Pastrnak hat trick keys 3-2 win, Bruins pass Tampa in East
By JIMMY GOLEN
BOSTON (AP) David Pastrnak's hat trick led the Boston Bruins past the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the game and in the standings.
Pastrnak had his 12th career three-goal game, scoring the tiebreaker with 4:10 left Thursday night to help the Bruins beat Tampa Bay 3-2 and move them ahead of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Entering the game one point behind the Lightning, Boston finished the night with 85 points - tied with Toronto for second in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins improved to 2-0-1 against Tampa Bay, which is fourth with 84 points.
"Three times now is going to give us confidence," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "On the flip side, we know who Tampa Bay is, they know who they are, and the road runs through them. I'll never get down on Tampa. They're too good a hockey club, they've accomplished too much. But good for us."
Jeremy Swayman stopped 22 shots for the Bruins, who have won 12 of their last 15 games and are 25-9-3 since New Year's Day.
Brandon Hagel and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves for the Lightning.
Erik Haula assisted on all three of the Bruins' goals - his first career three-assist game - as Pastrnak twice tied it after the Lightning took the lead.
"Guys go through stretches when they're feeling it," Cassidy said. "And he's feeling it right now."
The Bruins had a four-minute man advantage on Erik Cernak's high-sticking penalty just 80 seconds into the game, but they didn't get a single shot on goal.
And that wasn't even their worst power play.
With about six minutes gone in the second, Tampa's Mikhail Sergachev went off for high-sticking. But only the Lightning could capitalize, taking a 1-0 lead when Ondrej Palat fed the puck into the center to Brandon Hagel for the easy redirection into the net.
Hagel was one of Tampa Bay's trade deadline pickups, along with Nick Paul, helping add size on offense. Boston's big acquisition, Hampus Lindholm, made the stat sheet when he fed the puck to Haula, who made a long pass off the boards to set Pastrnak free for a breakaway midway through the game.
The Lightning retook the lead four minutes into the third when a rebound bounced around the middle before it popped out to Stamkos and he beat Swayman to make it 2-1.
But Pastrnak tied it again when Haula fought for it behind the net and poked it to the side. Pastrnak spun around, hit it with the back of his stick and squeezed it between Vasilevskiy's pad and the post to make it 2-all.
Asked how he managed that one, Pastrnak said: "I have no clue, to be honest. Just poke it and it goes in."
Lindholm had an assist in his Boston debut, then walked into his first postgame news conference with the Original Six franchise.
"This is not Anaheim," he said, looking around at the 20 or so members of the media. "More bodies in here."
On his first taste of an Eastern Conference rivalry, Lindholm said: "You always want to get thrown into the fire. This is one of those games. This is one of the best teams in the league. Overall it was a great experience and I'm super happy here."
The Bruins hoped to get Patrice Bergeron back from an infection in his elbow that required surgery, but he missed his fourth straight game. Bergeron returned to practice Wednesday and Cassidy declared him probable for the Tampa Bay game, pending a doctor's appointment Thursday morning.
But doctors "felt otherwise," Cassidy said.
Instead, the Bruins are eyeing Saturday's game against the New York Islanders for their captain's return.
Lightning: Visit Detroit on Saturday.
Bruins: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday.
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Updated March 24, 2022