BOSTON — There were no moral victories claimed in the Lightning locker room following their 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Yes, the Lightning played far better than they did in the teams’ first meeting eight days ago in Tampa. And the Bruins have been unbeatable on home ice this year, but the Lightning felt they deserved a better result.
After the loss, players replayed the little details gone wrong. Forward Brandon Hagel sat at his stall, wondering how the game would have played out had he buried a shorthanded breakaway in the back of the net instead of sailing it wide in the third period of a tied game.
“That could’ve changed the game in so many different ways,” Hagel said. “That one’s going to hurt for a while.”
A Lightning team with a penchant for committing penalties took just one Tuesday night, but a Bruins power-play unit ranked second in the league made them pay.
Hagel blocked three shots on that penalty kill, and he intercepted a pass in his own end, pushed it forward and outraced Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy to it in the offensive zone, creating a partial breakaway chance for himself that he flung wide of the far post.
Just 32 seconds later, the Bruins cashed in on the other end. Taylor Hall scored his second goal of the night, finding a soft spot in the slot and the puck on his stick after Nick Foligno drew Andrei Vasilevskiy out of the crease and made a pass from behind the net and through Vasilevskiy’s legs to Hall for the winning goal at the 2:49 mark in the third.
“It’s probably a little bit of a positive that it’s a better showing maybe than we did at home,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, referring to a lopsided 5-3 loss Nov. 21. “But in the end we didn’t get it done. Tie game in the third period and you come in here and want to commit penalties against Boston and can’t kill off one penalty. Shame on us.”
In the first meeting between the teams, Boston (19-3-0) opened up the game with a three-goal second period. On Tuesday night, the Lightning’s second period might have been one of their best 20 minutes of the season as they tilted the ice in their favor following Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal, which tied the score with 1:40 left in the second.
“We played well, we had them on their heels and it got us back in the game,” Cooper said of the second period. “We deserved to win that period and we did. But that’s not where the game ended. Going back-to-back, it’s tough to come in here. They’re a rested team and we got to grind one out in the third, but we just didn’t have that push we had in the second.”
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Despite coming back from two goals down late in the third period to win in overtime the night before in Buffalo, the Lightning (13-8-1) felt they were lucky to get two points from the Sabres. They played much better Tuesday night, but left empty-handed.
Through the first quarter of the season, the Bruins have emerged as the cream of the NHL crop. They have won 19 of their first 22 games, and are 13-0-0 at home. The first meeting between the teams was a sort of wake-up call for the Lightning, and they were looking forward to the rematch.
“I think these are the ones you circle,” forward Ross Colton said. “These are the ones you want to measure up against and for the most part, I thought we played really well. We’ve got to find a way to get to the front of the net and score more goals. But we had some quality chances. We could have put a few in there.”
The Lightning actually outshot the Bruins 10-6 in the third period. Forward Corey Perry had one of the best scoring opportunities of the night when Brayden Point put the potential tying goal on his stick with 6:51 left in regulation but Boston goaltender Jeremy Swayman kicked out his right pad to stop Perry’s snap shot.
The Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker with 1:18 left, but Brad Marchand scored an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining to pad the lead.
The Lightning’s core group has been through the wars against the Bruins — in both the regular season and in the playoffs — and for some of the team’s younger players who haven’t seen them as much, like Hagel, they can’t wait for the next meeting (Jan. 26 in Tampa).
“For sure, I think we want another chance at this,” Hagel said.
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