TORONTO (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning remained perfect in overtime and are headed to the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals for the fourth time in six seasons.
Victor Hedman scored with 5:50 left in the second overtime to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, ending their best-of-seven, second-round playoff series in five games on Monday night.
The Tampa Bay defenseman beat goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the left circle, scoring off a pass from Brayden Point.
The resilient Lightning outshot the team with the league’s best record during the regular season 7-1 in the second OT, improving to 5-0 in overtime games in this year’s playoffs.
“We know what we want,” Hedman said. “We’re not taking no for an answer.”
David Krejci’s goal at 17:27 of the third period wiped out a 2-1 lead that Anthony Cirelli gave the Lightning when he redirected Hedman’s shot past Halak with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Krejci, limited to one point in the first four games of the series, also assisted on David Pastrnak’s power-play goal in the second period for Boston, which was left wondering might have been if the season had not been put on pause in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was definitely a unique experience, playing in a bubble and no fans,” Boston’s Patrice Bergeron said.
“Clearly we didn’t reach our goal,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who watched his team — a Stanley Cup finalist last season — lose four straight after winning Game 1 against the Lightning.
“I also believe with the turn of events with the pause and stuff going on in the world bigger than hockey … once we got back here it wasn’t the same as a normal season. It just wasn’t,” Cassidy said, adding that wasn’t an excuse for the second-round result.
Cassidy said it was too soon to talk about possible changes to the roster going forward, including whether veteran defensemen Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug return next season.
“I don’t want to speculate if will be their last game. Those are decisions that will be made by the players and management. … Both are great Boston Bruins, and we’ll see what happens down the line.”
Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy had 45 saves and Ondrej Palat scored his fifth goal in four games for Tampa Bay, which is back in the East finals after being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round in 2019.
“It’s a great feeling to win the first two rounds, especially after last year,” said Vasilevskiy, who stopped 147 of 157 shots in the series.
Halak, who allowed 11 goals over the previous three games, stopped 32 of 35 shots.
The Lightning played without reigning MVP Nikita Kucherov for most of the night, losing him for the final seven minutes of the opening period after Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara drew a 4-minute double minor penalty for high-sticking the Tampa Bay star.
Kucherov returned at the start of the second, but departed again for the rest of the game after serving a penalty for tripping — a miscue that set the stage for Boston to erase a 1-0 deficit on Pastrnak’s power-play goal at 12:38 of the period.
NOTES: Boston has a power-play goal in every game of the series. … With Kucherov off the ice, Tampa Bay failed to get off a single shot during its 4-minute power play in the opening period. … Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the lineup after missing Games 2, 3 and 4 due to injury. … The Bruins played without injured forwards Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Nick Ritchie.
Tampa Bay awaits the winner of the series between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, which the Islanders lead 3-1.
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