BOSTON — We probably should’ve seen this one coming from a mile away.
The Boston Bruins fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Saturday in a matchup that featured overwhelming bloodlust. So much so that the end result of the game took a back seat to all the fighting.
But such a contentious game was in view for weeks now. Sure, there was the chippy matchup in Tampa on Tuesday night. But it really could be argued that this all began when the Lightning picked up Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman at the trade deadline, while the Bruins added Nick Ritchie.
That’s a lot of size to add between the two Atlantic Division foes. As such, it seemed the personnel additions seemed to steer the direction of what games between these two sides are going to look like going forward, never mind in a seven-game playoff series.
“Definitely looked like (there is some bad blood brewing between the teams,” goalie Tuukka Rask said. “You’re two top teams, so you’re battling for top spots. You might face each other in the playoffs, so you don’t want to give an inch out there so that creates some bad blood for sure.
“You saw both teams at the deadline got some size and kind of got ready for that physicality,” Rask later said. “So that’s something that you need going into the playoffs, the physicality aspect, and I think that’s probably something that’s going to be huge in the playoffs — no matter who we play against. ”
Sean Kuraly echoed the desire not to give an inch.
“I think you’ve got two teams fighting for the top of the standings obviously, but I think it’s a little more than that too,” Kuraly said. You want to set the stage for what could possibly be to come. Two competitive teams that don’t want to give an inch.”
This was the last regular-season meeting between the Bruins and Lightning, but the two sides very well could face each other in the second round of the playoffs if they make it that far.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Lightning-Bruins game:
— There have been plenty of times this season the Bruins have been bailed out by their goaltending.
Saturday was not one of those nights.
Rask, though at times was hung out to dry, allowed four goals on 24 shots, unable to come up with big saves early on. Of course, you can’t hang a pair of shorthanded goals squarely on the goalie, but the Bruins would’ve benefitted from a stop or two.
“The second one I didn’t pick up until it was in the net,” Rask said. “But it’s just one of those that you’ve got to be sharper and give your team a chance there, especially on the power play. Those tough breaks happen sometimes when there’s an odd-man rush and you’ve got to be there for your teammates, but didn’t happen today.”
— John Moore got into his first game since Feb. 12, and his performance left plenty to be desired.
With Brandon Carlo out due to an upper-body injury, Moore got a chance to slide in on the second defensive pairing with Torey Krug. There ended up being a hodgepodge of pairings due to all the penalties, but Moore, though he made some solid last-ditch plays, also had some moments that showed why he’s been stapled to the bench and ninth level.
His biggest transgression came on the Lightning’s third goal of the night, where he elected to abandon the top of the crease and chase a puck behind the net. That left Cedric Paquette all alone in front of Rask, and when Moore was unable to gain possession, it was a bang-bang goal for the visitors.
Chalk some of it up to rust, sure. But the last thing Jeremy Lauzon has done is play himself out of the lineup, so the onus is on Moore to really elevate his game. He didn’t do that against the Bolts, so with Connor Clifton now off injured reserve, don’t be surprised if he’s the one playing Tuesday night in Philly in the event Carlo remains out.
— Even with the loss, the Bruins still have firm control of the top spot in the Atlantic Division, though if they’re not careful that advantage can be squandered.
The Bruins remain seven points up on Tampa with 13 games to play (the Lightning have 14 to go), with Boston possessing a seven-point lead on the Bolts.
Had the Bruins won Saturday, it probably would’ve put the division out of reach, but alas.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images