David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand Score as Bruins Hold Off Lightning in Game 1August 24, 2020
The Boston Bruins took another step toward returning to the Stanley Cup Final they reached last season.
After dispatching the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs, they wasted no time seizing a lead in their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 3-2 victory in Sunday's Game 1 at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena.
Charlie Coyle, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand found the back of the net, while goaltender Jaroslav Halak saved all but two Victor Hedman third-period shots to preserve the win.
- Jaroslav Halak, G, BOS: 35 saves
- Charlie Coyle, C, BOS: one goal
- David Pastrnak, RW, BOS: one goal, one assist
- Brad Marchand, LW, BOS: one goal, one assist
- Victor Hedman, D, TB: two goals
Bruins Special Teams Set the Tone
The Bruins had the best record in the Eastern Conference with 100 points when play was suspended in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tampa Bay had the second-best mark with 92 points.
Yet, Tampa Bay landed the No. 2 seed and Boston fell to No. 4 after round-robin play. That, along with the fact that the bracket is reseeded after every round in the NHL's restart plan, left them matched up in the second round instead of the Eastern Conference Final.
Whenever teams are so evenly matched with playmakers all over the ice, the difference often comes down to special teams.
Boston's special teams were the first to make their mark, as Pastrnak scored in the second period after Victor Hedman went to the box for tripping Anders Bjork. Torey Krug and David Krejci received credit for the assists, but only after the Bruins applied relentless pressure in the offensive zone and were in full control throughout the power play.
It wasn't just the Bruins' power-play unit that stood out, as the penalty-killing group thrived in key moments to sustain the team's momentum.
The Bruins started the second period by killing a Zdeno Chara penalty to keep the lead, fended off a Patrice Bergeron penalty less than two minutes after the Pastrnak goal to maintain their breathing room and survived a Chris Wagner penalty later in the second period.
They also survived Tampa Bay's rush during four-on-four play in the third period following Marchand's goal, which proved all the more important when Hedman scored twice later in the period.
Jaroslav Halak Continues to Thrive in Postseason
Tuukka Rask's decision to opt out for the remainder of the playoffs meant the goaltending job and pressure that came with it landed on Halak's shoulders.
Most teams wouldn't be able to handle the loss of a former Vezina Trophy winner during the playoffs, but the Bruins aren't most teams. Halak was excellent as a secondary goaltender throughout the regular season, posting an 18-6-6 record with a goals-against average of 2.39 and save percentage of .919.
He and Rask took home the William M. Jennings Trophy as a result, which is given to goaltenders who appear in at least 25 games for whichever team allowed the fewest goals during the regular season.
Halak swung Boston's first-round series against Carolina, starting Games 3-5 after the two teams split the first two contests and winning all of them. He gave up just one goal each in Game 3 and Game 5.
The goaltender picked up right where he left off, turning away shots from the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and more for a Lightning team that led the NHL in goals per game (3.47) during the regular season.
Boston's defensemen deserve plenty of credit for getting into passing lanes and blocking shots when opportunities presented themselves, but Halak stood strong against the league's most daunting offense and put his team ahead right out of the gates.
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.