The Tampa Bay Lightning knew that with an opponent like the Boston Bruins, the Eastern Division Final series wouldn’t be a breeze, but they may not have expected the hurricane that the Bruins unleashed in the second period on their way to a 6-5 win, to draw even with the Lightning in the playoff series at one game apiece.
In a wide-open, at times even chaotic, game the Tampa Bay playoff win streak ended at eight, but not before they battled back from a three goal deficit in the third period and came within inches of sending the game to overtime.
The Lightning scored early when Adam Hall collected a rebound off the boards on Vincent Lecavalier’s wide shot and backhanded the puck behind Boston goaltender Tim Thomas for his first goal of the playoffs, just 13 seconds after the opening faceoff. Nate Thompson also was credited with an assist on the opening score.
Nathan Horton tied the game as Boston collected their first power play goal of the series with only one second remaining in the extra-man opportunity.
The first period scoring concluded as Marty St. Louis converted a pass from Steven Stamkos, bouncing the puck off Boston defender Johnny Boychuck and into the Boston net with only six seconds remaining before the buzzer to grab a 2-1 lead.
But the second period would prove decisive as Boston turned the game around, scoring five goals on nine shots. Bruin rookie Tyler Seguin collected two of the scores, enroute to a four-point night and Michael Ryder also had two goals in the period.
Mike Smith took over in net for Tampa Bay starter Dwayne Roloson as the final period got underway and solidly stopped all eight shots that Boston sent his way, while at the other end of the rink, the Lightning were surging in an effort to close the three-goal gap. They came within one goal of doing that, too, pumping 15 shots on Thomas and beating him twice, with goals from Steven Stamkos, his fifth of the playoffs on his way to a three point night, and Dominic Moore, who brought Tampa Bay to within one goal with six minutes and forty-five seconds remaining to play.
The Lightning was not without their chances throughout the contest, but Thomas hung tough, stopping 36 shots on net, including breakaway chances from St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Simon Gagne and Nate Thompson.
Tampa Bay outshot Boston in two of the three periods, ending the game with a 41 – 35 shot advantage. Stamkos led the team with seven shots on net, followed by Lecavalier, who picked up his sixth playoff goal on a power play in the second period, briefly halting the Boston onslaught.
By and large, the game was played at a break-neck pace, with the action constantly moving from one end of the ice to the other. But the tempo was not to the liking of Lightning Coach Guy Boucher, who has drilled his club to play a disciplined style.
“It was a pond hockey game tonight,” Boucher said. “That might be exciting for the fans, but it’s not how we play. Even if we won the game, we wouldn’t have been happy how with how we played.”
Boucher will have two days to re-emphasize the regimented style he prefers, however, as the series moves to Tampa Bay on Thursday for game three.
“At some point, it’s possible after eight solid, structured games,” Boucher said, “you’re bound to get something different.”
He got something different tonight for sure; but even still, Tampa Bay battled back to within one score and certainly had the opportunities to get the tie.
This one goes to Tim Thomas, for his strong play in Boston’s net – but stand by, there is more to come.
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