By Kirk Luedeke
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — The Boston Bruins rookies surrendered a late two-goal lead to their Tampa Bay Lightning counterparts and, after the teams traded shootout goals from junior teammates Jared Knight and Vladislav Namestnikov, skated off the Saveology.com Iceplex ice with a 5-5 tie here Sept. 6.
“Our pace was good at times, and then theirs got good times,” Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “At the start of the third I thought we were better. We gave up a lead late, and we put ourselves in a bad spot taking a penalty, so I think overall a lot of things I expected. We made some good plays, scored some nice goals. I think some of the goals we gave up we didn’t manage the puck very well and that’s generally what happens with younger players.”
The teams kicked off the 2013 rookie tournament, which also features the host Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators squads, with an up-and-down game which saw the Bruins take the early advantage in play and on the scoreboard when Anthony Camara went to the net and converted a Seth Griffith feed in close to give the B’s a 1-0 lead at 12:08 of the opening frame. Tommy Cross (Simsbury, Conn.) drew a secondary assist on the play.
B’s goaltender Malcolm Subban was very good in the game’s first two periods. When the ice tilted in Tampa’s favor early in the second period, the B’s 2012 first-rounder held the fort under significant offensive pressure. He was not solved until 9:03 of the second period when he made a sensational stop on Tampa 2013 second-rounder Adam Erne’s (North Branford, Conn.) initial shot, but the Quebec Remparts star got to the rebound to tie the game.
“It was a great pass from (Nikita) Kucherov and I put it right in the top corner where I wanted to,” Erne told New England Hockey Journal after the game. “But Subban made a great save. I ended up just sticking with it, got the rebound and just put it back up top.”
With the B’s getting the second of two 5-on-3 man advantages in that period, Zach Trotman connected to restore Boston’s lead. His initial point blast hit a Tampa defender’s stick, breaking it. Alexander Khokhlachev was able to get to it first, pushing it to Griffith who then smartly moved it back to Trotman. With one of Tampa’s three penalty killers without a stick, the 2010 seventh-round pick wired a laser beam into the top of the Lightning net, beating netminder Kristers Gudlevskis cleanly.
However, Kucherov evened the score late in the second period when he curled around the right halfboards and fired a shot that got past Subban to make it 2-2. The Boston goalie appeared to be screened on the play.
That set up a wild third period that would see the B’s take 3-2, 4-3 and 5-3 leads before the Lightning came roaring back to get the late equalizer.
Khokhlachev notched his first goal of the tournament when he pounced on a loose puck lying just out of Gudlevskis’ reach after a goalmouth scrum in front. Although the net was knocked off its moorings on the play, referee Terry Koharski ruled that the shot had crossed the goal line first, giving Boston a 3-2 advantage.
That lasted just eight seconds, however, as Tampa defenseman Dan Milan threw a shot in from the point that eluded Subban to make it a 3-3 game.
B’s invite Max Villemaire, skating on the right side of the third line with center Alexander Fallstrom and Justin Florek, gained the Tampa zone and fired a low wrist shot that beat Gudlevskis through the five hole and put the B’s up by a 4-3 margin.
Villemaire tallied his second goal of the game, this time on a power play. Letting loose another wrist shot from the outside, the puck managed to find its way into the net behind Gudlevskis, putting the game seemingly out of reach with about four minutes remaining.
However, a quick strike less than a minute later by Lightning winger Danick Gauthier cut the B’s lead to 5-4 and gave the home team hope.
When Mitch Dempsey was called for a hooking penalty with less than two minutes left in regulation, Tampa pulled the goaltender for a 6-on-4 advantage and Erne again struck, netting his second power play goal of the game with just 57 seconds left to make it 5-5.
The teams both had chances to end the game in the final minute, but neither side could convert, opening the door for a five-player shootout.
With five skaters on each side getting an opportunity, just two managed to score. Former London Knights Namestnikov and Knight, who skated together on the 2012 Robertson Cup championship team, carried the day with Namestnikov beating Subban with a nice deke on the very last shot of the game to secure a tie.
Rookie tourney quick hits
Second-year defenseman Zach Trotman wore the captain’s ‘C’ today, with Ryan Spooner and Justin Florek wearing the ‘A’s as alternates on the road white uniforms.
Bruins invite Jesse Lees was a healthy scratch against Tampa Bay. One player will sit out in each game, and Lees will play in the next two contests against Florida and Nashville.
Coach Cassidy on Subban’s play: “He made some very athletic saves. Tracked pucks very well from the point. There’s a couple from the slot I’m sure he’d like back where he was a little leaky, but all in all I thought he played well. Both goalies did.”
Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney confirmed to New England Hockey Journal that defenseman Joe Morrow was not brought to Florida to participate in the rookie tourney in order to give him an extra few days to rest and heal an injury he had been rehabbing during the off-season. Morrow is expected to be 100 percent when main camp opens next week.
Trotman (1-1), Max Villemaire (2-0), Alexander Khokhlachev (1-1) and Seth Griffith (0-2) all led the way for the Bruins in scoring with two points apiece.
B’s THREE STARS
1. Zach Trotman
2. Anthony Camara
3. Max Villemaire
Bruins Player spotlight: Seth Griffith, RW
Scouting report: Smallish winger at 5-foot-11; not a dynamic skater with blazing breakaway speed, but has picked up a step since being drafted and beings a shifty elusiveness in the offensive zone. Outstanding vision and a quick stick; involved in the natural flow of the game and makes things happen on each shift. Griffith is not all that strong and could stand to be more diligent defensively, but he’s smart and poised for a successful rookie campaign in the AHL with Providence.
On being a Tampa rookie camp invite in 2011 and skating in a similar tourney two years before: “I think I was a little more comfortable than most guys. I think that guys that have been through this before picked it up good today and maybe I wanted to beat the Tampa team a little bit more than the others but I thought we played well today.”
On the style of game he plays: “I think I’m a goal scorer, but at the same time I try to make plays out there every shift whether it’s a good pass, and you have to be physical so that’s one of the parts I’m trying to improve on my game since I’m a smaller guy.”
Outlook: Griffith was a consistent and productive winger in the OHL. His overall game still needs refining, but he’ll get that in Providence under Bruce Cassidy. Where he was once a one-dimensional scorer who wasn’t all that willing to go into the dirty areas of the ice, Griffith has shown a marked improvement in his approach, and he could become a fan favorite in short order.
Lightning Player spotlight: Adam Erne (North Branford, Conn.), LW
Scouting report: Thickly built with broad shoulders and a natural ability to shield the puck and fight through checks. Dangerous, opportunistic scorer who has a nose for the net and will pay the price to make the play. When on his game, Erne is a true power forward who cycles the puck down low effectively and then moves into prime scoring areas looking to finish off the play. Creates space for his linemates and has a knack for the game.
On playing his first game with a Lightning jersey on: “Before the game, it was butterflies to say the least; I was pretty nervous. You’re representing the team, you want to play well. Plus, we were playing the Bruins, especially growing up as a New England guy you watch them, you watch the (New York) Rangers, so you get the first shift going, you get the butterflies out and things just start rolling from there.”
On scoring the tying goal with less than a minute left in regulation: “It was kind of a scrum in front, I wasn’t sure if I got it at all. I don’t really know what happened. It was a scrum in front, I was just kind of whacking away at it and the puck ended up in the back of the net.”
On what to improve upon with the first rookie game out of the way: “Just the confidence is a big thing. Be able to skate with the puck and not try to get rid of it so fast. You have more time than you think. If I can play the same way in the next two games, I’ll be happy.”
What’s up with the “All Russian Except for Adam Erne PP unit”? “I don’t know but I like it, though! I know them all, so it’s been fun. I think I may put a ‘v’ on my name and tape it on the back of my jersey (Ernev) for practice.”
On whether there are any communications breakdowns with the four Russians: “Once we’re on the ice, it’s not a problem like ‘hey, hey, hey’ it’s not really English or Russian. But off the ice, I played with Kucherov in Quebec, Namestnikov is my roommate here and Sergeev, I play against him all the time in the ‘Q’, Nestorov I met in development camp, so I know them all and we get along both on the ice and off.”
Outlook: Erne is a legitimate talent who will likely go back to the QMJHL this fall brimming with confidence after positive experiences in Tampa at development and rookie camps. If he was disappointed about not being picked in the first round last June, he doesn’t show it, and recognizes the opportunity he has as part of a resurgent Lightning organization. If he can continue to develop his big body to improve his strength and conditioning levels, he brings enough offensive ability to be a potential top-six or at the very least top-nine NHL winger someday.