BOSTON — Jonathan Drouin's celebration said it all.
After the wing's go-ahead goal in Thursday's third period snapped a 13-game drought, he let out a huge yell and a fist pump. Then he reached over one shoulder to emphatically remove a metaphoric weight. "A monkey off my back," he said.
Drouin's timing couldn't have been better. His rocket shot from the right circle with the score tied at 3 gave the Lightning the lead for good in a massive 6-3 victory over the Bruins at TD Garden. It was one of Tampa Bay's most resilient wins of the year. The Lightning rallied three times from a one-goal deficit in a combined 163 seconds of the second period.
The Lightning showed it has a lot of fight left, pulling within three points of Boston for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. It could move within one with another win tonight in Detroit and an Islanders loss in Pittsburgh.
"We know what's at stake," Drouin said. "We know what we need to do. It's up to us."
Wing Nikita Kucherov continued his MVP-worthy second half with a hat trick, giving him 37 goals this season. Veteran backup goalie Peter Budaj was brilliant, his best stops coming in the third to keep the score tied. But it was the elusive secondary scoring from a guy like Drouin that could be a difference-maker down the stretch.
"We needed that," coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning did, however, get dealt another injury blow. Defenseman Jason Garrison had to be helped off the ice in the second period with a lower-body injury. Garrison couldn't put weight on one of his legs. "Obviously it didn't look good," Cooper said.
Garrison will be revaluated today, Cooper said.
It didn't look good early for the Lightning when the Bruins took a 1-0 lead 1:33 into the second. But rookie center Brayden Point answered on the next shift, 44 seconds later, on a rebound off a rush. After defenseman Zdeno Chara's short-handed goal for Boston at 7:50, it took just 24 seconds for Kucherov to tie it again.
"It showed a lot of character," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We didn't let it bother us. We kept playing strong and got rewarded."
Stralman tied the score for the third time after Boston forward Riley Nash banked in a shot off defenseman Victor Hedman. "We just kept answering like that," Cooper said. "And it sucked the momentum from them."
Drouin's goal, which came five minutes into the third, ended up being the difference. He never lost confidence during his lengthy goal drought, still picking up assists (and hitting posts). This time, Drouin, who also had two assists, found a hole through goalie Tuukka Rask.
It helped snap the Lightning's three-game losing streak. And now the Bruins have lost four in a row, and they were booed Thursday by their home crowd. With one remaining head-to-head matchup left (April 4 in Boston), Tampa Bay still feels like it has a playoff shot.
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"It all comes down to who has the best record the last 10 games," Stralman said. "We're off to a good start. But that's just one."
A mighty big one.
First Period—None. Penalties—Stralman, TB, (tripping), 1:55; Marchand, BOS, (holding), 1:55; Boston bench, served by Vatrano (too many men on the ice), 8:08; Dumont, TB, (hooking), 11:18.
Second Period—1, Boston, Pastrnak 32 (Bergeron, Spooner), 1:33 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Point 13 (Dotchin, Palat), 2:17. 3, Boston, Chara 8 (Nash, Moore), 7:50 (sh). 4, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 35 (Drouin, Hedman), 8:14 (pp). 5, Boston, Nash 5 (K.Miller, Moore), 13:18. 6, Tampa Bay, Stralman 3 (Point, Palat), 14:53. Penalties—Dumont, TB, (tripping), 1:21; Carlo, BOS, (tripping), 7:25; Bergeron, BOS, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:09; Palat, TB, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:09.
Third Period—7, Tampa Bay, Drouin 18 (Killorn, Dotchin), 4:12. 8, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 36 (Drouin, Hedman), 10:11 (pp). 9, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 37 (Palat), 18:03. Penalties—Kucherov, TB, (holding stick), 0:53; Pastrnak, BOS, (high sticking), 9:41; Backes, BOS, (interference), 10:37; Kucherov, TB, (hooking), 12:19; Vatrano, BOS, (tripping), 18:48. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 10-11-8—29. Boston 9-14-8—31. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 5; Boston 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Budaj 29-21-3 (31 shots-28 saves). Boston, Rask 33-20-4 (28-23).