Tampa Bay at Boston
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
BOSTON – The Tampa Bay Lightning may have produced their most complete performance of the season last time out and look to take a stranglehold of the Eastern Conference semifinal series when they visit the Boston Bruins for Game 4 on Friday night. Ondrej Palat scored twice in the first 3:19 of the contest and the Lightning limited the Bruins to 15 shots without a goal over the final two periods for a 4-1 victory Wednesday to take a 2-1 series lead.
“We have to expect that we’re going to get their best game,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, who scored an empty-net goal for his first of the series in Game 3, told reporters Thursday. “They’re a very good team for a reason. They’ve responded to these situations all year and we just have to elevate our game.” Patrice Bergeron scored the only goal on the power play for Boston in the first period of Game 3, giving him three tallies in the series and four in the last four playoff games, but the Bruins struggled to get quality chances 5-on-5 for the second straight contest. “The last two games, we didn’t play enough of our game,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters. “They’ve played their game better than we’ve played ours, and they’ve won both games. We were slow at times, and stubborn.” Bruins right wing David Pastrnak, who was tied for the league lead with 19 points in the playoffs entering Thursday, has six assists in the series but registered only one shot on goal in the past two games.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, TVA
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING: Palat recorded two points in each of the last two games, helping to occupy the puck along with linemates Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point, and has been a consistent performer in his 54 playoff games (plus-6 rating, 37 points). “He’s a beast,” coach Jon Cooper said of Palat. “You probably get spoiled a little bit because I’ve watched that act before happening in playoff series in 2015 and 2016. Those guys that kind of go under the radar and don’t get the credit they deserve but they never seek it and they don’t care, that’s what you have in (Palat).” Versatile forward Yanni Gourde registered an assist in Game 3 after returning to the team Wednesday after witnessing the birth of his first child.
ABOUT THE BRUINS: Cassidy is contemplating some lineup changes for Game 4 to add a spark as Boston has been outshot 104-73 in the series without much punch from the bottom two forward lines and rookie forward Ryan Donato could get a chance. “We’ve got some guys that weren’t dressed (for Game 3) that have played well for this team,” Cassidy told reporters. “. … Some guys (among the forwards) have had a tough time. … If they stay in, obviously, they need to be better.” Veteran left wing Rick Nash had an assist Wednesday and led the team with six shots on net, giving him 11 in the series, while rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy logged a game-high 27:09 of ice time without a shot, but recorded five hits.
1. Boston LW Brad Marchand was held without a point Wednesday after registering six in the first two games of the series.
2. Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman had a pair of assists Wednesday, tying Martin St. Louis for the all-time franchise lead in the playoffs with 35.
3. Bruins F David Backes has yet to record a point in the series with a minus-3 rating and finished with only 6:09 of ice time in the Game 3 setback.