Make no mistake, hosts provided valuable assist
Much has been made of the Lightning’s smothering 1-3-1 system. It has been compared with the Montreal Canadiens’ style, although Tampa Bay clearly has superior firepower.
One factor last night that was reminiscent of the opening game of the Bruins’ series against the Habs was the Lightning’s ability to feast on Boston’s defensive mistakes. Two of the Lightning’s first three goals in their 5-2 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals were direct results of defensive flubs, and that set the tone.
The first was Sean Bergenheim’s strike at 11:15 of the first period, when Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was without his stick and tried to kick the puck out of harm’s way, but directed it to Bergenheim instead. The third, at 12:40, was scored by Teddy Purcell on a hiccup by defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
For the Lightning, it was business as usual. It was their eighth consecutive postgame victory.
“It was good to get the lead early on and try to play our game after that,’’ said Lightning forward Simon Gagne, who returned to the lineup after missing three games and whose empty-netter at 17:29 of the third sealed the win. “That’s why were able to keep the lead almost for the whole game. They came at us pretty hard in the third and our goalie [Dwayne Roloson, who had 31 saves] was the difference. He made some key saves to keep us in the game.’’
Tampa Bay was 1 for 5 on the power play and killed all four Bruin man-advantage opportunities. Marc-Andre Bergeron’s power-play goal at 13:37 of the third gave the visitors a 4-1 lead, and it was lights out.
“Our special teams were really good tonight,’’ said Gagne. “Our penalty killing was really good again and that helped us.’’
The Lightning’s philosophy going into the game was to take what the Bruins gave them. Fortunately for them, they were given a lot, and they took a lot.
Vincent Lecavalier was a plus-3, landed five shots, and won 16 of 26 faceoffs (the Lightning won 41 of 67 in the dot).
“We didn’t want to force anything,’’ said Gagne. “We were able to, I think, surprise them on the first two goals. It’s something where most of the time we might take it easy, we might back off on the 1-3-1 and not go in on the forecheck. In the first 20 minutes, we went in more hard on them on their [defense] and maybe we surprised them a couple of times and we were able to score two goals on that, so we’ll take it. It was the way we wanted to start.’’
Tampa Bay improved to 7-0 this postseason when taking a lead into the third period. Boston dropped to 0-4 when trailing going into the final frame.
“Every time you play in the playoffs and you can get the first goal and maybe the second goal, it gives you a chance to play a little bit better,’’ said Gagne. “It gives you a chance to play a little bit more confident and not trying to do too much. I don’t want to see us play too much defense, a little bit like what happened in the third period. They kind of took a little bit of control of that third period, they were spending a lot of time in our zone. That was maybe because we had a two-goal lead at that time. It helped, but at the same time I don’t think it’s going to be the case in the next game.’’
Although satisfied with the opener, the Lightning weren’t going to spend much time relishing it.
“Overall, it was a good game for all of us,’’ said Gagne. “Now it’s time to focus on Game 2.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.