Girardi Lifts Lightning to Controversial Overtime Victory

Lightning can finish Bruins on Sunday afternoon

Boston, MA- The Tampa Bay Lightning claimed an impressive win in Boston on Wednesday night with their top line held quiet. Staring down a potential road sweep, the Lightning took to the ice with their top men on the prowl for another win against the Bruins in TD Garden.

For the second game in a row, the Lightning jumped to a lead on strong offensive punch. Less than five minutes in, Brayden Point forced a turnover and sliced through the Bruins defense for the first goal of the game. The Bruins continued shooting themselves in the foot with consecutive penalties by Rick Nash for tripping and Zdeno Chara for delay of game. On the second power play chance, Tampa cycled the puck through the attacking zone. Victor Hedman found Nikita Kucherov, who roofed a shot on Tuuka Rask for his sixth goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 Lightning lead.

Boston fought back and used the special teams to do so. They failed to score on a Yanni Gourde trip, but capitalized on an illegal head check by Steven Stamkos. Torey Krug banged a puck off the glass that bounced to Pastrnak, and the 21 year old Czech Republic native potted his sixth goal and 20th point of the playoffs. Tampa held onto a 2-1 lead entering the first intermission.

Boston pounced early in the second period on a Tampa Bay mistake. Tyler Johnson took a tripping minor and gave the Bruins’ special teams more time to operate. Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug played a give and go to perfection, with Bergeron scoring a power play goal in consecutive games. Boston kept up the attack, but could not land the lead. Andrei Vasilevskiy played a strong frame, recording 13 of his 29 saves in the second. He kept the Lightning tied 2-2 entering intermission.

Controversy struck late in the second. In the waning moments of the frame, Brad Marchand hit and then licked Ryan Callahan, which drew some checks and strong reaction. The controversy only intensified in the third. Only 5:34 into the period, Noel Acciari was called for an iffy hooking minor and the Bruins fans, already distrusting of the officials, howled their anger towards the call. However, the Bruins did strike on the ensuing penalty kill. 1:02 into the penalty, Marchand lugged the puck through neutral ice and into the Tampa Bay end. He threw it towards Vasilevskiy. Bergeron got to it first, and tipped the puck by Vasilevskiy for a 3-2 Bruins lead.

Tampa Bay cranked up the offense for the rest of the third, outshooting the Bruins 11-7 for the final period. And in a game and series with enough controversy for a lifetime, there was still more. Charlie McAvoy and Nikita Kucherov went for a puck behind the net and McAvoy fell to the ice. Kucherov got the puck to Stamkos and the Lightning Captain wired a puck through Rask to tie the game with 7:04 left to play. Bruins fans and players believe Kucherov should have received a minor for tripping. They felt that way in game and after, but the officials did not see it the same way. Neither team claimed a lead in the waning seconds of regulation, so the series saw its first overtime.

Each team got chances on the others’ goalie. Both made a difficult save, and both teams were desperate for a win. Ultimately, a fortuitous bounce and a good decision landed the Lightning a win. Alex Killorn cut towards the Bruins net from the blue line. He threw the puck towards Rask. Dan Girardi dove to the crease, and tipped the puck past Brian Gionta and Rask for the overtime winner just 3:18 into the overtime session.

The conversation after the game was two fold. The Lightning were asked about Marchand licking an opponent. Callahan answered: “I don’t know the difference between spitting someone’s face and licking it. And I think spitting is a misconduct penalty.” Head Coach Jon Cooper said “It has no place in our game. How would you feel if I walked up to you and gave you a big lick from chin up?”

The Bruins were asked about the controversial no call on Kucherov. Charlie McAvoy simply said “I don’t have anything to say about the officiating.” Patrice Bergeron noted “On our side, we’re gonna think it’s a call. On the other side, you know, they think its a hard play, so that being said, it happened and we had a chance to still finish it in overtime. We didn’t do it, so there’s not much we can do right now. We have to look forward and be desperate for game five.”

Rask recorded 24 saves on 28 shots faced. Bergeron’s two goals gave him 13 points for the postseason, the most since his 15 points in the Bruins’ run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

Dan Girardi’s game winner was his second goal of the postseason and first point since game one against the Bruins. It’s his eighth career playoff goal.

Tampa leads three games to one and stands on the precipice of their third trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in four seasons. Game five will be played on Sunday, May 6th. Puck drops at Amilie Arena at 3pm Eastern.