BOSTON — The top team in the NHL strolled into TD Garden on Thursday night, and the Boston Bruins blew their doors off.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were handed their first regulation loss since Jan. 30 at the hands of the Bruins, who extended their point streak to 15 games with a 4-1 win over their Atlantic Division rival.
While the B’s didn’t gain a sizable lead until past the halfway point of the third period, they were the aggressors from wire-to-wire. Boston’s stingy defense limited Tampa Bay — the league’s leader in goals by a 16-tally margin — to just 21 shots on net, while the home team kept the pressure on from start to finish.
But despite a convincing win over the consensus Stanley Cup favorite, the Bruins aren’t under the impression they “sent a message.”
“I don’t know if I would put it that way,” Bruce Cassidy said. “We’ve been playing good hockey. We talked about it this morning. We were sitting here waiting for them, they got here last night and I think that factors into it. We’re playing for a little more than they are right now I think as well, in terms of the standings. Some of that factored into our urgency. But I do believe we wanted to put our best foot forward against a team that knocked us out last year. I wouldn’t say a message, but we wanted to let them know that we’re a good hockey club as well and changed a little since the last time we saw them.”
Zdeno Chara added: “It’s good to win. It’s a big game. Obviously a really good team we played tonight. It was a closer game, I would say, than the score showed. Of course, we’re going to enjoy this one and get ready for the next one.”
Boston still plays Tampa Bay twice over the course of its final 18 regular-season games. Thursday’s win undoubtedly was an important one for the Black and Gold, but Jake DeBrusk knows their late-March clash with the Bolts in the Sunshine State will be an even greater challenge.
“I mean, we haven’t played them since December and a couple new guys here and there,” DeBrusk said. “They also were playing on a back-to-back. So it will be interesting to see the next time we play them. Obviously, I think the real test is in Tampa Bay. It’s a tough building to play in. In saying that, it’s always nice to have the effort like we did tonight and have multiple guys do well.”
Here are some other notes from Thursday’s Bruins-Lightning game:
— DeBrusk continued his red-hot stretch when he scored the game’s first goal in the second period. The second-year winger now has 12 points in his last eight games.
— Tuukka Rask capped off his brilliant February with a 20-save performance to earn his seventh win in his last eight games. Rask hasn’t suffered a regulation defeat since Jan. 20.
Oh yeah, he notched his second assist of the season on DeBrusk’s goal.
— Charlie McAvoy played in his 100th career NHL game. The young defenseman logged three shots on goal and three blocked shots over 20:38 of ice time.
— Noel Acciari, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand accounted for the Bruins’ goal barrage in the third period. All three tallies were scored over a span of just one minute and 28 seconds.
— Thursday marked the sixth time the Bruins have scored four-plus goals in their last 10 games.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports