Last night the Bruins and the Lightning met for the third and final time of the season in a game that was initially scheduled for February 9th. That weekend, the Northeast was rocked by a snowstorm that shut down everything in the area. Tampa Bay looked for their first win of the season against Boston and just their fifth win against the Bruins in franchise history. This was the last road game of the season for Tampa, who close out their season on Saturday against Florida. With a win, the Bruins could guarantee that they finished no worse than fourth in the conference and seal up home ice advantage at least in the first round.
The game started off with the naming of the 7th player award, presented by the Bruins and NESN. In a move that seemed to take some people by surprise, rookie Dougie Hamilton earned the honors. Hamilton, a 6’5 defenseman, started the season in the Niagra IceDogs of the OHL. He was a 2011 Bruins draft pick that joined the team as soon as the lockout ended. So far his season, he has recorded 5 goals and 11 assists in 42 games.
The story of the night was definitely the Bruins goalie, Tuuka Rask, who came up with a number of big saves. The Bruins struggled to get control of the puck in the first, being outshot 9-4, but the game was scoreless at the end of the first period. Rask showed early on that he was going to have a great game.
“He’s been great all season but he definitely has saved us a few times when we had a couple of breakdowns here and there,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said of Rask. “So, going forward we don’t want to always rely on him obviously and be a little bit stronger, smarter, more assertive and manage the puck a little better.”
Although the first period was scoreless, it did feature a fight between former Bruin, Benoit Pouliot, and Andrew Ference. It had been chippy behind Lightning goalie Lindback before the two squared off at the other end of the ice behind Rask. Although Ference is not known for dropping the gloves, he clearly thought the team needed a spark.
“I think everyone that does it whenever they do it kind of shows something. It was a great job by him,” Shawn Thornton said of Ference fighting. “But obviously being who I am, I don’t want to take it away from the guys who do it a lot. But you know what, he thought we needed some emotion and he stepped up and got the boys going.”
The second period started scoreless but that only lasted until 4:22 when Dennis Seidenberg ripped a shot from near the blue line that beat Lindback. Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin earned the assist on the third goal of the season for the defenseman. Later that same period, the Bruins would take a 2-0 lead. Gregory Campbell passed the puck in front of the Lindback to Daniel Paille, who was on the opposite face-off circle. Paille managed to beat Lindback on his wrist shot with assists going to Campbell and Shawn Thortnon. It was a big goal for the energy-providing fourth line.
Before the end of the second, the game would see one more fight. Bruins Milan Lucic fought Keith Aulie. Although Lucic made a lot of contact with Aulie’s helmet, he landed the majority of the punches, eventually dropping Aulie to the ice. Lucic, who had been struggling lately, really looked like he got back to the game he is known for last night.
“It’s a lot different when you’re watching from up top, and another thing [is] you’re not happy about sitting out,” Lucic said about being scratched. “So you want to do everything in your power to make sure it never happens again, and that’s where my head is at.”
The third period would be another story of Rask coming up big for his team. He kept Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis off the board and made it look easy. With the 2-0 win, Rask earned his fifth shutout of the season. It was the fourth game in just six days for the Bruins who have two more games before their season ends. They head down to Washington for a Saturday night game before closing at home on Sunday against Ottawa. That final game had been rescheduled from April 15th when the city of Boston shut down due to the tragic Boston Bombing. In honor of that, the Lightning wore decals on their helmets for the game and will auction them off to benefit the One Fund Boston.