When the Bruins filed into their dressing room after the second period, a 20-minute span during which they were outshot by Tampa Bay, 15-3, they found somebody waiting for them.
Naturally, their coach was not pleased.
In his blunt manner, Claude Julien informed his charges that such passive play was not acceptable, especially in the home opener before 16,363 at TD Banknorth Garden.
The defensemen were holding onto the puck too long, allowing the aggressive Lightning forecheckers to get their attack rolling. The Bruins were faltering with their gap control, giving the Lightning too much room in the neutral zone between the Boston forwards and the defensemen with which to use their creativity.
"It was a wake-up call and a call to arms, really," said Andrew Ference of Julien's second-intermission rant.
The message worked. The Bruins took a 2-1 seat-squirmer into the third period and added two goals on 11 shots, claiming a 4-1 win and improving to 4-2.
"We're definitely happy with the win," Julien said. "But hopefully by the end of the year we won't remember how we won that one. It wasn't a pretty win."
The Bruins got a cushion when Mark Stuart scored his first goal of the season and second of his career at 9:49 of the third period. Marco Sturm capped the victory at 16:19, banking in a pass from Patrice Bergeron after the pair broke loose for a two-on-one.
The Lightning entered the Garden with three wins in four games, using their top-heavy talent and relentless offensive thrust to put their opponents back on their skates. Last night was no different, as the Lightning used their speed through the neutral zone to ensnare the Boston forwards and create big gaps.
But the Bruins succeeded in a significant component of their game plan: neutralizing Tampa Bay's No. 1 line of Vaclav Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis, a unit that entered last night with eight of the Lightning's 14 goals.
"It doesn't get much more difficult than that," Tim Thomas said of Tampa Bay's firepower.
Julien tapped his top defensive pairing of Aaron Ward and Zdeno Chara along with his best two-way line of Sturm, Bergeron, and Glen Murray to be on the ice as much as possible against Lecavalier's threesome.
"Going on, coming off immediately, looking down at their end of the bench - a little less time on your game and more trying to react to what they're doing," Ward said.
Although the line combined for eight of the Lightning's 36 shots, the Bruins held the trio scoreless.
"You look at those guys, they have so much speed and they're always dangerous, every shift," Sturm said. "The coach wanted us to play against these guys, and it's not easy. But on the other side, you're going to get a lot of opportunities. And if you do, you've got to bury them."
Peter Schaefer scored his first goal as a Bruin, as a Ference point shot deflected off the wing's right leg and past Johan Holmqvist at 3:48. The Bruins doubled their lead later in the first period, thanks to a faceoff win by Bergeron.
Prior to last night, the Bruins had been outdueled in the faceoff circle in each of their five games. But last night, the Bruins won 30 of 57 draws, with one of those victories leading to Boston's second goal.
On an offensive-zone draw, Bergeron beat Brad Richards, pulled the puck back to the point to Ference, who slid a pass to the right wall for Sturm. The left wing fired a one-timer that slipped through Holmqvist's pads with 10 seconds left in the first period.
But then came the troublesome second period. Holmqvist got some help, as Bergeron and Ward clanged posts on the same shift. But most of the assault took place on Thomas and the Boston goal, with the Lightning busting through at 1:45 when Richards found a puck that had deflected off Dennis Wideman's stick and shoved it into the net.
"The second period was pretty much D-zone coverage the entire period," Ference said. "I wouldn't say they had a ton of chances, but they spent a huge amount of time in our end. We kept it to the outside and did a good job of that, but you don't want to spend that much time in your own zone.
"That's just begging for them to get a couple goals."
But Thomas (35 saves) stood tall, making saves and covering pucks when his teammates got caught on the ice for too long. And in the third, the Boston counterattack finally solved the Lightning, as the Bruins broke out for several odd-man rushes and converted two.
That's all they needed.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.