Brayden Point returns to form as Lightning evens series 1-all with Bruins

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) attempts to gain control of the puck as Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (86), right, and Boston Bruins left wing Rick Nash (61) attempt to stop him. (DIRK SHADD  |  Times)
Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) attempts to gain control of the puck as Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (86), right, and Boston Bruins left wing Rick Nash (61) attempt to stop him. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published May 1, 2018|Updated May 1, 2018

TAMPA — Three assists. The game-clinching goal. One huge takeaway. Shutdown defense against the NHL's best-scoring line.

"That's Brayden Point," forward Ryan Callahan said. "That's what he's done all year."

That is what Point did Monday in Game 2 against the Bruins.

He factored in every goal as the Lightning evened the best-of-seven series with a 4-2 victory at Amalie Arena. The series shifts to Boston for two games, beginning Wednesday.

Point's effort was not bad for someone who was a minus-5 in Sunday's 6-2 loss. Not that it was all Point's fault, but the guy who spearheads the Lightning's shutdown line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat was the face of the Lightning's meltdown against the Patrice Bergeron line. That line included Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and it totaled 11 points in the victory.

If Point spent the time between games itching for another crack at Bergeron and Co. he hid it well when talking with the media after Monday's morning skate and again after the victory.

"I don't think it was a crack at them. You just want to play hard," he said. "When you're put out there you just try to do your best, and I thought we did a good job."

Earlier in the day, Point said Game 2 was an opportunity to play better against a tough scoring line.

"Hopefully have a better effort," he said.

He did that and more.

Point set up goals by Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson that gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead after two periods. In the third, he intercepted an ill-advised pass from Marchand and moved the puck to Palat for what appeared at the time to be the back-breaking goal.

But Boston got a goal from Torey Krug with just under six minutes to play and suddenly the outcome was in doubt.

That was until Point scored an empty-net goal with 25 seconds remaining to ice the win.

"I think our line wasn't happy, obviously, with how we played, giving up a lot of goals (in Game 1)," Point said. "(Monday night) we answered back. I think we skated a lot harder. (The) pucks bounced our way."

What, were you expecting Point to pound his chest and yell, "How you like me now?"

He is not one to accept accolades. He would rather pass the spotlight to his teammates, much like he passed the puck to Gourde, Johnson and Palat.

"I think any time your team is scoring and winning games, that's what you play for," Point said.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he gave "zero" thought to mixing his lines or matching another line against Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak.

"We've watched him check the best lines in the league all year so there was no reason to sit and say that after one game we need to panic and say they can't do it," Cooper said. "We have faith in them and I thought they were outstanding tonight. He clearly was not minus-5 (Monday)."

Columbus coach John Tortorella earlier this season called Point the engine that drives the Lightning.

That was the case Monday, though he had help from Ryan Callahan, who helped the Lightning kill off a 5-on-3 Bruins' power play, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made several big saves, and his linemates.

"The kid is a hockey player, and he competes hard," Cooper said of Point. "Trust me: if there was any talk of me pulling him off that line, those three guys would have marched right in to my room and asked what we were doing.

"But it's a challenge because the line they are playing against is a really good line. It's been a war between those two for two games. They got the better of us in the first game and our guys got the better of them in Game 2. So that's what happens when you have a bunch of good hockey players going against each other."

Johnson called Point a special player.

"When big games come about," Johnson said, "special players take over, and he did that."

Contact Roger Mooney at Follow @rogermooney50.