide open in the spot he vacated, leaving Tim Thomas damn near helpless.
Connolly’s Commendations: Paille was Mr. Opportunity tonight, especially in the third period. The speedy winger caught iron on one breakaway, forced Garon to make a timely stop a few minutes later then found the back of the net when Marty St. Louis failed to keep the puck in at Boston’s blueline and left Paille all alone to streak in on Garon.
Though he did finish minus-2, it’s fairly evident Nathan Horton responded to coach Claude Julien’s statement that No. 18 needed to up his game. Horton tallied twice in the second and also fired a game-high six shots on goal, a drastic improvement over the somewhat lackadaisical performance he put on in Sunrise the night prior.
Connolly’s Critiques: Not exactly a fun road trip for Corvo. After struggling against the Panthers on Monday night, Tuesday’s tilt didn’t go much better. No. 14 was to blame for Pyatt’s goal and, in the third period, failed to transition the puck up the boards and subsequently didn’t get back to the front of the net in time to prevent Malone from beating Thomas to make it 3-2.
Claude Julien showed little faith in his third line in this one. Chris Kelly played a hair over 10 minutes of even-strength time, while Jordan Caron (5:13) and Zach Hamill (6:10) saw even less action. Neither Hamill nor Caron had a shot on goal.
Notes: Tim Thomas has now lost three of his last four starts. In those three setbacks, he’s allowed 11 goals. After seeing his 11-game point streak end on Monday, David Krejci picked up an assist to give him points in 12 of the last 13 contests.
Final Thoughts: A slow start didn’t kill the Bruins last night, but they danced with the devil again with a sluggish first period and paid the price against Tampa. Now 1-2-0 on their four-game road trip, the Bruins haven’t been their typical sharp, defensively-sound selves of late.
Next: The Bruins will pay a second visit to New Jersey in the month of January, as they’ll take on the Devils on Thursday night.