BOSTON — The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a stranglehold on first place in the Atlantic Division for the majority of the season.
That all changed Thursday night at TD Garden.
The Boston Bruins picked up their third win over the Lightning this season, outlasting Tampa Bay 4-2 to catapult to the top spot in the Atlantic and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Thursday’s tilt between the B’s and Bolts had a little bit of everything, from big hits, to sweet goals and even a few goalie haymakers. But after the dust settled, Boston found itself on top.
With the win, the Bruins improve to 48-17-11, while the Lightning fall to 51-22-4.
Here’s how it all went down:
There was a playoff-like atmosphere from puck drop, but neither team conveyed their high energy and pace to the scoreboard for the bulk of the first period. That is, until the Bruins made some noise in the final minute of the frame to gain an early lead over their division rival.
Boston notched its first goal of the game at the 19:02 mark courtesy of Tim Schaller. After a Tommy Wingels shot was left in the goalmouth, Schaller crashed the net for his 12th goal of the season.
And it was only 32 seconds later when the B’s doubled their lead over the Lightning. With Boston on the power play, David Pastrnak zipped a shot that made its way through a sea of bodies and into the back of the net.
Tampa Bay had an answer to Boston’s late-period flurry early in the second period. After a Brian Gionta boarding penalty less than two minutes into the frame, the Lightning wasted no time on the power play as Nikita Kucherov gift-wrapped a goal for J.T. Miller.
The Bolts dominated in terms of puck possession and offense in the second period. Tampa Bay outshot Boston by an 11-3 margin and was awarded three power-play opportunities in the frame.
Tuukka Rask provided the majority of the excitement for the B’s in the second, as the veteran netminder defended his crease by throwing some punches at Lightning forward Cory Conacher.
The Lightning appeared to even the score minutes into the third period when Alex Killorn snuck in a wrap-around shot past Rask. The referees had other ideas, though, as they quickly waved off the goal for goalie interference, which was later confirmed via review.
The next puck that found itself in the back of the net was scored without debate or question. Nearly 12 minutes into the third, Boston’s top line orchestrated a stellar sequence that was capped off by a Patrice Bergeron goal.
Victor Hedman responded with a goal roughly four minutes later, but a Brad Marchand empty-net tally as the game wound down proved to be the dagger.
The Bruins welcome the Florida Panthers to Boston for a Saturday matinee matchup. Puck drop from TD Garden is set for 1 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports