TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning have been just as resilient in the Stanley Cup playoffs as they’ve been all season.
Challenged by coach Jon Cooper to compete harder and raise their level of play after dropping the opener of their second-round series against the Boston Bruins, the top seed in the Eastern Conference responded with a 4-2 victory in Game 2 of the best-of-seven matchup Monday night.
Brayden Point had an empty-net goal and three assists. He also teamed with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat to slow down Boston’s high-scoring line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand.
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Boston.
“It feels good. I thought we played well,” Point said after posting just the third four-point game in Tampa Bay’s history. “We had a tough night in Game 1. I thought we came back tonight knowing we’d end up better.”
Point assisted on Tampa Bay’s first three goals before sealing the win with his empty-netter with 25.2 seconds left.
Yanni Gourde had a first-period goal and Johnson and Palat also scored for the Lightning, which rebounded from a 6-2 loss in Game 1.
“We needed to have a bounce back, we needed to have an answer, and I thought we did that,” Johnson said. “I thought we competed really hard, I thought we played well and we got rewarded with some chances and some opportunities.”
Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand combined for three goals and 11 points in the opener, with most of the damage coming while Point’s line was trying to contain them. They had four more points in Game 2, but were unable to take over the game.
Cooper said he never considered changing the matchup against Boston’s top line.
“I honestly didn’t. … We know they can do it. We have faith in them, and I thought they were outstanding tonight,” Cooper said before turning his attention back to Point.
“The kid’s a hockey player and he competes hard,” Cooper said. “Trust me, if there was any talk of pulling him off that line, I think those three guys would have marched right into my room and said, ‘What are you doing?’”
Charlie McAvoy scored for the Bruins late in the first period. Torey Krug’s late goal trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2 with just over four minutes remaining.
Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 18 shots. Tuukka Rask finished with 27 saves for Boston.
“They lost 6-2 at home and didn’t feel good about their game. So, you’ve got to expect they’re going to come out and play hard,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I expect it in Game 3 going forward. They’ll play hard and so will we.”
The Lightning had nearly twice as many scoring opportunities as the Bruins in the series opener and controlled play early Monday night, getting off the first 10 shots of the game and taking a 1-0 lead on Gourde’s power-play goal at 11:47 of the first period.
With the exception of failing to taking advantage of a long 5-on-3 power play, the Bruins made the most of limited chances, with the Bergeron line leading the way.
McAvoy’s goal, with Bergeron and Marchand assisting, made it 1-1. Pastrnak and Marchand set up Krug’s goal to keep the Bruins close.
The Bergeron line has 12 goals and 41 points in Boston’s five playoff wins. The four assists Monday night are the only points the trio has delivered in four losses.
“I know they had a good game, but I think it’s more on us,” Pastrnak said of the play of Point’s line. “We’ve got to be better Wednesday.”
McAvoy said no one should be surprised the series is tied headed to Boston for the next two games.
“You want to sweep every series, obviously. But how attainable is that?” the defenseman said.
“We’re down to the last eight teams in the league. Every team here belongs here. These guys are a great team. We were battling with them all year for first place in the standings,” McAvoy added. “We know they’re a good team, but we’re a good team as well. So, this is going to be a tight series. I don’t think anybody doubts that.”
NOTES: The Lightning have not fallen behind 2-0 in a playoff series since the 2014 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Montreal. … Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara appeared in his 111th playoff game, tying Rick Middleton for fourth place on Boston’s career list. It was the 109th playoff game for Bergeron, tied with John Bucyk for the sixth-most in franchise history. … With his 24th career playoff goal, Johnson pulled even with Vincent Lecavalier for third on Tampa Bay’s all-time list.