Bruins need stars to lead facing elimination vs. Lightning

The Boston Bruins will be playing for their season against the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night in Game 5 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream). Down 3-1 in their Second Round series, Boston is hoping to avoid being yet another Presidents’ Trophy winning team to fall short of winning the Stanley Cup.

While some players might grip the stick too hard and be scared to make mistakes when facing elimination, Bruins forward David Pastrnak is up for the challenge.

“That’s where hockey gets beautiful. This is the time why we play hockey, right?,” Pastrnak said. “To be honest, personally, I love it. I’m really excited for it and can’t wait for puck drop.”

The Bruins as a franchise have been in this spot many times (0-for-24), but they’ve never come back from a 3-1 series deficit. The odds aren’t in their favor, but this postseason has shown us many unpredictable things so far.

“We obviously hope to flip the script on that one,” said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. “I can give you a bunch of cliches, but it truly is one game at a time here. We’re just focusing on [Monday]. Trying not to let things spiral out of control within a hockey game is a big part of it.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Game 3 spun out of control quickly and ended 7-1 in Tampa’s favor. Game 4 on Saturday started out well again for the Lightning, but the Bruins never had a chance to get back into it after Nick Ritchie‘s controversial major penalty. Already down 2-0, Victor Hedman scored at the tail end of the power play to make it 3-0 and effectively, game over.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has frustrated Boston and they need to solve that issue quick. Of their eight goals, Brad Marchand has four of them. Pastrnak, Krug, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Ondrej Kase have all combined for a single goal against Tampa. Meanwhile eight different Lightning players have scored their 16 goals in the series.

It’s not just the lack of offense. The Bruins’ need to be better defensively. Jaroslav Halak has an .891 5-on-5 save percentage in the series and Boston has a 21-shot deficit at even strength. The Lightning have controlled play, and while both teams have done well to get to the net and create opportunities, it’s been Tampa that’s been more successful at capitalizing on those chances.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is confident his stars will show up, using the old “your best players need to be your best players” line. The Lightning have received contributions from up and down their roster, even without captain Steven Stamkos. The Bruins also need to look back only a year ago at how they reached the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. It wasn’t just their big names leading the way; their secondary scorers played big roles — something that will need to happen again.

[Full NHL Second Round schedule]

“You need your core guys,” Cassidy said. “I believe they’ll lead us. But defense needs to be good, especially against this club. We need to help Jaro out with the quality of shots we’re giving him. So that part of the message – and it was [Saturday], I think we were better at it. Not good enough obviously. We had some breakdowns early with odd man rushes. The [Ondrej] Palat goal in front of our net where we’re usually terrific, we have to clean that up. We have to.

“To sit there and go into the game and say, ok we need that player, that player, and end up trying to score five goals is not the formula. That’s our goal [Monday]. Core, lead the way. Support guys, follow. Leaders and followers. That’s typically how we’ve been good and it won’t change [in Game 5].”

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins (TB leads 3-1)

Game 1: Bruins 3, Lightning 2 (recap)
Game 2: Lightning 4, Bruins 3 (OT) (recap)
Game 3: Lightning 7, Bruins 1 (recap)
Game 4: Lightning 3, Bruins 1 (recap)
Game 5: Monday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
*Game 6: Wednesday, Sept. 2 – TBD
*Game 7: Thursday, Sept. 3 – TBD

*if necessary

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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