TAMPA — The building was electric and the game tight, but in the end the Lightning came up on the short end of a 2-1 score against the Bruins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.
The loss, Tampa Bay’s fifth in the last six games, put the Lightning nine points behind their Atlantic Division-leading rival.
The Bruins, who took a 2-0 lead, played their typical game in clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing many good looks. The result was they had as many blocked shots as the Lightning had shots on goal: 21.
Nine of those blocks were in the second period — they also had nine in the third — when the Lightning managed only one shot on goal through the first 15-plus minutes.
Mitchell Stephens’ goal at 17:28 of the period made it 2-1 and the Lightning spent the better part of the third period in the Boston zone, but were unable to get the equalizer.
“It was a tale of two games,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “For 35 minutes they had their way with us and probably the last 25 we had our way with them. When you really look at the ledger, and I don’t know if I have seen this with us ever, is that we had 21 shots on goal and had 21 blocked. We have to get pucks to the net and we just didn’t do it. We were too slow in our approach.”
The Bruins built their 2-0 lead on a first-period goal by Brad Marchand with 55 seconds remaining and Jake DeBrusk’s marker at 10:05 of the second period.
Marchand got between Mikhail Sergachev and the net and redirected a cross-ice pass from Torey Krug that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy, who could not get over to the right post in time.
Yanni Gourde’s pass out of the corner to Vasilevskiy’s right, and to nobody in particular, ended up on the stick of DeBrusk at the Lightning blue line. Zach Bogosian dove to swipe the puck away from DeBrusk, but took him down resulting in delayed call that was negated when the latter got up and skated in alone on Vasilevskiy and beat him to the stick side.
At that point, shots on goal in the period were 12-1 Boston and 25-9 for the game. The final tally would be 35-21.
“They are a very good team and there is a reason why they are first in the league,” said Victor Hedman. “We knew it would be a big test for us. We have to learn from this today and look forward to the Montreal game (on Thursday.)”
The Lightning righted the ship as far as possession time in the Boston zone, but other than a breakaway by Anthony Cirelli and a post by Erik Cernak, they did not get the prime opportunities.
“The first half of the game we would have liked to have been a little more structured and stronger defensively in our end,” said Barclay Goodrow. “We tightened things up a lot the second half of the game and that mostly came from a stronger forecheck and we logged a lot more offensive zone time.”
It looked like the Lightning knotted the score at one apiece 5:21 into the second period. However, Gourde’s one-timer was wiped off the board when the Bruins successfully challenged that the play was offside.
A couple of minutes after Stephens’ goal, and right before the end of the middle period, Gourde got into a fight with Joakim Nordstrom, a scrap that got the crowd worked up.
“It takes a lot of guts to drop the gloves at any time and he was fighting, literally, for our team,” said Cooper.
The Lightning will have to come out fighting Thursday night in an effort to get back on the winning track. The matchup with the Canadiens (7 p.m.) will close out a five-game homestand.