When the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning exited the ice at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday, it was 10:09 p.m. ET, just shy of three hours after puck drop, and just shy of 22 hours until they’ll be stepping on the ice once again.
It’s a quick turnaround, especially considering regulation was not enough to decide Game 2, which ended when Ondrej Palat scored at 4:40 of overtime to give the Lightning a 4-3 win and even the best-of-7 series in the Eastern Conference Second Round.
Although the overtime didn’t last long, it was an added stress on the Bruins and Lightning, who are going to have to find their footing sooner than they would like when they play Game 3 in Toronto, the Eastern hub city, on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“I think the biggest challenge, obviously, is the pace,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who scored twice on Tuesday. “Very fast games out there. Slow ice makes it a little tougher. But that’s a team that competes hard and works very hard and to play that two nights in a row, it’s going to be a battle.”
For the Lightning, they’re just looking for more of the same.
“If there was one message going on, we liked everything that was going on in the game,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “If it was a recipe — I know it sounds so cliché — but you have to stick with it. If you have mental weakness at all, you’re probably sitting there saying, ‘Poor us.’ It’s just not in this group. That’s not how they operate.”
The Bruins have not yet announced whether they will start Jaroslav Halak, who made 36 saves in Game 2, or backup Dan Vladar, who has yet to play in an NHL game. But the good bet would be on Halak, who played in back-to-back games twice this season, both times in relief of Tuukka Rask. It was Rask’s departure from the Stanley Cup Playoffs that negated what would have been one of Boston’s strengths, its ability to start 1A and 1B goalies in back-to-back games, of which there are potentially two in this series.
“If there’s 80-some attempts, then obviously he’s got to fight to see all 80 of them, so I imagine there’ll be some fatigue there,” Cassidy said. “I didn’t think it was a taxing night in terms of high-danger chances by any means.”
“I feel fine,” he said. “Obviously, we just need to get a good night’s sleep and see how it’s going to go tomorrow. No one said it was going to be easy series. We are tied now and we’re basically starting from zero now.”
The Lightning, perhaps, have an easier decision at goalie with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 22 saves in Game 2. Vasilevskiy is 26 years old, Halak is 35.
But the goaltending isn’t the only issue for Boston. There’s also momentum, which Tampa Bay now seemingly owns.
“Sometimes it’s good to get right back at it when you lose a hockey game,” Cassidy said. “We’ll see tomorrow if that’s good for us. You saw their energy early on. They had good push. Usually after a loss you have that. They may be riding high, build off that, because they evened the series.”
Tampa Bay will try to bring that same energy again after Victor Hedman led all skaters with 28:37 of ice time — the Lightning were without defenseman Ryan McDonagh — and Nikita Kucherov led all forwards with 23:01 of ice time, partially due to Cooper’s decision to go with 11 forwards.
Even with the exhaustion factor, both teams look at Game 3 as a chance. A chance to continue the momentum of Game 2, or a chance to erase the disappointments and take control of the series back.
“We all play back-to-backs all the time,” Marchand said. “No excuses come playoff time. You’ve got to show up and you’ve got to play and you’ve got to find a way to win.”