Lightning find series-winning goal in double-OT to boot Bruins from bubble
Victor Hedman shot tips off Patrick Maroon to lead Tampa Bay to conference finals
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper could see his team beginning to wilt as Monday's first overtime session dragged on.
The Lightning had dressed seven defenceman for a fourth straight game, but lost star winger Nikita Kucherov to injury in the second period, leaving the club with just 10 forwards.
And the Boston Bruins were coming hard facing elimination after tying things late in the third period.
Tampa somehow found another level in the intermission, and is now off to the Eastern Conference final for the fourth time in six years.
Victor Hedman's shot at 14:10 of double overtime went in through a crowd as the Lightning defeated the Bruins 3-2 on Monday to win their second-round series 4-1.
"How they managed to play that second overtime, I don't know," said Cooper, whose team allowed just one shot against after the intermission. "It was a pretty committed effort by the guys.
"Fortunately for us one went in."
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Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat scored in regulation for the Lightning, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 45 shots inside an empty Scotiabank Arena. Kevin Shattenkirk and Brayden Point each finished with two assists.
On the winner, Hedman faked and then changed the angle with a toe drag before firing a shot that leaked through Jaroslav Halak for the defenceman's fifth goal of the post-season.
"A great feeling. We battled really hard," Hedman said. "Losing Kuch early on in the game, is obviously a big blow for our team, but gotta give a lot of credit to our forwards. Super proud of the effort they put forth, and [Vasilevskiy] was huge."
The Lightning were stunned by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a four-game sweep after winning last season's Presidents' Trophy before recommitting themselves to playing better without the puck this season. Tampa beat Columbus in five games in the opening round of the playoffs to exorcise those demons before sending the team that had the best record when this season was paused because of COVID-19 packing.
"It's a great feeling," Vasilevskiy said. "Especially after last year [when] we kind of screwed it up.
"Great series ... we were just a little bit better."
David Krejci, with a goal and an assist, and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins, who got 32 saves from Halak.
"Very disappointing finish," Boston winger Brad Marchand said. "We had a great year ... we have a hell of a team and expected better."
The Lightning will take on the winner of the East's other semifinal between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers. The Islanders lead that best-of-seven series 3-1 and can clinch Tuesday night.
Minus No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask after the Vezina Trophy finalist left the bubble during Boston's five-game victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round because of a family emergency, the Bruins never really got going in the restart, but put together their best effort of the summer in what turned out to be their final outing.
"This team is resilient," head coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We thought we were the better team tonight.
"We wanted to play on."
Boston, which lost to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of last year's Stanley Cup final, dropped all three games in the round-robin seeding tournament to fall from the No. 1 slot down to No. 4.
And like their five-game defeat to the Lightning in the second round in 2018, the Bruins won Game 1 before losing four straight.
Halak made a huge pad stop on Palat, who scored the winner in Tampa's 4-3 OT victory in Game 2, one minute into the second overtime on a broken play.
Boston came out flying to open the first overtime, forcing a couple of big stops from Vasilevskiy. Krejci was assessed a tripping penalty to send the Lightning on the man advantage, but Halak made a couple of nice stops to keep his team alive.
The Lightning, who beat the Blue Jackets twice in overtime in the first round, including one that went five extra periods, went with 11 forwards and seven defencemen for the fourth straight game as blue-liner Ryan McDonagh returned after getting hurt in the opener. But they were down to 10 skaters up front when Kucherov left in the second after taking a high stick from Zdeno Chara in the first.
After the teams traded goals in the second period, Cirelli gave Tampa the lead with 7:57 left in the third when he tipped Hedman's point shot past Halak for his third.
The Bruins pushed facing elimination, and got a bounce with 2:33 remaining when Chara's shot hit Palat's stick and went right to Krejci, who buried his fourth into an open net with Vasilevskiy out of position for his team's first goal at even strength since the third period of Game 2.
Boston actually had a chance to win it in regulation when Hedman went off for tripping with 1:56 left, but Tampa held on and forced the extra period.
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Earlier in the third, Boston's Karson Kuhlman raced around Tampa defenceman Luke Schenn, but Vasilevskiy, another Vezina finalist, outwaited the speedy winger to make the stop early in the third.
Boston then lost blue-liner Charlie McAvoy when Cedric Paquette drilled him from behind in the boards — a hit that went uncalled and had the Bruins bench steaming mad. McAvoy stayed down for a while before being helped to the locker room, but eventually returned to the action with his team desperate for that equalizer.
Tampa grabbed a 1-0 lead at 4:21 of the second when Palat bagged his fifth goal in the last four games after not scoring in the Lightning's nine previous post-season contests. Shattenkirk took a shot from the point that Palat deftly redirected from the slot over Halak's glove and off the crossbar.
Boston, which avoided elimination in last season's first round at Scotiabank Arena in Game 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs before winning that series and going on a long playoff run, got even when its power play clicked for a fifth straight outing. Krejci faked a shot at the point and slid a pass to Pastrnak, who wired his third past Vasilevskiy from the left circle at 12:38.
Kucherov was in the box for tripping and went to the Tampa locker room for a second time shortly after Boston tied it.
That would eventually set the table for Hedman's winner in Tampa's ninth overtime period of these playoffs.
"We're getting used to it," Cooper said. "If you want to advance, you have to win these games. It's all there is to it.
"It was gutsy."