2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Nipped By Bruins 1-0 In Game 7

A third-period goal by Boston's Nathan Horton was all it took tonight as the Lightning are shut out and fall to the Bruins in seven games.

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Rewinding The Eastern Conference Finals With SB Nation Boston

With the Eastern Conference Finals in the books and the Tampa Bay Lightning vanquished by the Boston Bruins, we take one last look back with Ryan Durling of SB Nation Boston.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Bruins Eke Out A 1-0 Win In Game 7 To Eliminate Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s improbable run through the playoffs ended one game short of the Stanley Cup Final as they fell 1-0 to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Nathan Horton scored the only goal of the game in the third period and Tim Thomas pitched his second shutout of this series to send the Bruins to the finals for the first time since 1990.

The Lightning didn’t seem to have the energy or the manpower to play their normal full-on offensive game. With Sean Bergenheim out with a groin injury, and Steven Stamkos playing at less than full strength after getting a slap shot to the face in the second period, they had to conserve their energy and try to keep the game close as long as they could. That put a lot of pressure on Dwayne Roloson to keep Boston off the board, and he turned in a marvelous effort with 37 saves.

But the one shot he couldn’t stop is the one that sent the Lightning home. Andrew Ference got the puck to David Krejci in the offensive zone. Krejci drove towards the left corner as Horton crashed the net, and Krejci’s centering pass went past Eric Brewer and right to Horton, who tapped it into an open net while Mattias Ohlund tried in vain to catch up.

After the Bruins scored at the 13:21 mark, the Lightning were forced to hit the switch and go all-out in an attempt to tie the game. While they finally generated some offense in the last six and a half minutes, Boston continued playing an outstanding defensive game, sweeping the net of any dangerous rebounds or close-range scoring chances. The Lightning pulled Roloson with a minute left for a sixth attacker, but by then they had punched themselves out and were never really able to get set up for a good chance to send the game to overtime.

It’s a disappointing loss for Lightning fans, but in retrospect this team accomplished so much more than anyone expected it would back in October. Simply making the playoffs was the benchmark everyone looked at before the season began — playing a hockey game on May 27 wasn’t even considered. What’s more, these 18 playoff games are invaluable for young players like Victor Hedman, Stamkos, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, and others that the team will continue to build around.

Maybe the biggest disappointment is that there won’t be a banner to hang in the rafters of the St. Pete Times Forum on opening night next season. But as GM Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher work to improve on the unqualified success of the 2010-11 season, those shouldn’t be far behind.

Make sure to follow the Lightning’s summer activities, including the NHL Entry Draft and free agency, by reading Raw Charge, SB Nation’s Lightning blog.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Roloson Standing Tall, Keeps Lightning And Bruins Scoreless

There is still no score after two periods of Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, and the Lightning have Dwayne Roloson to thank for that. The Bruins hold a lopsided 29-17 edge in shots on goal and have controlled the flow for most of the game. But they haven’t found a way to get on the scoreboard.

The Lightning continue to get occasional scoring chances, but Tim Thomas has not had to make many difficult saves, and Boston continues to play strong defense in their own zone. Tampa Bay has had potentially costly giveaways in their own end and the Bruins skaters have looked faster and fresher than the Lightning for most of the night.

As noted earlier, Steven Stamkos returned to the game shortly after taking a Johnny Boychuk shot to the face at the 4:59 mark of the second period. Nathan Horton has also returned for the Bruins after falling awkwardly on his leg following a hit by Nate Thompson in the first period.

While the game has been intense and physical, it’s been very clean. No penalties have been called in the first two periods, and it’s hard to argue that very many should have been called. With a tie game and a trip to the Stanley Cup FInal on the line tonight, expect the penalty-free trend to continue for as long as this game takes.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning's Steven Stamkos Hit In Face With Shot, Leaves Game

A Johnny Boychuk slap shot caught an unaware Steven Stamkos in the face during the second period of tonight’s Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins.

Stamkos wears a shield, which may have prevented even more damage. It’s unclear whether the puck deflected off his shield first, or hit his face first, but it still inflicted serious damage. Stamkos went down immediately, then jumped up and skated quickly to the bench and up into the tunnel, pressing a towel against his nose and mouth. The toughness of hockey players is legendary, but there may not be enough time to do whatever it would take to get the Lightning’s top goal-scorer from the regular season back into the game.

UPDATE: Just kidding everyone! Stamkos was in the locker room for about 10 minutes and came back out wearing a full face cage. He missed maybe one or two shifts.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning And Bruins Trade Hits, But Not Goals In First Period

The first period of Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins has ended with no score, but there was no lack of excitement or physical play. Both teams took the body for the entire period, putting everything on the line in this elimination game.

Tampa Bay was outshot 15-9 and did not have many strong scoring chances after the first few minutes. Their best opportunity to get on the board first came when Dana Tyrell skated up the right wing and put a low shot on goal. Tim Thomas kicked it out and the puck slid out towards Adam Hall, but Johnny Boychuk tied up Hall’s stick so he couldn’t get off a rebound shot. A couple minutes later, Eric Brewer’s shot from the right point deflected off a stick and hit Thomas in the mask, then careened into the corner.

As the period wore on the Bruins tightened up their defensive game and also got a few chances of their own. But Dwayne Roloson turned them all away, including a huge save on a Milan Lucic breakaway after a horrible lapse by defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Mike Lundin.

The hard hitting has claimed one potential casualty so far. The Bruins’ Nathan Horton was hit hard by Nate Thompson in the Lightning zone, and his leg appeared to twist or wobble as he went down to the ice. He did not play the rest of the period, and it’s unsure if he will be back later in the game. Horton may be the most disliked player by Lightning fans on the entire Boston team, so not many tears will be shed if his evening is over.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas Stands Between Lightning And Stanley Cup Finals

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, but they have a pretty serious obstacle in their way. Tim Thomas, at times, has been one of the most impressive goalies in the NHL Playoffs and now he and the Bruins will host a Game 7 in Boston. The Lightning did a good job of getting past Thomas in Game 6 (particularly on the power play) and they will have to do the same if they want to advance to the Finals.

As Kevin Allen of USA Today reports, Lightning coach Guy Boucher is confident that the Lightning will be getting the very best from Thomas.

 

"Every opportunity is an opportunity for them and us and I'm sure he's going to come up big," Boucher said. "He said they were going to win for sure so I'm sure he's going to come up big in the next game."

When Thomas is on, he is very tough to beat. But like most goalies, the answer seems to be to overwhelm him with shots. When you put the puck on net, good things happen, and the Lightning need to make Thomas make a ton of saves in order to win.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Winner Take All For Lightning And Bruins In Tonight's Game 7

The Tampa Bay Lightning play their 100th hockey game of the 2010-2011 NHL season tonight, but none of them have come close to the stakes of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. A win over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden advances the Lightning to the Stanley Cup FInal to play the Vancouver Canucks. A loss ends their season just one step short of the league's biggest stage and deals Lightning fans their first real taste of playoff heartbreak. The drama starts a little after 8:00pm Eastern time, with national TV coverage on Versus.

With a win tonight, Tampa Bay would achieve an interesting bit of hockey history, as John Romano explains in this morning's St. Petersburg Times. They would become the first team in modern NHL history to survive at least five elimination games and reach the Cup final. So how has this playoff run turned into a test of survival? Romano says:

Is it talent? Is it persistence? Is it luck?

Yeah, it's probably a little - in some cases, a lot - of all those qualities and more.

You don't come back from a 3-1 deficit, you don't beat the No. 1 seed in a sweep, and you don't reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final without being a good team.

But there is a reason the Lightning has come so close to losing it all. And there is a reason so many of Tampa Bay's postseason games have come down to the final minutes.

This is not a team with a lot of margin for error.

Coach Guy Boucher has been preaching that from the time training camp began eight months ago.

When everything is clicking, when everyone is on the same page, these players look as if their names should forever be inscribed in silver.

But there is no way this team can coast. There is not enough skill, size, speed or strength to simply overwhelm opponents at this time of the year.

Fortunately, the Lightning have become accustomed to living on the edge. They survived a Game 7 on the road in the first round against Pittsburgh, and as you saw earlier in this StoryStream, they know what's coming tonight in Boston. Plus as you may already know, Tampa Bay has never lost a seventh game (3-0) and goalie Dwayne Roloson has never lost an elimination game (7-0).

But it would be foolish to rely on trends and your own experience to carry you through a Game 7. Especially when the Bruins also won a Game 7 on home ice in the first round, and to top that, they pulled the game out in overtime against their absolute blood rivals from Montreal. While there have been some very unkind losses in Boston's recent playoff past (their last three postseason eliminations were all in Game 7's), coach Claude Julien doesn't see a need to get tense:

"We've got a Game 7, it's at home, we're one game away from going to the Stanley Cup Final and the opportunity's in front of us. So, why shouldn't we be excited?

"This is what playoffs is all about. I guess if you had told us at the beginning of the year that we had to win one game to go to the Stanley Cup Finals, we would be excited about it, and that's where we're at right now."

It's been an unpredictable series, and maybe the only thing to expect tonight is the unexpected. Who will be the hero?

Game Notes:

  • Martin St. Louis' two goals on Wednesday night tied him for the NHL lead in playoff goals with 10 (along with Boston's David Krejci, who had a hat trick in Game 6). The Lightning record for most playoff goals in a season is 12, shared by Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko in 2004.
  • Sean Bergenheim is again a game-time decision for Tampa Bay with his groin injury. (Nate Thompson saw a drastic increase in ice time with Bergenheim missing Wednesday night's game.) Pavel Kubina is still out with a concu -- oh, sorry... upper-body injury.
  • Lightning winger Simon Gagne scored the game-winning goal for the Philadelphia Flyers in a Game 7 against the Bruins in last year's conference semifinals.
  • The team that has won the faceoff battle has won all six games in the series. The Lightning held a 34-31 advantage in Game 6.
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NHL Playoffs 2011: Stanley Cup Finals Schedule Released

With the Eastern Conference Finals drawing to a close Saturday — as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins battle in a Game 7 matchup — the NHL is gearing itself up for the Stanley Cup Finals. The Vancouver Canucks have already clinched a spot in the finals, beating the San Jose Sharks in only five games in the Western Conference finals, so they’ll face the winner on Saturday night’s game in the finals.

The games in the Stanley Cup Finals are all scheduled for 8 PM EST, but they will be aired on either NBC or Versus. The full schedule is below:

Wednesday, June 1: Game 1, 8:00 PM on NBC

Saturday, June 4: Game 2, 8:00 PM on NBC

Monday, June 6: Game 3, 8:00 PM on Versus

Wednesday, June 8: Game 4, 8:00 PM on Versus

Friday, June 10: Game 5, 8:00 PM on NBC

Monday, June 13: Game 6, 8:00 PM on NBC

Wednesday, June 15: Game 7, 8:00 PM on NBC

For more on the Tampa Bay Lightning, follow SB Nation’s blog Raw Charge.

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NHL Playoffs, Lightning Vs. Bruins: Tampa Bay 'Knows What To Expect' From Game 7

Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins, 5-4, to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The puck drops Friday, with only a trip to the Stanley Cup Final at stake. Veteran right-winger Martin St. Louis, who played on the Lightning's title-winning team in 2004, knows the challenges that lie ahead.

"Luckily, fortunately, all our team has been through a Game 7," St. Louis said. "Some of us have played more, but we all have that experience, so we know what to expect. The fourth win is always the toughest one to get."

St. Louis came up big for the Lightning in their Game 6 win, scoring two goals and tallying an assist. When asked why he seems to play better in high-pressure games, St. Louis said, "It's what you play for," later adding that Game Sevens "are what gets your fire going" because it's what players dream of during their childhood.

The winner of Game 7 between the Lightning and Bruins advances to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Vancouver Canucks. The NHL will release a schedule for that series upon the conclusion of this one. Stay tuned to this StoryStream for complete coverage of the Lightning's playoff run. In the meantime, here's video of the complete press conference featuring St. Louis and Steven Stamkos from after Game 6:

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Fight Off Bruins 5-4 To Force Another Game 7

There were more than a few anxious moments along the way, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals after holding off the Boston Bruins 5-4 on Wednesday night to tie the best-of-seven series at three games apiece. Teddy Purcell scored twice, and Martin St. Louis’ second goal of the game turned out to be the game-winner.

Up 3-2 to begin the third period and on a carryover power play from the end of the second period, Steven Stamkos blasted a one-timer from his sweet spot near the left faceoff circle to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to two at the 0:36 mark. (The puck barely missed hitting St. Louis, who slid all the way into the net after being knocked down from behind by Chris Kelly.) But the Bruins responded near the halfway point in the third with their first road power-play goal of the playoffs. Nathan Horton held the puck along the left wing and waited for David Krejci to pop open, then put a quick centering pass onto Krejci’s stick for a tap-in goal before Mattias Ohlund or Dwayne Roloson could break up the play or make the save.

That goal pulled the Bruins to within 4-3, but the Lightning got their two-goal lead back just 29 seconds later. Stamkos got to a loose puck in his own end and lofted it up and out to center. St. Louis caught up to it and took off on a 2-on-1 break with Steve Downie. St. Louis passed to Downie, who waited for Tim Thomas to commit to him before sliding a pass back to St. Louis to bury into a wide-open net.

Krejci completed a hat trick by scoring a soft goal off a rebound at 13:28, and the Bruins brought heavy pressure over the last few minutes of the game as they tried to send the contest to overtime. But the Lightning were able to keep them at bay.

Neither goalie played particularly well. Roloson only stopped 16 of 20 shots, but still got the win because Thomas allowed five goals on 26 shots. Despite his relatively poor performance, Roloson improved to 7-0 in his playoff career when his team is facing elimination. If he can run that record to 8-0 on Friday, the Lightning will join the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

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2011 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 6: Tampa Bay Takes 3-2 Over Boston After Two Periods

The Tampa Bay Lightning used two Power Play goals to regain a 3-2 lead over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Martin St. Louis got the Lightning level with 12:05 left in the period after a bouncing puck found him with an open net and he slammed it home. Boston goalie Tim Thomas was distracted looking for his stick after Johnny Boychuck knocked it out of Thomas' hand.

The Lightning took the lead with 6:25 left in the period after Steve Downie found a wide open Teddy Purcell, who snuck the puck below Thomas skate to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead. Downie brought Boychuck with him as he skated to the top of the zone, and rotated the puck to Purcell, who was open due to Chris Kelly's overpursuit earlier in the power play. It was Purcell's 2nd of the night and 6th of the playoffs.

Game Notes:

  • The Bruins are now 0-25 on the Power Play when they are on the road.
  • Zdeno Chara leads all skaters in ice time, with 20:19 minutes logged on the night. Victor Hedman leads all Lightning with 16:09 minutes of ice time.
  • The Lightning outshot the Bruins 13-7 in the 2nd period, and Tampa Bay has a 20-19 face-off edge on the night.
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2011 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 6: Boston Leads Tampa Bay 2-1 After First Period

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a quick lead against the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Bruins responded with two goals and lead the Lightning 2-1 after the first period.

The Lightning grabbed the lead after just 36 seconds when Teddy Purcell scored his 5th goal of the playoffs. Purcell received the puck at the top of the circle after Vincent Lecavalier won a clean face-off against Chris Kelly. Purcell's shot found an open spot in front of a clogged crease and Thomas never saw it coming.

The Bruins tied it up just six and a half minutes later when Milan Lucic scored his 3rd goal of the playoffs off a Tampa Bay turnover. Boston took the lead with 3:30 to go in the first period When David Krejci scored his 8th goal of the playoffs when be beat Dwayne Roloson glove side for the 2-1 lead.

Game Notes:

  • Sean Bergenheim did not dress tonight after an apparent groin injury in the 1st period of Game 5
  • Tampa Bay has an 11-7 edge over Boston in face-offs
  • Boston outshot Tampa Bay 8-4 in the 1st
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2011 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 6: Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. Boston Bruins Preview

It's a do or die situation for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight as they host the Boston Bruins for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The opening face-off is scheduled for 8:00 EDT, and will be televised nationally on Versus.

After starting back-up goalie Mike Smith in Game 5, Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher will have Dwayne Roloson start once again in between the pipes for Game 6. Coach Boucher has been tight lipped about any type of changes over the course of the playoffs, and our Boston site Stanley Cup of Chowder wonders why he would openly talk about the switch,

While most hockey fans probably could have guessed that the Lightning would go back to Rolie The Goalie for Game 6, I am confused why Boucher (or any coach) would not keep his decision under-wraps until game day. The Bolts choice of goaltender does not really change the Bruins' game plan, but the B's now know a day earlier what to expect between the pipes.

While we know who will start in goal for Tampa Bay, the status of Sean Bergenheim for Game 6 is still in doubt. Bergenheim left in the first period of Game 5 with an apparent groin injury and did not return to the game. J.B. Long of Bright House Sports Network reported that Bergenheim did participate in today's morning skate in sweats, but don't expect anything concrete about his status until minutes before tonight's game. If Bergenheim can't make it, Coach Boucher has a tough decision according to Raw Charge,

With Isberg being out, Coach Boucher has to wonder if going with the 11/7 roster split is ideal for tonight (and playing an injured Randy Jones) or if the Bolts should play both Tyrell and Blair Jones and the more typical 12-forward, 6 defenseman roster split.

 

Game Notes:

  • Bruins Rookie Winger Tyler Seguin will dress tonight. Seguin's minutes have dropped considerably after his 4-point effort in Game 2.
  • The Lightning will "charge" the Garrison Channel before the game tonight as they dump 36 gallons of blue dye in the water. They will also be giving away a pair of Channelside Club tickets before the game.
  • In each of the two even numbers games so far this series, the team who failed to score first in Games 2 and 4 have come back to win.
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2011 NHL Playoffs: Despite Taking More Shots, Lightning Can't Get By Tim Thomas

In a seven game series that's tied up at two, Game 5 usually ends up settling things. For the first 20 minutes of Monday's night's game against the Bruins, it looked the Lightning were the team that wanted that win more. They scored on their very first shot of the game, and wound up outshooting the Bruins 14-4 in the first period. But that, unfortunately is where the highlights stopped for Tampa Bay.

Tim Thomas started to dominate the game, and the Lightning started to get a little sloppy on the faceoff, and the Bruins came storming back. When it was all said and done, the Bruins got a 3-1 win, and a now commanding 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals as the series shifts back to Tampa Bay. According to Erik Erlendsson of Tampa Bay Online, Guy Boucher was happy with his team's effort in the first period, but it went all downhill from there.

"We played extremely well that first period,'' Boucher said. "We were very poised with the puck, and it was something we wanted to correct from the previous two games where we had too many turnovers.  I think we didn't really have any turnovers in the first period.  We played really good, and should have had probably one or two other goals.''

If you ask our Lightning blog Raw Charge, the big difference in the game came down to the faceoff battles; particularly Dominic Moore's really sub par performance.

While the Lightning outshot and out-chanced the Bruins, faceoffs were what ended up doing them in. Steven Stamkos did better than usual in the faceoff circle, winning four of 13 draws (31%). Vincent Lecavalier was about average for him, winning 52% (14 of 27), and Adam Hall went a nice 67%, winning 6 of 10. But Dominic Moore was dismal. He was O-fer on the night (0-7).

The Lightning will still have a chance to get even in the series on Wednesday, but even if they manage to do so, they still face the unattractive prospect of a Game 7 back in Boston.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Fall To Bruins 3-1, Trail Series Three Games To Two

The Tampa Bay Lightning might be kicking themselves for not being more aggressive to build their lead after scoring the first goal of the game on Monday night. Late in the game, the Boston Bruins put up a wall around Tim Thomas that the Lightning could not break through, and an empty-net goal sealed a 3-1 win for Boston that has Tampa Bay on the edge of playoff extinction.

In the third period, the Lightning didn’t have that many chances, and their best opportunity to tie the game was robbed by Thomas. Steve Downie was in the right spot next to the net when a shot careened off the end boards and on to his stick. But Thomas dove back towards the far post and managed to get the blade of his stick in the way of what looked like a sure goal, deflecting it off the goal post and wide. It was kind of a lucky save, but hard work has a way of creating its own luck, and the Lightning didn’t do nearly enough of that down the stretch. The Downie chance was the last quality scoring opportunity they got, and it came with a little over 10 minutes to play. Even with Mike Smith pulled, Tampa Bay couldn’t get set up properly in the Bruins zone in a last-ditch attempt to even the score.

Thomas made 33 saves overall, while Mike Smith acquitted himself nicely, stopping 17 of 19 shots. Simon Gagne scored the only Lightning goal a minute into the game. Brad Marchand had the game-winner for Boston late in the second period, while Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley (into an empty net) had the other Bruins goals.

Game 6 will be Wednesday night back in Tampa. The Bruins will be looking to book their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1990, while the Lightning will attempt to force a deciding Game 7 back in Boston.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Sputtering On Offense, Bruins Take 2-1 Lead

The Tampa Bay Lightning had plenty of chances to extend their 1-0 lead after Simon Gagne scored just over a minute into the game. But they failed to capitalize, and now trail the Boston Bruins 2-1 after two periods in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Even though the Lightning carried play for most of the first period and had two more power-play opportunities in the first few minutes of the second period, they haven’t scored any more goals. They’ve become too patient with the man advantage, passing the puck around for long stretches of time even when shooting lanes are available. Forwards are bunching together on breakouts, limiting options for the puck carrier. And the Bruins have adjusted to take away centering passes from down near the goal line.

All those missed opportunities in a hockey game eventually come back to bite you later on, and they finally bit the Lightning when Nathan Horton scored off a faceoff at 4:24 of the second period to tie the game at 1. Boston took the lead at 15:56 when Zdeno Chara worked down the boards, drawing Victor Hedman away from the net. Patrice Bergeron came over to take the puck as Brett Clark also left the goal mouth to try and defend him. That left no one to block a centering attempt, and Bergeron whipped a perfect pass right to Brad Marchand, who lifted a shot past Mike Smith in front of the crease to give the Bruins a 2-1 advantage.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Sputtering On Offense, Bruins Take 2-1 Lead

The Tampa Bay Lightning had plenty of chances to extend their 1-0 lead after Simon Gagne scored just over a minute into the game. But they failed to capitalize, and now trail the Boston Bruins 2-1 after two periods in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Even though the Lightning carried play for most of the first period and had two more power-play opportunities in the first few minutes of the second period, they haven’t scored any more goals. They’ve become too patient with the man advantage, passing the puck around for long stretches of time even when shooting lanes are available. Forwards are bunching together on breakouts, limiting options for the puck carrier. And the Bruins have adjusted to take away centering passes from down near the goal line.

All those missed opportunities in a hockey game eventually come back to bite you later on, and they finally bit the Lightning when Nathan Horton scored off a faceoff at 4:24 of the second period to tie the game at 1. Boston took the lead at 15:56 when Zdeno Chara worked down the boards, drawing Victor Hedman away from the net. Patrice Bergeron came over to take the puck as Brett Clark also left the goal mouth to try and defend him. That left no one to block a centering attempt, and Bergeron whipped a perfect pass right to Brad Marchand, who lifted a shot past Mike Smith in front of the crease to give the Bruins a 2-1 advantage.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Mike Smith In Net, Lightning On Board Early

Possibly a surprise in tonight’s lineup, as Mike Smith is in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning to start Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. Smith has stopped every shot he’s seen in relief duty in Games 2 and 4 of the series, and part of the benefit of starting Smith may be that coach Guy Boucher can always turn to Dwayne Roloson if Smith struggles.

Fortunately the Lightning made Smith’s job just a little bit easier by scoring only 1:09 into the game. Brett Clark wiped out Andrew Ference at the far-side point, springing Steven Stamkos and Simon Gagne on a 2-on-1 towards Boston goalie Tim Thomas. Stamkos passed to Gagne, who took a bit of an off-speed shot that beat Thomas and found the net.

The Lightning seem more willing to bang bodies in the early going. Along with Clark’s hit on Ference, Mattias Ohlund stood up Brad Marchand at the blue line on the shift before Gagne’s goal, and Stamkos knocked over Dennis Seidenberg a little bit later.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Back In Boston, Lightning Prepare For Critical Game 5 Against Bruins

Tied at two games apiece, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins meet up for pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night. Faceoff is a little after 8:00pm Eastern time from Boston's TD Garden, with national TV coverage on Versus.

Tampa Bay rallied from a 3-0 deficit in Saturday's Game 4 with five unanswered goals, including two from Teddy Purcell, Sean Bergenheim's playoffs-leading ninth goal, and the eventual game-winner from Simon Gagne. It was the biggest comeback in Lightning playoff history. But lost in all the offense was the play of backup goalie Mike Smith, who entered the game at the start of the second period and stopped all 20 Boston shots he faced. Smith also played the third period of Game 2 and didn't allow a goal, leaving some to wonder who will be in the net for Game 5 tonight. Lightning coach Guy Boucher isn't coming right out and saying so, but unless you have newspapers to sell with a controversy, it sounds like it's going to be Dwayne Roloson:

"We've got a goaltender (Roloson) that has taken us here. He's played really well, and he's getting prepared for (tonight). We've got a goaltender (Smith) that came in relief and he's done really well. So every time we ask him to come in, he's played well. And we've got a goaltender that has taken us here that knows how to win and knows how to bounce back. So don't feel there's a situation there."

There's no controversy in the Boston net, even though Tim Thomas has given up 13 goals in the series (and that includes a shutout in Game 3). In fact, Thomas is so confident that he's told the Boston Herald that the Bruins will win this series:

"Yeah," Thomas said last evening, "we’re going to win."

...

"I mean, I don’t know how it’s going to be at any one time in any one game," Thomas said. "What’s important is that we come back in Game 5 (tomorrow) and win the game, however we do it.

"Hopefully, we do it playing the type of game that we like to play — or, if things don’t work exactly that way, that we find a way to win. One way or another."

One way or another, one team or another will be within one win of a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals after tonight's game.

Game Notes:

  • Steve Downie traveled with the Lightning to Boston, but his availability for tonight's game is still in doubt.
  • Looking for a harbinger tonight? The team that has won the faceoff battle has won all four games in the series. On Saturday, the Lightning held a 39-26 edge in the faceoff circle, including 14 of 21 won by captain Vincent Lecavalier.
  • After coming into this series leading the four remaining playoff teams in power play success at over 26%, the Lightning are only 2-for-14 (14.3%) with the man advantage in this series.
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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Finish Comeback, Beat Bruins 5-3 To Tie Series

Simon Gagne’s third-period goal completed the biggest playoff comeback in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping them beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 and tie the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece. The Lightning trailed 3-0 after one period, but scored the last five goals of the game.

Ryan Malone, who had a sensational all-around game, started the play that led to Gagne’s tally by intercepting Milan Lucic’s breakout pass in the neutral zone. Gagne circled back out of the zone to avoid being offside, then picked up the puck after it was knocked away from Malone near the edge of the right faceoff circle. He moved in and beat Bruins goalie Tim Thomas with a wrist shot through the five hole to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead.

Martin St. Louis scored an empty net goal with 36 seconds remaining to seal the game after he and Gagne played catch on a 2-on-1 to get Zdeno Chara out of the way.

Backup goalie Mike Smith picked up his first win of the playoffs. He relieved Dwayne Roloson after the first period and stopped all 21 shots he faced. Now as the series returns to Boston for Game 5, the question might be: Who starts in net?

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Off The Mat, Tied 3-3 With Bruins After Two

Just as easily as the Tampa Bay Lightning fell behind the Boston Bruins 3-0 after one period, they tied the game 3-3 after two periods in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Two goals by Teddy Purcell 1:03 apart and one by Sean Bergenheim erased Boston’s early lead and set up what should be an intense third period.

Mike Smith relieved Dwayne Roloson to begin the period, and Tampa Bay killed off the Bruins power play that began the second. Then the Lightning scored three goals in 3:58 to tie the game. First, Tim Thomas tried to hand off the puck to Zdeno Chara behind the net, but when Ryan Malone checked Chara, it was left behind for Simon Gagne. He passed it to a cutting Purcell, who deked around Adam McQuaid and backhanded a shot past Thomas to get Tampa Bay on the board.

A little over a minute after that, the Lightning scored again. On a 3-on-2, Vincent Lecavalier passed across the middle to Purcell, who zipped a wrist shot over Thomas’s glove hand and underneath the crossbar to cut Boston’s lead to 3-2. The Lightning then tied it shortly after a power play expired, when Bergenheim outworked Tomas Kaberle behind the net, circled out front, and beat Thomas with a low wrist shot to tie the game 3-3.

Steve Downie may not be available for the rest of the game after Nathan Horton checked him head-first into the glass late in the second period. Also, let the record show that referee Tim Peel, standing no more than 10 feet away from the play, called Downie for diving in addition to the boarding penalty on Horton. Because everyone will slam their heads into the boards and risk a concussion to try and sell a penalty. That makes lots of sense.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning In Dire Straits, Trail Bruins 3-0 After One Period

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been raptured. How else to explain the team that is wearing their uniforms and trailing the Boston Bruins 3-0 after only one period of a critical Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals? OK, it’s probably still the same team, but their defensemen made some crucial mistakes that have them facing a steep hill to climb if they want to tie the series.

After a fairly even first half to the period, the Bruins got on the board on a play eerily similar to the one that Teddy Purcell made to score a goal in Game 1. Brett Clark and Victor Hedman both mishandled a puck behind their own net, and Patrice Bergeron swooped in to pick it up and slip one past Dwayne Roloson at 11:47.

Play settled back down again (despite the score, the Lightning did outshoot Boston 10-9 in the first period) until another mistake by the defense helped the Bruins score again. Marc-Andre Bergeron came up almost to the center red line to try and keep a puck from getting deep, but he missed. When Michael Ryder got around him along the boards, it created a 2-on-1 with him and Chris Kelly. Ryder moved in on the left side, and tried to pass around Mike Lundin to Kelly in the slot. Lundin got his stick on it, but with Roloson moving towards the middle to stop the expected shot, the puck deflected into the vacated area and over the goal line. That gave Boston a 2-0 lead at 16:34.

It looked like Tampa Bay might have a chance to get back in the game on a power play when Dennis Seidenberg was sent off for holding the stick. Instead, the Bruins led 3-0 just seven seconds later on a shot that Roloson should have easily stopped. Steven Stamkos (who has had his share of issues on the point this season) and Eric Brewer both made bad passes at the top of the zone, and Bergeron intercepted and headed up the ice. Bergeron took a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that somehow beat Roloson at 17:56 for a short-handed goal.

But wait, there’s more! After a scrum that completed the first period, the Lightning will be short-handed to begin the second period.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Need A Win In Saturday's Game 4 To Even Series Again

Just because the Tampa Bay Lightning got out of a 3-1 hole in the first round of the playoffs doesn't mean they want to do it again. But if they don't beat the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals this afternoon, that's what they'll be facing again. The opening faceoff from the St. Pete Times Forum will be a little after 1:30pm Eastern time today, with national TV coverage on NBC*.

Boston's Tim Thomas was the story of Game 3, stopping all 31 shots he faced in a 2-0 Bruins win that gave them a two games to one lead in this best-of-seven series. He got a lot of help from his defense, too, as they kept the Lightning from crashing the net and getting the rebounds and garbage goals that they've picked up all through these playoffs. In his press conference yesterday, Guy Boucher noticed that both teams played better defense after the 6-5 result in Game 2 left a lot to be desired in that area.

"We were better defensively except for one or two big mistakes. The rest of the game we did very well. Didn't give them any odd-man rushes and stuff that they can capitalize on off the rush. They did the same, though. So it looked like a neutral zone battle yesterday that both teams weren't going to fail at. So it becomes a battle deep in your zone and deep in their zone. And that's why we're expecting a tough series until the end."

With Game 4 starting a little more than 36 hours after Game 3 ended, neither team had a particularly heavy practice on Friday. The Bruins let several players take the day off, including David Krejci, who was hit hard by Marc-Andre Bergeron on the play that set Boucher off when Bergeron was called for an elbowing penalty. Krejci is expected to play today.

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* -- Remember, today is also the Preakness States, and NBC's pre-race coverage will begin at 4:30pm Eastern time, regardless of whether or not the game has ended. (Ads for the Triple Crown races are very expensive and are sold months in advance, so NBC can't simply join their Preakness coverage in progress if the hockey game runs over.) If the Lightning and Bruins end up in overtime, coverage will most likely roll over to Versus so you won't miss the ending.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Bruins Shut Out Lightning 2-0, Lead Series 2-1

The Boston Bruins win Game 3 to bring the series to a 1-2 Bruins lead. The Tampa Bay Lightning were behind from the start of this game when Bruins Forward David Krejci took advantage of a Lightning defensive lapse to score his seventh post-game goal and brought the score to 0-1 Bruins. Throughout the second period, the Bruins dominating defense denied Lightning the equalizer. Likewise, several great saves by Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson and solid coverage by Lightning defense kept the score 0-1 Bruins.

8 minutes into the third period, a slap shot by Bruins Defenseman Andrew Ference went through Roloson's legs to increase the Bruins lead to 2-0 and crush Tampa's hope for an easily manageable comeback. The Lightning failed to convert yet another power-play off a hooking penalty against Bruins gigantic Defenseman Zdeno Chara and the score finished with a Bruins 0-2 win.


Game Notes:
Bruins Forward Patrice Bergeron played the same amount of minutes as in his pre-injury games
Awful defensive lapses have cost the Bolts more than a couple goals this series. Will Guy Boucher tighten his team's defensive game?

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Brilliant Saves, Unrealized Chances and Solid Defense Leaves Score 0-1 Bruins

6 minutes into the second, Victor Hedman took a high stick to the helmet to give Tampa their first power-play of the game.  The Lightning failed to convert on the power-play though a shot by Lightning Forward Steven Stamkos ricocheted off the goal post, barely missing the net with Bruins goalie Tim Thomas six feet out of his crease.  

Throughout the second period, Bruins were given chances to increase their lead on a penalty against Tampa for having too many men on the ice and a hooking penalty.  Boston’s advantages were lost against Tampa’s superb penalty kill and an equalizing penalty against Boston Forward Patrice Bergeron for interference against Lightning Forward Adam Hall. Tampa failed to convert on an abbreviated power-play against the Bruins’ penalty kill, a penalty kill led by Patrice Bergeron and a penalty kill that is quickly becoming a problem for the Bolts.

Brilliant saves by both goalies, solid defense, and wasted chances kept the score at 0-1 Bruins.  

 

Game Notes:

Both teams have used their time outs.

Lightning won three times the amount of face-offs in the second period than in the first period 

What will third period playoff hockey do for the Bolt's pace of game? 

 

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NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 3: Bruins Up 1-0 After First Period

Just 1:09 into the first period, Bruins Forward David Krejci took advantage of a Lightning defensive lapse and scored on unprotected Lightning net-minder Dwayne Roloson. Lightning Defenseman Victor Hedman allowed the goal by leaving the front of the Tampa net to challenge the Bruins offensive. Krejci was able to take a shot from directly in front of the net.

The rest of the period followed what is quickly becoming characteristic of this Lightning Bruins series. Tampa's defense had their hands full against Boston's deadly 5-on-5 and often had trouble getting the puck out of Lightning ice. The Bolt's offensive game failed to deliver on several promising chances, despite doubling the Bruin's shots-on-goal. 

With just minutes left in the first, Lightning Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron was penalized for elbowing when he leveled David Krejci at center ice, eliciting shouts of outrage and heated discussion from usually composed Guy Boucher. From the camera's eye, the hit was clearly from the shoulder; it was a clean hit.

Game Notes: Lightning have out shot and out hit Boston in the first.

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2011 NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Boston Bruins C Patrice Bergeron Cleared To Play In Game 3

Joe Haggerty of CSN New England is reporting that Boston Bruins C Patrice Bergeron has been cleared for contact after today’s practice and will play in tonight’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Bergeron has been out of the lineup due to a concussion suffered in Game 4 of the Bruins’ previous series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bergeron’s return will most have the most effect with face-offs, as the Lightning hold a slight 73-67 edge so far in the series. Bergeron has been almost masterful in the circle, winning over 64% of the face-offs he’s taken in the playoffs.

If Bergeron does play, Haggerty reports that 4th line C Shawn Thornton will be the healthy scratch for the Bruins. LW Tyler Seguin replaced Bergeron in the lineup for Game 1, but his 6 points so far in the series was deemed to invaluable to lose for the rest of the playoffs.

Expect Bergeron to return to his spot on the 2nd line, with Chris Kelly returning to the 3rd line, and Rich Peverley moving to the 4th line.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Back In Tampa, Lightning And Bruins Face Off In Game 3

The NHL's Eastern Conference Finals shift to Tampa for the next two games, including tonight's Game 3 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins from the St. Pete Times Forum. Game 3 faces off a little after 8:00pm tonight, with national TV coverage on Versus and the winner claiming a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

It's hard to figure out a way the Lightning could have played worse than they did in the second period of Game 2, when they gave up five goals to Boston and only converted one of a surprisingly large number of scoring chances. To a man, though, the team knows exactly what went wrong. From Damian Cristodero's report in the St. Petersburg Times:

We heard a lot about how the Lightning lost its "structure" in Game 2. For Steven Stamkos, that meant lapses in defensive zone coverages, getting sticks on pucks and managing the puck. Vincent Lecavalier mentioned turnovers.

Coach Guy Boucher said defensemen jumping into the offensive flow at the wrong times was a big reason the Bruins had so many odd-man rushes.

And yes, he added, perhaps the team was a bit overconfident from its long winning streak.

The good news for Tampa Bay, Boucher said, is "these are things we can correct quite easily."

It may be difficult for some fans to wrap their hands around the Lightning losing on Tuesday after running off eight straight playoff wins, tying a franchise record. But for the players and the coaches, it's something they were expecting, as Lecavalier told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune.

"It's tough. I mean, playoffs are roller coaster rides. But it's how you come back the next game or it's how you bounce back that shows what type of team you are and the character that you have in a team. And I really think we've been doing well... like against Pittsburgh we lost a few big games, but we kept at it, we showed a lot of character.

"But we realize that it's a series. It's not one game. You're not going to win all your games. So you have to make sure that when you do, when you don't win, then you bounce back and you play solid the next game."

The Lightning even bounced back within the game, scoring twice in the third period and making the Bruins sweat out the victory. As bad as Tampa Bay played for the first two periods, they still put five goals on the board and had several chances to tie it up near the final horn, and that's something Boston forward Michael Ryder knows they need to correct (registration may be required):

"I think in the third we sat back a little bit and we weren't skating," Ryder said. "We were just kind of watching a little bit. Timmy [Thomas] came up huge... I think we have to learn from the third period that we can't do that because the team on the other side, they're not giving up."

There's a good chance Patrice Bergeron will be back in the Boston lineup tonight after missing the first two games of the series with a concussion. According to the Boston Globe, he will practice at the Forum this morning and based on how that goes, he should get the green light to return to action. Meanwhile, Pavel Kubina did not make the trip to Boston for the first two games, and it's unlikely he will play tonight.

Game Notes:

  • The Lightning are 3-2 at home in this year's playoffs, although they've won their last three. Boston is 4-1 on the road, winning two of three in Montreal and winning both games in Philadelphia.
  • Tampa Bay is 8-3 all time in Game 3 of a playoff series.
  • Lecavalier had a goal and three assists in Game 2, setting a team playoff record for points (four) in a single game.
  • Backup goalie Mike Smith saw his first action of the postseason in the third period of Game 2, stopping all eight shots he faced.
  • Tampa Bay's 41 shots in Game 2 were the most they have taken in any playoff game this season.
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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Rally, But Fall 6-5 In Game 2

The Tampa Bay Lightning brought the heat in the third period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. But after controlling play in the third period, they couldn’t get the game-tying shot past Tim Thomas and lost 6-5.

Mike Smith replaced Dwayne Roloson in net in the third period, but Smith wasn’t called on very often as Tampa Bay put the pressure on hard, especially after Steven Stamkos torched a wrist shot past Thomas to cut the Boston lead to 6-4. The Lightning outshot the Bruins 15-8 in the third period and got another goal from Dominic Moore to cut the lead to 6-5 with 6:45 left in the game. But even though the Lightning had several more chances to tie the score, they couldn’t find the net.

Tyler Seguin had two goals and two assists for Boston, all in their five-goal second period. Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and three assists, while Stamkos had a goal and two assists. Thomas made 36 saves for the Bruins, but neither he or Dwayne Roloson played very well.

The best-of-seven series is now tied at a game apiece as the teams return to Tampa for Game 3 on Thursday night.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Implode In Second Period, Give Up Five Goals

OK, so the first period was definitely not the worst period the Tampa Bay Lightning could have played. The second one was much worse. In what might be the worst period of playoff hockey the Lightning have ever played, the Boston Bruins scored five times and lead 6-3 after two periods in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tyler Seguin had two goals and two assists in the period, while Michael Ryder added two more goals and an assist. David Krejci also scored for Boston, who jumped on the Lightning with three goals in the first 6:30 of the second period. The scoring chances continued unabated for the Bruins, as the lack of defensive speed on the Lightning bench was badly exposed by Seguin and the other speedy Boston forwards.

Vincent Lecavalier scored on the power play, and the Lightning had three breakaway attempts stopped in the period — Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson were both denied by Tim Thomas, and Simon Gagne shot a puck wide while being backchecked by two Bruins. The scoring chances are there for Tampa Bay to make this a game again, but the defensive coverage has been horrible all night. Unless that improves, expect Dwayne Roloson (or maybe Mike Smith, not that Roloson is totally to blame) to fish more pucks out of his own net in the third period.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Bookend Dominant First Period By Bruins With Goals, Lead 2-1

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it would be best for them to get to the locker room before someone changes their mind about them leading the Boston Bruins 2-1 after the first period in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bruins had the run of play for nearly the entire period, but are still trailing on the scoreboard

Tampa Bay’s first goal was scored exactly 13 seconds into the game. Off the opening faceoff, Vincent Lecavalier brought the puck into the offensive zone and took a long shot from the right point. It deflected off a Bruins stick, skimmed the side of the net, and bounced quickly off the end boards to Adam Hall on the opposite side. Tim Thomas, still looking for the puck behind the net, was too late to protect the far post and Hall alertly put it into the net. It was the second-fastest goal to start a playoff game in the last 20 years in the NHL.

The Bruins dominated for the next nineteen and a half minutes. They sustained offensive pressure, kept the Lightning from getting chances of their own, and flexed their muscles all over the ice. Only fantastic goaltending from Dwayne Roloson (17 saves in the first period) kept Boston from doing too much damage, but Nathan Horton did score a rare power-play goal to tie the game at 1.

Then on the last rush of the first period, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis combined to give the Lightning an unearned 2-1 lead. Stamkos made a spin move at the right faceoff circle and put a backhand shot on net while St. Louis drove to the crease. His shot bounced off St. Louis’ stick, then ricocheted off Boston’s Johnny Boychuk and into the goal with only 6.5 seconds left on the clock.

Obviously the Lightning need to play much better if they want to win Game 2, but if that first period is the worst they can do, what’s going to happen when they start improving?

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Are Winning With Good, Clean Hockey

The Tampa Bay Lightning have looked like a team that few have expected so far in the 2011 NHL Playoffs. They have played with a sense of purpose and urgency that has allowed them to look pretty darn good against some of the favorites in the Eastern Conference. According to Jeff Klein of the New York Times, that is because the Lightning have shifted their focus towards playing Hockey the right way, as opposed to taking penalties and playing chippy.

They were the most penalized team in Hockey a year ago, this year they ranked 22nd. And when the Bruins tried to lure them into a position that might force them to retaliate and draw a penalty, they maintained their composure.

Within seconds after a whistle, Boston’s Nathan Horton slugged Dominic Moore, Milan Lucic decked Victor Hedman with a gloved fist to the face, and Johnny Boychuk punched Vincent Lecavalier. None of the Lightning players retaliated. Lucic and Horton each received roughing minors and game misconducts.

They can let the Bruins play as physical and bruising as they want to, because they will be the team in the penalty box, while the Lightning enjoy Power Plays and increased scoring opportunities. The Lightning aren't getting caught up in these little mind games that some of the teams have been trying to play with them. They are instead trying to win the games, and that is the only thing they care about.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Look To Seize Control Of Eastern Conference Finals

Already up a game in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to bring another 2-0 series lead home with them by winning tonight's Game 2 against the Boston Bruins. The puck drops a little bit after 8:00pm Eastern time from Boston's TD Garden, with national TV coverage on Versus.

The biggest storyline leading into Game 2 is the possibility that Patrice Bergeron will be back in the Bruins lineup. He suffered a concussion in Game 4 of Boston's second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, and missed Game 1 of this series. But Bergeron took part in some of Monday's Bruins practice, and coach Claude Julien is being somewhat coy about whether or not he will play. From the Boston Globe (registration may be required):

Bergeron left the ice before the conclusion of practice. Bergeron was on the ice for just over an hour. Bergeron didn't participate in any battle drills or down-low work.

"This is the protocol we're going through and the process he has to go through," said Claude Julien. "You've seen him skate now for a few days. That's basically it. We don't have anything more to report, because there is nothing else to report."

Bergeron's return would obviously be a plus for Boston, as Yahoo! Sports's Greg Wyshynski points out. In addition to resetting the Bruins' forward lines to where they normally are, he's been their best faceoff man during the playoffs. The Lightning won 61% of the draws in Game 1 with Bergeron out, and Wyshynski explains the consequences:

It certainly would mean better fortunes for the Bruins in the faceoff circle, where Bergeron was winning at a 64.2 percent clip.

That's the difference between Marty, Vinny, Stamkos and Bergenheim (!) controlling the puck and the Bruins keeping it away from them.

The other storyline is what happened at the end of Game 1, when Boston's Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic each threw sucker punches at Lightning players and were dismissed from the game. It was all part of Tampa Bay's game plan of restraint -- knowing the Bruins are likely to try and intimidate them, especially at home, the Lightning are turning the other cheek when they recognize Boston about to take a penalty because of chippiness after the whistle. Captain Vincent Lecavalier took a shot from Johnny Boychuk after a stoppage of play in the third period, which gave the Lightning the power play that Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on to give them a 4-1 lead.

Game Notes:

  • A win tonight would set a Lightning franchise record with nine straight playoff wins. The NHL record for consecutive wins in a single playoff year is 11, shared by three teams.
  • Sean Bergenheim now leads all playoff scorers with eight goals.
  • Although the Lightning allowed 33 shots in Game 1, 23 of the Bruins' shots came from 40 feet away or further.
  • After scoring Boston's first goal on Saturday, rookie Tyler Seguin participated in power-play drills during Monday's practice.
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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Dominate Bruins 5-2 In Game 1

The Tampa Bay Lightning got three quick goals from Sean Bergenheim, Brett Clark, and Teddy Purcell in the first period and were not seriously threatened by the Boston Bruins in a 5-2 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored an insurance goal in the third period on a power play, while Simon Gagne hit an empty net to seal the game.

The Lightning set a team record with their sixth straight road playoff win, and tied their record of eight straight playoff wins, set during their 2004 Stanley Cup season. Coincidentally, the eight straight wins were exactly the same both times — the last three games of the first round, a four-game sweep in the second round, and then Game 1 of the conference finals.

Dwayne Roloson made 30 saves, but only faced a handful of quality scoring chances by the Bruins. The Lightning’s defense blocked shots all over the ice, deflected passes and shots, and worked together to keep Boston away from the net. Only Tyler Seguin’s highlight-reel goal in the first period and Johnny Boychuk’s garbage-time goal (which bounced in off Bergeron’s skate) slipped past the Lightning goaltender.

Tim Thomas made 29 saves for the Bruins and may have kept the final score from being even worse. He made several outstanding saves throughout the game, including a breakaway by Vincent Lecavalier in the first period. He also turned away scoring attempts from Steve Downie and Gagne when both players slipped behind the defense for an open shot from close range.

The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 and will look to bring a 2-0 series lead back to Tampa in Tuesday night’s Game 2.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning's Penalty Kill, Bruins' Thomas Keeps Score 3-1

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s lead over the Boston Bruins remains 3-1 after two periods in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

After a penalty-free first period, Tampa Bay went to the box three times in the second period. But their penalty killing, the best of the four remaining teams in the playoffs at 94.4% coming into the series, easily turned aside the Bruins’ power play. Boston’s first attempt to score with the man advantage was so poor that the home crowd began booing their team. The best scoring chance on a Bruins power play may have actually belonged to the Lightning, when Dominic Moore carried the puck into the Bruins zone and passed across to Sean Bergenheim on a late 2-on-1. But Bergenheim’s shot was high of the crossbar and bounced off the glass.

On the other end of the ice, Tampa Bay had two power plays, but Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was excellent in the second period. He made three key saves, stopping Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos on the power play, and robbing Steve Downie in front of the net after the Lightning won a faceoff and quickly got the puck to the goal mouth.

The Lightning tried a move in the faceoff circle twice in the second period where the player taking the draw tried to move forward with the puck, instead of winning the faceoff back towards the defense or to the other forwards. One led to a tripping penalty by Boston’s Chris Kelly, while the other led to Downie’s scoring chance. Don’t be surprised if this move comes back at some point in the series, like the leave-behind play by Moore and Bergenheim that burned the Pittsburgh Penguins in Games 6 and 7 of the first round.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Strikes Thrice, Leads Bruins 3-1 After One Period

Three goals just 1:25 apart shocked the rowdy crowd at TD Garden and staked the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-1 lead after one period against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Tampa Bay got on the scoreboard first at 11:15 of the period. Victor Hedman’s shot from the right point and Dominic Moore’s rebound shot in front were both stopped by Tim Thomas. Dennis Seidenberg tried to kick the puck out of trouble, but it landed right on Sean Bergenheim’s stick, and his shot went in over Thomas’s shoulder for a 1-0 lead. It was Bergenheim’s eighth goal of these playoffs, tying him for the league lead.

Just 19 seconds later, the Lightning made it 2-0 when defenseman Brett Clark skated all the way up the ice and took a soft backhand shot that eluded Thomas and found the net. Then, over a minute after Clark’s goal, Teddy Purcell pressured Boston’s Tomas Kaberle on the forecheck and forced a turnover just to the left of Thomas. On his second shot, Purcell stuffed the puck past Thomas to increase Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-0.

The Bruins got one back at the 15:59 mark on a beautiful goal by rookie Tyler Seguin, playing in his first-ever Stanley Cup playoff game. Seguin took a feed from Michael Ryder and moved in one-on-one against Lundin. Seguin deked around the Lightning defenseman and beat Dwayne Roloson with a low wrist shot to cut the lead to 3-1.

Boston generated some good scoring chances leading up to and then following the Seguin goal. They were able to sustain offensive zone pressure, but the Lightning defense rallied to block shots and backcheck, keeping the pressure off of Roloson.

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2011 Stanley Playoffs Eastern Conference Final: Tampa Bay Lighting at Boston Bruins

On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins will begin their Eastern Conference Final in Boston's TD Garden. The winner of the series will progress to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The teams are evenly matched in many regards. Both teams are well-rested after sweeping through the second round and earning plenty of time off the ice before this series begins. The Lightning and Bruins both fell behind in their first-round series (3-1 for Tampa Bay, 2-0 for Boston), then rallied to win. Both teams' goalies have performed marvelously -- Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson brings in a 2.01 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, and Boston's Tim Thomas has a 2.03 goals-against and .937 save percentage.

However, the two teams have their own respective weaknesses to overcome and strengths to exploit.

Road games in Boston have a grand tradition of being a problem for the Bolts. During the franchise's history, Tampa Bay has a 4-22-9 record on Bruins ice. However, in this postseason it may be to the Lightning's advantage to be away from home for the first two games of this series. Unlike the regular season, the Lightning have played markedly better hockey on the road during the playoffs. In their six road games against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay outscored their opponents 21-10, including an 8-0 edge on the power play, where they have a 32% conversion rate. In their five games at home, the Lightning's scoring advantage is only 17-14. The three power-play goals they've allowed during the playoffs were all at home, and they have just four of their own -- a 20% success rate.

Boston has its own set of weaknesses to improve upon. Special teams have been a thorn in Boston's side this whole postseason. After going nine games without scoring on the power-play, the Bruins finally managed to score a power-play goal during each of the last two games (one of which was a 5-on-3 situation). Defensively, Boston ranks 10th overall and last among the four conference finalists in postseason penalty killing at 80.5%. It's no match for Tampa Bay's 26.7% power-play and 94.4% penalty kill, and with Patrice Bergeron, one of the keys to the Bruins power play, out with a concussion, Boston will have to rely on 5-on-5 situations to put the puck in the net.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, this is something that that Boston is very, very good at doing. Despite scoring only two goals on special teams, the Bruins' 37 postseason goals rank them third in post-season goals scored, just one behind the Sharks and the Lightning. Boston's extremely physical style of play, exemplified by the 6-foot-9, 255 pound defenseman Zdeno Chara (the "Eiffel Tower", according to Lightning coach Guy Boucher)  has allowed the team to get the puck out of the Boston zone quickly. That in turn allows stars like Bergeron, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand to put the puck into the other team's net.

In addition to an ineffective power-play, fast teams like the Lightning have given the Bruins trouble in the past. The Montreal Canadiens' similar speed sometimes prevented Boston from clearing the puck out of their own territory in the first round. "They do make mistakes against teams that are faster," Boucher said of the Bruins.

The puck will drop at 8:00 pm Eastern time tonight, with nationwide TV coverage on Versus in the United States, and CBC and RDS in Canada.

Game Notes:

  • Martin St. Louis (6 goals, 7 assists) Vincent Lecavalier (5 G, 7 A), Steve Downie (2 G, 10 A), and Teddy Purcell (1 G, 10 A) all have over ten points in this postseason. Sean Bergenheim is tied for the NHL lead with seven playoff goals.
  • Simon Gagne is expected to play in Game 1 after missing three games.
  • Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina did not accompany the team to Boston, but Boucher says that he expects Kubina to be available sometime during the series.
  • Marchand, Horton, and Krejci each have five goals and five assists for Boston in the playoffs. Bergeron also has 10 assists during the Bruins' run.
  • Bergeron will miss Game 1 with a concussion. However, he is expected to play in this series.
  • Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, will make his playoff debut for the Bruins.
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A Lightning Fan And A Bruins Fan Discuss The Eastern Conference Finals (Part 2)

Staff writers Ken DeCelles and Charlie Blackwell learn about each other's favorite teams and talk as much smack to each other as two people can who then have to turn around and run a blog together. Second of two parts.

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A Lightning Fan And A Bruins Fan Discuss The Eastern Conference Finals

Staff writers Ken DeCelles and Charlie Blackwell learn about each other's favorite teams and talk as much smack to each other as two people can who then have to turn around and run a blog together. First of two parts.

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