Jaroslav Halak makes 35 saves as Bruins down Lightning 3-2 in Game 1


TORONTO — Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves as the Boston Bruins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Sunday night to grab a 1-0 lead in their second-round series.

David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist each for the Bruins, while Charlie Coyle also scored.

Victor Hedman scored twice for the Lightning, who led the NHL with 243 goals before the season was suspended because of COVID-19 in March. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots in taking the loss.

Game 2 of best-of-seven matchup is scheduled for Tuesday before the teams go right back at it 24 hours later inside a fan-less Scotiabank Arena.

The Bruins led 2-0 through two periods and pushed that advantage to three 1:17 into the third on a relentless forecheck from their top line. Patrice Bergeron stripped the puck from Lightning defenceman Ryan McDonagh, and he quickly fed Pastrnak, who in turn saucered a pass to Marchand to bury his fourth of the post-season.

Tampa, which has not been shut out since March 2019, got on the board at 8:50 when Hedman snapped a shot — the Lightning’s first of the period — through traffic that glanced off Boston defenceman Charlie McAvoy’s stick for his second.

Tampa cut the lead to 3-2 with 1:14 remaining in regulation on a Hedman shot that ticked off McAvoy’s leg, but Halak shut the door at every turn to win his fourth consecutive start since No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask left the Toronto bubble for what team president Cam Neely recently described as a “family emergency” on Aug. 15.

Up 1-0 through 20 minutes Sunday, the Bruins doubled their lead at 4:34 of the second on a slick power-play sequence. Boston pinged the puck around the offensive zone for an extended period before David Krejci took it down low and fed a cross-ice feed to Pastrnak, who made no mistake on a one-timer for his second. With the helper, Krejci extended his point streak to seven games (three goals, seven assists).

Blake Coleman rang a shot off the crossbar at the other end as Tampa pushed back before Alex Killorn’s shot that beat Halak was waved off because of a Tyler Johnston high stick.

Vasilevskiy then robbed McAvoy off a feed from Coyle on an odd-man rush to keep the deficit at 2-0.

Halak had to be sharp on a quick-fire exchange with saves on Erik Cernak, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.

Vasilevskiy continued the goaltending show with a stop Ondrej Kase on a 2-on-1 and Brandon Carlo’s follow-up effort.

Halak, who backstopped the Montreal Canadiens on their memorable run to the Eastern Conference final a decade ago, then stoned Barclay Goodrow at the side of the net on another great chance.

The post-season matchup between the teams with the two best records in the East when the pandemic shuttered the season more than five months ago was set after both completed five-game victories in the opening round. Boston got past the Carolina Hurricanes, while Tampa avenged last season’s stunning sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Bruins went from first in the NHL — six points clear when the schedule was halted — to the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed after losing their first three games following the resumption play to finish last in the round-robin tournament.

The Lightning and Bruins played March 7 in a testy affair at TD Garden, a game that included a combined 94 penalty minutes and resulted in a 5-3 victory for Tampa, before the Bruins lost 3-2 in the round-robin on Aug. 5.

Boston, which fell 4-1 to Tampa in the second round of the 2018 playoffs before a crushing defeat in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues on home ice in last year’s Stanley Cup final, took the lead with 68 seconds left in the first seemingly out of nothing.

Coming off the bench on a change, Coyle deftly tipped Carlo’s shot that was going wide past Vasilevskiy for his third after a dog-tired Marchand made a nice play to hold onto the puck in the offensive zone instead of simply throwing it into the corner.

Boston had a couple of earlier opportunities, including a Kase breakaway where the Tampa netminder had to stretch to make a nice pad stop.