Rene Rancourt riled up Boston fans with the national anthem the way he has for the last 42 years. TD Garden was rocking and ready for the Bruins to get off to a strong start in Game 3 against Tampa Bay. But just about the only thing the home side had to cheer about during Boston’s 4-1 loss on Wednesday was Rancourt’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and the fist pumps he routinely showcases after he was finished.
The Lightning lit the lamp less than two minutes into action. Anton Stralman fired a high flip into the Boston zone and Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk couldn’t corral it. The puck squirted out to Tyler Johnson, who relayed it over to Ondrej Palat. Palat flung it by goalie Tuukka Rask, who didn’t have much of a chance on the play. David Krejci was booted from the faceoff circle just a couple minutes later, leaving Jake DeBrusk to try to win a defensive zone draw. He didn’t, and Tampa Bay capitalized against. Victor Hedman fired a shot from the point, and Palat redirected it into the net for his second of the period.
“We knew they wanted to have a good start in this building,” Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi told NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire. “This building gets really loud when they get a lot of energy going. Obviously to score a couple goals was great for us to get the lead, and we didn’t look back from there.”
The Bruins were left searching for the energy in the building that had dissipated since Rancourt ran off the ice. They found it on the power play when Patrice Bergeron buried his fourth goal of the series to bring Boston back within one. But just when the B’s got buzzing, the Lightning struck them down again. Anthony Cirelli scored a goal in transition off his own rebound to reinstate Tampa Bay’s two-goal lead.
The paced slowed in the second period for both teams. The Lightning had 19 first period shots; the teams combined for 19 shots in the middle frame. Tampa Bay still had more than Boston, which isn’t a formula for success for a team trailing by two. The most exhilarating action of the period came when David Backes hit Dan Girardi from behind and Lightning forward Cedric Paquette attempted to stand up for his defenseman. It didn’t go as planned. Backes slammed Pacquette to the ice after the they dropped their gloves. That was about all the Bruins gave their home crowd to cheer about.
The third saw even fewer shots on goal and subsequently less scoring chances as well. Tampa sat on its two-goal lead, and Boston didn’t do too much to challenge it. The Bruins finally sustained some pressure late in the period when Rask went to the bench for an extra attacker, but Torey Krug took a tripping minor that all but finished Boston’s chances. Steven Stamkos drilled an empty-netter from center ice on the ensuing power play. The Lightning forward elicited a clear sigh of relief as he finally got on the scoring sheet for the first time this series. If the Stamkos line gets rolling, Game 3’s result could foreshadow what’s to come for the Bruins as the series continues with Game 4 on Friday.
SHARKS 4, GOLDEN KNIGHTS 0
For 15 minutes, the Sharks and Golden Knights looked as if they’d play each other tight and end up in a third straight overtime finish. In the final five minutes of the first period, San Jose blew that narrative out of the water as the Sharks went on to win 4-0. It wasn’t the 7-0 type of blowout that Vegas laid on the Sharks in Game 1, but it was nearly as bad—San Jose controlled the game all night.
Marcus Sorensen got it started with a dandy. He curled off the boards and darted toward the net, perfecting a few dekes along the way, before firing his shot and flying through the air as the puck found the back of the net. Joonas Donskoi went coast-to-coast and beat Marc-Andre Fleury glove side with five seconds left in the period to give San Jose a 2-0 lead after the first.
Tomas Hertl slammed home a loose puck in the crease early in the second to blow the game wide open. Though Vegas kept up in shots on goal through the first two periods, San Jose’s scoring chances were much more threatening. Even when the Golden Knights pushed to narrow the gap, Sharks netminder Martin Jones stood in their way. Vegas was gifted five power plays throughout the night, and Jones denied every attempt the Golden Knights threw his way during their man advantages. Jones saw the puck well all night, and his reactions were prompt and precise as well. Sharks fans chanted “Fleu-ry, Fleu-ry” to mock the opposing netminder in the final frame, but they should have chanted their own goalie’s name in praise—Jones was that good Wednesday night.
Vegas outshot San Jose in the third, trying everything to get back in the game. It just wasn’t the Golden Knights’ night. Joe Pavelski’s power play goal midway through the final period gave the Sharks an insurmountable 4-0 lead and evened the series at two games apiece in front of a very appreciative home crowd at the SAP Center.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
What a way to open the scoring. Marcus Sorensen soared through the air and rifled a wrister over Marc-Andre Fleury to give San Jose a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
1. Martin Jones, SJS — Jones has had multiple gems throughout this postseason and Game 4 was one of his finest. He stopped all 34 shots he faced for his second shutout of the postseason.
2. Ondrej Palat, TBL — Palat put the pressure on the Bruins early, scoring two goals in the game’s first four minutes. He almost secured a hat trick later in the period, but even his first two tallies would have been enough to beat Boston.
3. Brenden Dillon, SJS — Dillon was on the ice for three of San Jose’s goals, collecting two assists, and he constantly found himself in the right place at the right time to help out Jones on the other end.
Alexander Ovechkin has scored plenty of goals during his illustrious career, but his winner late in Game 3 to give the Capitals a 2-1 series lead over the Penguins just might be his biggest. Washington is now two wins away from reaching the Eastern Conference Final, a feat Ovechkin has failed to accomplish in his 12 previous seasons in the league. The last time the Capitals were up 2-1 over the Penguins in a playoff series (2008-09), though, Pittsburgh eventually won in seven games and ultimately took home the Cup. With the Pens being at home in Game 4 and feeling hungry after Ovechkin’s heroics on Tuesday, there’s a good chance Sidney Crosby and company exact revenge and make this series best 2-out-of-3.
Nashville couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in enemy territory on Tuesday. The Predators held a 3-0 lead over the Jets in Winnipeg after the first period. The Jets woke up and outscored the Preds 7-1 in the game’s final 40 minutes to take a 2-1 series lead. Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said after the loss that the team was both frustrated and undisciplined. Those two traits certainly don’t help a team in the middle of a playoff game, and neither does flat-out quitting. Ryan Ellis said that the Preds “just stopped playing.” The Jets, meanwhile, didn’t: they were opportunistic and relentless. Winnipeg finished the game with 45 shots on goal and spread the seven scores among five different players. We shouldn’t expect a loaded roster that made it to the Stanley Cup Final a season ago to completely lie down, but if they choose to do so, it clearly doesn’t spell good news in Nashville.