After 10 long days of waiting, preparing and eyeing each other from afar, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins met on the ice tonight at the T.D. BankCenter in Boston and by any measure the first game in the Eastern Conference Finals lived up the anticipation – and more, as the Lightning spanked the Bruins 5-2 to take a one game lead in the best of seven series.
The game was more of the same of what Lightning fans have come to expect as the third line combined for three goals and Dwayne Roloson turned aside 31 of 33 shots for the victory.
After a wide-open start which saw each team producing scoring chances in an end-to-end display of passing, the Lightning drew first blood when Sean Bergenheim continued his playoff domination at 11:15 with his with his playoff-leading 8th goal, converting a pass from Dominic Moore with a secondary assist from defenseman Victor Hedman.
A scant 19 seconds later Lightning defenseman Brett Clark re-kindled memories of Bobby Orr for the hometown Boston fans as he went end-to-end and slipped a backhand shot past Boston netminder Tim Thomas for his 1st playoff goal.
The Lightning deluge was not over yet as Teddy Purcell stole the puck from Bruin defenseman Tomas Kaberle in front of the Boston net and whipped the puck past Thomas for his second goal of the playoffs.
After three goals within 85 seconds, Boston – the team, the crowd and the city- were stunned and on their heels. Thomas, who had been nearly impenetrable in the net for Boston during the earlier playoff rounds, allowing just 7 goals in the Semi-finals, had been charged with 3 goals on 7 chances in period 1.
Boston closed the gap slightly when rookie Tyler Seguin, skating in his first ever playoff game, beat Roloson from the slot to bring the Bruins within 2 goals.
The referee’s whistle came out in period 2, as Tampa Bay was called for 3 infractions and Boston for 2 but neither team could take advantage of the power play opportunities and the stanza ended without any scoring.
Boston surged in the beginning minutes of the final period but Roloson was the equal to everything that the Bruins were able to throw at him, and with Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the penalty box for roughing, Tampa Bay power play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron widened the scoring gap with the only power play goal of the game when his slapshot from the blue line hit the post and found the net for his 2nd goal of the playoffs. Clark picked up his second point of the game with an assist, as did Marty St. Louis.
The Lightning collected goal number 5 with 2:31 remaining as Simon Gagne put the puck into the empty Boston net for his 3rd goal of the playoffs, with Teddy Purcell grabbing his 2nd point of the game on the assist.
Boston scored again with just over 1:00 remaining to play but by then it was all over, including the shouting, as Tampa Bay wrestled home ice advantage away from Boston to grab a 1-0 advantage in the series.
The win marked the 8th straight playoff win for Tampa Bay, and the 6th straight road win. Vincent Lecavalier led the team with 5 shots on net and Mattias Ohlund tallied 4 hits to lead the Lightning in that department.
“The trade mark of our team is to keep pushing,” Lightning Coach Guy Boucher said after the game. “We like to push to win games.”
There was no doubt that Tampa Bay pushed their way to the opening game win, but there is still 3 games to win before Tampa Bay advances to the Finals, and Boucher knows that it won’t be easy.
“They’re a good team,” Boucher noted, “and we expect them to come out hard the next game.”
But that’s the next game, and meanwhile, in the opening game tonight, the Lightning was savoring a well-earned victory.
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