Palat paces Lightning with 2 goals, putting series stranglehold on Bruins

Ondrej Palat scored two goals to lead Tampa Bay to a 3-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon in Toronto, putting the Lightning on the cusp of reaching the next round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Nikita Kucherov collected a pair of assists in Game 4 and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for the Lightning, who lead 3-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal and will look to close out the series Monday.

The Bruins, outscored 10-2 in the last two games, were guilty of surrendering a couple of prime scoring chances early and paid the price when Palat opened the scoring — the third straight game in which the Lightning forward has scored.

Thanks to a Bruins turnover, bad coverage and Brayden Point’s nifty stick handling before threading a pass to the slot, Palat had a golden chance and buried it at 8:59 of the clash.

Palat netted his second of the game shortly after Vasilevskiy made a key stop on Brandon Carlo. Kucherov chipped the puck to Anthony Cirelli at the blue-line and he set the table for Palat to rocket a one-timer from beyond the circles at the 12:29 mark of the second period.

WATCH | Ondrej Palat puts Bruins on brink of elimination:

Ondrej Palat records the first 2 goals of the game as Tampa Bay goes on to defeat Boston 3-1 and takes a 3-1 series lead. 1:03

Then, with Boston’s Nick Ritchie given a major penalty for boarding Yanni Gourde, Victor Hedman scored on the ensuing power play to extend the lead to 3-0 with 1:56 left in the second period. Hedman’s shot deflected off the skate of Boston’s Par Lindholm and went up and over goaltender Jaroslav Halak to find the twine.

WATCH | Lightning’s Yanni Gourde exits game after late hit by Ritchie:

Boston forward Nick Ritchie receives a major boarding penalty for his hit on Tampa Bay centre Yanni Gourde who had to leave the game. 0:59

The Bruins, the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners for the best regular season record, got on the board thanks to Jake DeBrusk’s power-play goal at 7:04 of the third period, a perfect shot from below the right face-off dot with a screen set, but that was as close as they could get.

Halak, put into the breach after No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask left the team early in the first round, took the loss, but his 23-save outing kept the Bruins in the hunt, especially when his team surrendered a flurry of chances in the first 30 minutes.

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