TAMPA — Coach Guy Boucher watched the replay of Steven Stamkos' hit that led to a controversial boarding call about a dozen times after the Lightning's deflating 4-3 loss to the Bruins on Tuesday night.
And he remained baffled that a penalty was called. "I still can't get myself to see what others saw," he said.
The Lightning (21-11-5) had overcome three one-goal deficits to tie the score against Tim Thomas, arguably the league's top goalie. With just under two minutes left, Stamkos raced back into his zone and hit Bruins center Gregory Campbell in an attempt to separate him from the puck.
The collision was loud. Campbell hit the boards and fell to the ice hard, then started a scrum. Stamkos was called for boarding, and with 19.7 seconds left in the game, ex-Lightning forward Mark Recchi scored the winner on the power play.
It made for a loss Boucher said will be "very, very difficult to swallow for everybody." Ten minutes after the game, Stamkos was at his locker still shaking his head.
"Obviously (Campbell) went into the boards pretty hard," he said. "But by no means was I trying to hurt the guy. From my vantage point, I was coming hard on the backcheck. He had the puck, and my left shoulder hit his right shoulder. I don't know why there was a penalty."
The Lightning was trying to redeem itself after an embarrassing 8-1 loss to Boston in the teams' last meeting, Dec. 2. The matchup between teams that began the night in first place in their divisions was an even, back-and-forth game in front of 20,204 at the St. Pete Times Forum. "It was a playoff atmosphere out there," Lightning center Nate Thompson said.
The Lightning took its share of penalties, including two early while on power plays. But it battled, with Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier (on a highlight-reel wraparound) and Marty St. Louis scoring tying goals. In a flurry in the final seconds, St. Louis nearly tied it again, but the puck bounced over his stick near the crease.
On Recchi's winner, Boucher believed the officials missed a call as Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim was picked near the blueline. But, goalie Dan Ellis said, "You've still got to make that save. It was right in the slot. (I had) clear vision."
Boucher believed Stamkos' hit was clearly not a penalty and told the star center to "do the same thing" if he encounters a similar situation.
The loss, combined with the Capitals' win over the Canadiens, moved the Lightning back into second place in the Southeast Division, two points behind Washington, which has 49.
Boucher said he had a hard time remembering a loss like this. "I'd love to say we'll bounce back," he said. "But it'll take a few hours to breath that one out."
First Period—1, Boston, Ryder 11 (Recchi, Seidenberg), :28 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 29 (Clark, Malone), 7:10 (pp). Penalties—Marchand, Bos (roughing), :20; Bergenheim, TB (cross-checking, roughing), :20; McQuaid, Bos (high-sticking), 6:44; Lucic, Bos (hooking), 11:31; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 11:36.
Second Period—3, Boston, Kampfer 1 (Savard, Horton), 3:27. 4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 7 (Bergenheim, Kubina), 14:02. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Stamkos (too many men), 1:20; Hedman, TB (holding), 7:58; Wheeler, Bos (high-sticking), 10:04; Purcell, TB (holding), 10:20; Bergeron, Bos (hooking), 15:06.
Third Period—5, Boston, Marchand 5 (Thornton, Campbell), 3:00. 6, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 15 (Stamkos, Kubina), 10:50. 7, Boston, Recchi 7 (Bergeron, Seidenberg), 19:40 (pp). Penalties—Lucic, Bos (interference), 3:53; Marchand, Bos (roughing), 18:10; Bergenheim, TB (roughing), 18:10; Stamkos, TB (boarding), 18:10. Shots on Goal—Boston 10-4-15—29. Tampa Bay 12-9-13—34. Power-play opportunities—Boston 2 of 6; Tampa Bay 1 of 5. Goalies—Boston, Thomas 18-4-3 (34 shots-31 saves). Tampa Bay, Ellis 11-6-5 (29-25). A—20,204 (19,758).