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Christopher L. Gasper

In a game of negatives, Seguin provided positive energy

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By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Columnist / May 15, 2011

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Tyler Seguin can barely grow the customary playoff beard. It’s fuzzy and spotty, sort of like his rookie season. He was merely an infant the last time the Bruins played in the Eastern Conference finals in 1992, his uniform number (19) matching his age. Yet the takeaway from last night’s 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 is that the kid is going to be all right.

If you’re looking for sunny-side-up spin on what was a thoroughly disheartening evening of hockey at TD Garden, it was the play of Seguin, who looked every bit the part of a potential franchise forward of the future, collecting a goal and an assist in his playoff debut.

“He had a good game,’’ said coach Claude Julien, who couldn’t say that about many of his charges. “I thought when he had his chance he took advantage of it and scored, and obviously he had a lot of energy tonight. So, he was a good player for us.’’

Bruins future in the form of Seguin, and Bruins past in the form of Ray Bourque, who was the honorary captain for the charged-up pregame festivities, both gave the fans something to cheer about. It was the Bruins’ present that was a disappointment, falling behind, 3-0, with not even 13 minutes gone in the first period, and never recovering.

In his first playoff game, Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, served up the lone highlight for the Spoked-Believers, bringing Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin to his knees and the crowd to its feet with a spectacular goal at 15:59 of the first period that trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-1.

Seguin took a pass from Michael Ryder in the neutral zone, sped into Tampa’s end, undressed Lundin with a slick move, and then flicked the puck past Dwayne Roloson for his first playoff goal.

“Definitely, a bit of relief. I think coming into the first period I was definitely very excited,’’ said Seguin. “I found myself running around just a little bit, just because I had so much legs. After I had that goal it was a bit of a sigh of relief. I could be more poised out there.’’

“It gave us a little life,’’ said David Krejci of Seguin’s tally. “We were a little shocked, but then it gave us a little life. We felt good about ourselves. It was a big goal, but we couldn’t get the next one.’’

Seguin celebrated his first tally by pounding himself into the glass behind the net. That was a fitting celebration because for most of the game it looked like Seguin’s teammates were banging their heads against a wall.

You could use the excuse that the Bruins were rusty after an eight-day layoff, but Seguin, who was only active because Patrice Bergeron was a no-go with a mild concussion, has been mothballed since the regular-season finale against the Devils on April 10.

The Bruins found themselves down, 3-0, to the hockey heathens from Florida thanks to a disastrous stretch that spanned 1 minute, 25 seconds. Seguin was on the ice for two of Tampa Bay’s tallies.

On the first, Tim Thomas stopped an initial shot from Victor Hedman but couldn’t smother the puck. It leaked out in front and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who had lost his stick, tried to kick it clear with his right skate. He kicked it right to a waiting Sean Bergenheim, who potted his playoff-leading eighth goal at 11:15 of the first period.

Just 19 seconds later, defenseman Brett Clark put a backhander past Thomas, and it was 2-0. Things got worse 1:06 later when Tomas Kaberle badly mishandled the puck behind his net, serving it up on a silver platter at the right post for Teddy Purcell, who took a couple of whacks at it and deposited it in the Boston net.

“When we gave them that 3-0 lead it was a little bit like in that Montreal series,’’ said Julien. “I thought we gave them some easy goals, and that was more our doing than theirs.’’

Along with Krejci, Seguin was about the only poised puckster in Black and Gold, which is why it was odd that Julien didn’t give him more playing time earlier.

Through the second period, Seguin had five minutes and six shifts, despite being the only Black and Gold bit of offense. In the third, Julien loosened the leash on the rookie and elected to give him more ice time. Seguin logged 4:38 and played five shifts in the final period. But by that time it was too late.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating, but it’s a lot better than being in the stands, where you can’t contribute at all,’’ said Seguin, when asked about his playing time.

Seguin’s rookie season has been a disappointment by most standards. The expectation was that he would be an instant impact player. Instead, he bounced around between lines, and wing and center, and finally landed out of the lineup in the postseason until last night.

“I found myself during the season a lot of times being more frustrated than I should have been,’’ said Seguin. “Just with the last month you realize a bit more just how grateful it is just to be in the lineup with the boys and share that experience of being part of the team. I was sitting there for a bit. I was still staying ready. I wasn’t getting angry or negative, just trying to stay positive.’’

The only thing positive about last night was Seguin.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.

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