TAMPA — Considering the Bruins' recent domination of his team, Lightning coach Jon Cooper joked one thing going for his club Saturday night was the odds.
"At some point, we have to beat them, don't you think?" he said.
The Lightning nearly pulled it off but blew a two-goal lead before losing 4-3 in a shootout in front of a sellout of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Bruins beat Tampa Bay for the eighth straight time dating to March 13, 2012, though it took seven attempts to score the shootout's only goal, by Reilly Smith, just after Lightning forward Richard Panik hit the crossbar.
"It could have gone either way," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.
The Lightning (34-24-6) was encouraged to get at least a point against the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins, having played what Cooper called its best game since the Olympic break. But after wasting another lead and having lost nine of its past 12, Tampa Bay is barely holding onto a playoff spot, three points ahead of Columbus in the East's wild-card chase.
"If you want to be a playoff team, you have to close teams out regardless of who you're playing," Cooper said.
Stamkos called Saturday a "true character test" and said he believed it passed. The Lightning, which had lost its past three meetings with Boston by a combined 11-1, was more competitive despite getting outshot 32-20. It stood up physically and had a better net presence. Nate Thompson's screen helped Mark Barberio's point shot trickle through Tuukka Rask's legs for a 2-0 second-period lead.
But like most of the Lightning's leads recently, this one was gone quickly. Boston scored twice in a span of 2:31, Carl Soderberg beating goalie Ben Bishop on what Cooper called an "inexcusable" breakaway to tie it at 2. Valteri Filppula gave Tampa Bay the lead entering the third, but Johnny Boychuk tied it with a slap shot from the point with 11:47 left. Bishop said he lost track of the puck, believing it was still in the corner.
"All I heard was him take a slap shot, and it was in the net," Bishop said. "We probably should have won the game. That's my fault."
In overtime, Stamkos was heading for a breakaway, but time ran out as he reached the blue line.
"That's the way it's going," he said.
Especially against Boston.
"It's not rocket science. They're a better team than we are right now," Cooper said.
"But can we beat Boston? I do think we can beat them."
|Bruins win shootout 1-0|
|Bruins win shootout 1-0|
First Period—None. Penalties—Hedman, TB (tripping), 1:38; Thornton, Bos, major (fighting), 7:59; Aulie, TB, major (fighting), 7:59; Chara, Bos (roughing), 15:49; Barberio, TB (slashing), 18:33.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Palat 15 (T.Johnson, Brewer), :27 (sh). 2, Tampa Bay, Barberio 5 (Pyatt, Callahan), 4:13. 3, Boston, Paille 9 (Campbell, Boychuk), 6:58. 4, Boston, Soderberg 11 (Kelly), 8:29. 5, Tampa Bay, Filppula 21 (Palat), 9:31. Penalties—None.
Third Period—6, Boston, Boychuk 3 (Soderberg, Eriksson), 8:11. Penalties—Purcell, TB (hooking), 4:18.
Shootout—Boston 1 (Bergeron NG, Eriksson NG, Soderberg NG, Marchand NG, Iginla NG, Krejci NG, R.Smith G), Tampa Bay 0 (Filppula NG, Stamkos NG, Palat NG, Callahan NG, Purcell NG, Hedman NG, Panik NG). Shots on Goal—Boston 5-10-13-4—32. Tampa Bay 7-7-4-2—20. Power-play opportunities—Boston 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 1. Goalies—Boston, Rask 28-14-4 (20 shots-17 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 29-11-5 (32-29). A—19,204 (19,204).