|Bruins goalie Tim Thomas put a stop to Vaclav Prospal and the Lightning with 24 saves, 10 in the third period. (CHRIS O'MEARA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Lightning strike no fear into Bruins
TAMPA -- John Tortorella tried everything.
The Tampa Bay coach swapped goalies less than 10 minutes into last night's game.
He mixed and matched his scoring lines, trying everything to keep Zdeno Chara away from his top snipers.
In the third period, Tortorella even tried moving defenseman Dan Boyle to right wing in hopes for some come-from-behind offense.
But the streaking Bruins rendered Tortorella's moves irrelevant.
Last night before 21,201 at the St. Pete Times Forum, a number that included 17 proud papas who are undefeated on the current father-son trip, the Bruins dominated the Lightning, taking advantage of some suspect goaltending (six goals on 23 shots) to claim a 6-2 win.
The Bruins have won four straight with one outing remaining -- tonight against the Florida Panthers -- on their season-long six-game road trip, and are now 5 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. The Lightning entered last night 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
"It seems like every time we win, somebody else wins," Tim Thomas (a relatively quiet 24 saves) said of his club's climb in the standings. "Not tonight."
The Lightning have two of the league's best scorers in Martin St. Louis (No. 2 in the NHL with 83 points) and Vincent Lecavalier (82 points), who use their speed, creativity, and strength to overpower opposing defenses.
But last night, the go-go Lightning never got their attack clicking. The Bruins stuffed the Lightning in the neutral zone, rarely allowing the dangerous forwards deep, where they do their most damage by slipping behind defensemen and peppering the cage.
"The neutral zone was probably our biggest strength tonight," said Bruins coach Dave Lewis. "We created some turnovers, and on our turnovers we capitalized with some scoring chances. They put us in position to finish like we did."
With Chara and the rest of the defensive corps keeping the Lightning quiet, the forwards were able to do their thing. Brad Boyes led the attack with two goals, the first time he's netted two strikes this season. For Boyes, who entered last night with only one goal in his last 25 games, it was his first multipoint game since Dec. 14.
"It feels good," Boyes said. "But it's not just me."
Marco Sturm, who is close to re-signing with the Bruins, opened the scoring at 1:46 of the first period, taking advantage of a fumble in front of the net by goalie Marc Denis. After Boyle tied the score with a power-play goal at 5:29, Boyes scored the first of his two after Marc Savard won an offensive-zone draw.
Boyes, as Lewis has been preaching all season, skated to the front of the net after Savard won the puck and pulled it back to Bobby Allen. Denis stopped Allen's wrister, but Boyes, who had created a screen, found the rebound and tapped a backhander into the cage at 9:41.
By then, Tortorella had seen enough of Denis, replacing him with Johan Holmqvist.
But the Bruins put four more goals past the relief netminder, crashing the net with little fear. Boyes completed an odd-man rush to make it 3-1 in the second period. Phil Kessel, playing as the No. 2 center in place of Patrice Bergeron, poked home the rebound of a Brandon Bochenski shot at 12:41 of the second.
"We've been playing pretty good together," said Kessel, who's been centering Sturm and Bochenski. "Guys have been putting the puck in the net lately. We want to help contribute in any way that we can to help the team win."
Bochenski and Stanislav Chistov added third-period goals, and Savard completed the game with three helpers. Six Bruins (Boyes, Bochenski, Kessel, Savard, Sturm, and P.J. Axelsson) had multiple points.
"I think it was pretty frustrating for them," Boyes said of the Lightning. "We didn't give them much of anything. The biggest thing was the neutral zone. Those guys are so good and talented and they come up with speed. For us, we just tried to eliminate that. We did a great job on D, and the wingers did a great job of stuffing that up."