Bruins can’t recover from quick strikes
Before the Eastern Conference finals even started, Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher pointed out many similarities between his team and the Canadiens, who engaged the Bruins in a seven-game dogfight in the opening round.
Like the Canadiens, Boucher said, the Lightning were good at capitalizing on mistakes. They clogged the neutral zone. They blocked shots. They relied on their goaltender to make the first save.
Boucher should go into fortune telling.
Last night before 17,565 at TD Garden, the Lightning played a near-perfect replica of the Canadiens in Game 2 — Montreal scored a 3-1 win over the Bruins — of the opening round. Tampa converted Boston mistakes into three goals within an 85-second span in the first period. After that, the Lightning emphasized their defensive game and gave Dwayne Roloson (31 saves) plenty of looks at the puck en route to a convincing 5-2 win.
“We gave them that 3-0 lead,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “It was certainly a little bit like in that Montreal series. I thought we gave them some easy goals. That was more of our doing than it was theirs.’’
The Bruins had played so thoroughly in their four-game dismantling of the Flyers in the previous round. But last night, like they did early in the Montreal series, the Bruins committed a handful of uncharacteristic mistakes. And like he was at the beginning of the playoffs, Tim Thomas (29 saves) wasn’t sharp enough to bail out his teammates.
The first mistake came under heavy forechecking heat. With Steve Downie on his back, Dennis Seidenberg retrieved a puck off the end boards, reversing it to Dominic Moore instead of a teammate. Downie arrived with such force that the collision jostled Seidenberg’s stick free from his grip.
As Seidenberg went to the front of the net, Moore spotted Victor Hedman open at the right circle. Thomas stopped Hedman’s shot and left the rebound in the slot. A stickless Seidenberg tried to boot the puck out of danger.
“It started with me reversing the puck to their guy,’’ Seidenberg said. “From there on, it was just a big battle in front of the net. I lost my stick. I obviously didn’t know what to do without my stick. The puck was in my feet, and I kicked it to whoever scored the goal.’’
The German defenseman proved he is no Michael Ballack. Seidenberg kicked the puck to the blade of Sean Bergenheim, who added to his league-leading goal total with his eighth postseason strike at 11:15 to give the Lightning a 1-0 advantage.
“The guy who finishes gets a lot of the glory most of the time,’’ Boucher said. “But there’s a lot of steps in the process that makes that happen. I don’t take Bergenheim out of the mix. He’s part of the mix and doing a great job. He’s one of those hustlers. He’s been like that all year.’’
Nineteen seconds later, the Lightning scored again. Brett Clark, one of the Lightning’s three former University of Maine stars, abused four of the six Bruins on the ice. Clark started with the puck deep in the offensive zone. Rich Peverley was the first forechecker. But Peverley forechecked with zero purpose, neither pressuring Clark nor funneling him toward teammates.
With Peverley in his rearview mirror, Clark then blew past a flat-footed Michael Ryder in the neutral zone. As Clark accelerated over the blue line, he peeled around Andrew Ference, who made a feeble attempt to poke the puck off his stick.
Clark completed his rush by backhanding a sharp-angle floater on goal. Thomas let the puck sail between his pads for the Lightning’s second goal.
The Lightning capped the three-goal outburst by making Tomas Kaberle look foolish. During a Tampa line change, Seidenberg regrouped and threw a hinge pass back to Kaberle instead of attacking the other way. Because of the regroup, Seidenberg allowed Teddy Purcell to gain speed on the forecheck. As Purcell closed, Kaberle fumbled the puck when he tried to peel around the net.
Before Thomas knew what was happening, Purcell was tucking the puck over the line at 12:40. Julien had little alternative but to call his timeout.
“Those mistakes were mistakes that you can correct easily,’’ Julien said. “Those things were uncharacteristic of our hockey club. Of the first three goals, I don’t feel there was a good goal out of all of those things. A blind backhand from a tough angle. We lose a puck beside our net. Is it really something that they did so well that created that? No. I think it’s more about us. Give them credit for pouncing on those opportunities and capitalizing on them. That’s part of the game. But you’ve got to look at your team and say, ‘What can you do better?’ We have to make sure we’re a little better with our puck management. That wasn’t there tonight.’’
A Tyler Seguin goal at 15:59 of the first gave the Bruins a little life. But they showed little push in the second, especially when their power play failed on three opportunities in the period. During six minutes of power-play time in the second, the Bruins put only three pucks on Roloson. They rarely got set up in their formation because their entries — the Bruins generated zero speed through the neutral zone because of flat-footed dumps — allowed the Lightning to retrieve pucks with ease.
Predictably, the Bruins tried to act tough in the final minute. Nathan Horton tangled with Moore, a perpetual pest for the ex-Panther all season. Moments later, Milan Lucic popped Hedman. Both were tagged with roughing minors and 10-minute misconducts.
By then, the outcome had been decided.