The Boston Bruins have their backs against the wall as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup Playoff second-round series Monday night at Toronto.
Since taking the first contest of the best-of-seven series, the Bruins have dropped three straight, getting outscored 10-2 between Games 3 and 4. A promising season for Boston, after coming one game short of a Stanley Cup title last year, would come to an end with one more loss.
“Can give you a bunch of cliches, but it truly is one game at a time here,” said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. “We’re just focusing on (Game 5), and trying not to let things spiral out of control within a hockey game is a big part of it. We’ve just got to bring it next game.”
For the Lightning, a win Monday would mean advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six seasons. After last year’s disastrous playoff showing — when the team was swept in the first round — such a return would represent a level of redemption.
“Right now the guys are feeling it,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper after the team’s latest win. “Let’s hope it continues.”
The Lightning have never lost a playoff series when up 3-1 (7-0).
In Game 4 on Saturday afternoon, Tampa Bay jumped out to a 3-0 lead through the first two periods on the strength of two goals from Ondrej Palat. Andrei Vasilevskiy held firm in net the rest of the way in an eventual 3-1 victory.
Palat now has four goals in the team’s last three games and six points total in the series. He’s stepping up with captain Steven Stamkos still sidelined by injury and serving as a complement to the potent production of Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov (16 playoff points apiece).
“He’s always the guy that’s talked about the least,” Cooper said of Palat. “It’s probably unfair to him, but it’s probably just the way he likes it.”
Though the Bruins’ showing Saturday was not as disastrous as their 7-1 setback in Game 3, the goaltending remains an area in need of improvement. Jaroslav Halak, thrust into the starting role when Tuukka Rask opted out two games into the first round, allowed a bad second goal in Saturday’s loss and is struggling to keep up with Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense.
“This is a good hockey club, we’re not scoring a lot right now. Part of that is our own issue about hitting the net,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “But they’ve got a very good goaltender and a good defense, so every goal matters.”
Boston will be without forward Chris Wagner for Game 5 after he exited Saturday’s loss early. Sean Kuraly, who has missed the last two games in the series, skated Sunday and is “progressing,” though Cassidy didn’t say if he would play Monday.
The Lightning have been without defenseman Ryan McDonagh due to an undisclosed injury since Game 1 of the series.
–Field Level Media