Timely goals for Rick Nash and timelier saves for Tuukka Rask led the Boston Bruins to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series.
It’s only one game, but the performance on the road for each player was a redemption of sorts after up-and-down showings in Boston’s first-round victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nash had no shortage of chances against Toronto, but the 15-year veteran couldn’t escape the legacy of his playoff past with just one goal on 24 shots on net through seven games.
One game in vs. the Lightning, Nash has doubled his scoring output. He tipped home a David Pastrnak feed at 17:11 of the first period on the power play and unleased a wrister which shattered the sound barrier past Andrei Vasilevskiy at 12:33 of the second.
The timing of each Nash tally made his goals even more notable as he attempts to shed his postseason reputation. Nash’s first-period goal opened the game’s scoring and gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead headed into the first intermission.
His second goal made an even bigger statement, not just for himself but for Boston as a whole.
Pastrnak and Tampa’s Tyler Johnson were engaged in contact back and forth up the offensive left wing for the Bruins, with Johnson shoving Pastrnak down and Pastrnak returning the favor with a cross-check as the pair rode into the corner. Only Pastrnak was whistled for a penalty, which wiped a Brad Marchand goal off the board just seconds later.
Naturally, the Lightning failed to score on their power play which followed. Just 16 seconds after Pastrnak exited the box, Nash flew up the right wing and rang a puck underneath the crossbar to restore momentum for Boston.
Rask made three saves on the shorthanded sequence which preceded Nash’s second goal, part of an outstanding bounce-back performance after allowing four goals on the first 16 shots he faced in Game 7 vs. the Leafs.
Patrice Bergeron scored twice for the Bruins, Marchand wound up potting a puck that did count and Jake DeBrusk tacked on an empty netter to complete the scoring for Boston. Bergeron scored his first goal 42 seconds into the second period, ensuring the Bruins would never be tied with Tampa.
From the Lightning’s very first scoring chance on, it became clear Boston was getting the locked in, Vezina Trophy-winning version of Rask that’ll be paramount for the Bruins as the postseason carries on. Less than two minutes into the first period, Rask showed plenty of confidence in sliding left to right to rob Tampa star Steven Stamkos on a bid that would only have caused whispers for Anton Khudobin to get a chance in net to grow louder.
The two goals Rask did allow weren’t the kind of backbreaking tallies he’d grown susceptible to giving up against Toronto. Dan Girardi floated a puck from the point at 2:31 of the second period that caught a piece of Matt Grzelcyk’s wrist as it found its way by three other bodies and by Rask, a goal on which there wasn’t much he could have done.
The second Lightning goal, scored by Mikhail Sergachev at 13:22 of the second on the power play, had some mitigating circumstances. One of Rask’s skate blades had popped off on a shot from the point for the Lightning; Rask couldn’t flag down the attention of an official in the area to blow the play dead and wound up surrendering a goal which pulled Tampa within one at 3-2.
Marchand, Bergeron and DeBrusk provided the offense for the Bruins in the third period to help make Rask’s 34 saves on 36 shots stand up.
Game 2 of the series is Monday night in Tampa.