The Tampa Bay Lightning have already once this postseason revealed their character by overcoming a series deficit and turning it into an eight-game win streak. With seven more wins to go before capturing the team’s second Stanley Cup championship, there’s little doubt it can do it again.
After a collective 11-goal outburst in Game 2 on Tuesday night, a strong defensive effort by the Boston Bruins helped them take a 2-1 series lead in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals following a 2-0 shutout over the Lightning Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd of 21,027 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Tim Thomas made 31 saves, including on a number of solid Tampa Bay scoring chances, which totaled far fewer than what the Lightning registered through the first two contests of the third-round bout. He made a couple of nice saves in the first period, but the Bruins controlled the play in front of the net for the second period and much of the third. He was flawless again as the Lightning pressed in the latter stages of the third period and did a good job of preventing the Bolts from getting second-chance shots.
“Offensively, I don’t feel like we paid the price,” Martin St. Louis said. “I think we have in the past couple games, but I’m not going to use any clichés here. We just didn’t get the job done.”
Tampa Bay now trails a postseason series for the first time since falling behind to Pittsburgh in the first round and will have a chance to even things up in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
David Krejci’s opening goal 1:09 into the opening period was not indicative of the more defensive style both teams employed, which was quite the contrast from the previous two meetings. Boston limited Tampa Bay’s transition game, which is a key part of the Lightning’s relentless 1-3-1 forechecking system, while the Bruins were able to keep the puck in the offensive end, but found it difficult at times to get shots to the net.
“We wanted to crash the net a lot more,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We needed to get more pucks through to work with in front of the net. We need to step up our game another notch.”
Andrew Ference scored the other goal for Boston, who has now won seven of its past eight games.
Tampa Bay, despite winning eight of its last 10, has dropped consecutive games in the postseason for the first time in nearly a month. The Lightning last lost two in a row on Apr. 18 and 20 in Games 3 and 4 against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
A defensive breakdown in the Lightning’s own zone allowed Boston to take an early 1-0 lead with little difficulty. With the puck along the boards, Milan Lucic found Krejci all alone in front of Lightning net minder Dwayne Roloson, who was beat by a backhand just 1:09 into the period.
“That was a huge mistake to start the game,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “If it weren’t for that, I think it would have stayed 0-0 for quite a while. Instead, it turned out that it cost us.”
Ference’s slap shot at 11:47 of the third off snuck under the pad of Roloson to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
Roloson finished the night with 23 saves.
In the end, it was enough, as the Bruins held off the Lightning with Roloson on the bench in favor of the extra skater through the last two minutes to seal the win.
“I thought we played pretty solid,” Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said. “We tried to really focus on our position play and being in the right place away from the puck. We had to wait for our chances to come.”
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