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.
* -- 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.