How Noel Acciari helped Bruins make Lightning feel the pain


Remember when Sean Kuraly scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back Bruins victories Dec. 29 and Jan. 1 (in the Winter Classic) wearing a full shield to protect his busted mouth?

Well, Kuraly does. That’s why he made a prediction before the Bruins faced the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

“Sean’s like ‘it’s a lucky helmet, they’re lucky bubbles, so good things will come.’ And he was right,” the Bruins’ newest full-shield wearer Noel Acciari said after he had a goal and an assist in Boston’s 4-1 win against the NHL-leading Lightning at TD Garden.

Kuraly, who had to start wearing the shield after getting hit in a fight Dec. 9 against Ottawa, gave up wearing the “bubble” a few weeks after his big goal at Notre Dame. Acciari had to put it on Thursday because his night was ended early Tuesday when he took a puck in the mouth from San Jose’s Brent Burns in the third period.

After Acciari didn’t practice Wednesday, coach Bruce Cassidy was uncertain if the extent of dental work Acciari had to go through would permit him to play against Tampa Bay. As it turned out, Acciari was lucky that the damage was so severe the dentists couldn’t do everything they needed and he was free to play as long as he could withstand the pain.

“They had to wait for swelling to go down before they could do anything, so a little swollen, so I guess I lucked out,” said Acciari, who lost two teeth and to have cuts in his upper and lower lip stitched up.

Acciari scored what turned out to be the game-winner when he gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead during a three-goals-in-1:28 stretch of the third period. He forced a takeaway on the forecheck and then went to the net to bury the rebound of a Chris Wagner shot at 11:47.

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand later extended the lead. Jake DeBrusk had given the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the second period.

But it was Acciari’s line with Wagner and Kuraly, and Charlie Coyle’s line with David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom that set the tone early and often over the course of this battle of the top two teams in the Atlantic Division and the first game in NHL history between teams on point streaks of at least 14 games.

The Bruins outshot the Lightning 41-21 and Acciari’s line combined for seven shots, while Coyle’s line combined for five shots.

“They’re valuable to us. We rely on them every night to … I mean they’re starting a lot, one of those lines,” Cassidy said. “I thought Charlie Coyle was hard on the puck tonight, possessed it well. Backs gets in the scrap early, let’s them know we’re not going to get pushed around. Nordy was on pucks, so I thought both lines were excellent. And we need that. We need that. Whether you call it secondary scoring or them bringing their A games in terms of the physicality, the checking, wearing the other team down and setting the table for the next couple of lines, and eventually we got our goals.”

Rask rolling

Tuukka Rask wasn’t busy, but he made 20 saves and extended his point streak to 16 games (13-0-3) with a 1.92 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in that span.

“He didn’t have a lot of work, but he made the saves to not give them life – or they had life because of their goaltender, but not take our life away offensively,” Cassidy said. “So, good for him even though he wasn’t as busy as the other guy. He held his own, and eventually we got, you know, we rewarded him as well.”

Tampa Bay goaltender Louie Domingue had his franchise-record 11-game winning streak ended despite 37 saves, including 21 of 32 saves in the first and second periods combined.

February force

The Bruins finished February 11-0-2, the ninth month in franchise history without a regulation loss and their first since they went 12-0-1 in Nov. 2011.

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