THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Quick strikes were shocking

Early hole too big to overcome

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By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2011

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The barrage started halfway through the first period. Tim Thomas had made a spectacular save on Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier at 6:55, sliding on the ice on his stomach to cut off a breakaway rush with a glove save.

It was the usual stuff for Thomas, a Vezina finalist this season and the anchor for the Bruins’ playoff run. But then the Lightning knocked in three goals in 1 minute 25 seconds, a club record in a playoff game, and the game Thomas thought he was playing was gone, and in its place, a big hole.

“It’s a tough hole to get out of,’’ said Thomas, after the Bruins dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, 5-2, to the Lightning last night at TD Garden. “Two would have been better . . . when we went down, 2-0, I was thinking ‘OK, I was going to make this like Philly Game 2, I’m just going to hold it at 2 and then we’ll come back and win this game.’

“But the third goal was a surprise, a bad-bounce goal.’’

Sean Bergenheim scored first, at 11:15, taking advantage of a stickless Dennis Seidenberg to smack in the rebound of Dominic Moore’s shot.

The defenseman lost his stick on a collision behind the Bruins net with Steve Downie and when the rebound of Moore’s shot came off Thomas’s pads, Seidenberg could only kick at it with his skate. He couldn’t get enough mustard on it to clear the puck and Bergenheim pounced for his eighth goal of the playoffs.

Brett Clark’s goal 19 seconds later was a stunner. Thomas didn’t even know who the 34-year-old Tampa Bay defenseman was when Clark skated out of the neutral zone with the puck, slid around the Bruins defense on the right side, and lifted a backhand shot at the net that beat Thomas.

“It went right armpit,’’ Thomas said. “Backhanders are always a little bit harder to tell where they’re going to go.

“First, I was looking for who he was going to pass to, then I was trying to figure out who he was.’’

Thomas wanted to see a familiar face, because then he might be able to guess where the shot was going to go.

“I was just trying to put my chest in the center of the net and it was a seeing-eye puck,’’ Thomas said.

The packed house hardly had time to swallow the first two goals when the Bruins gave up a third. Tomas Kaberle’s weak attempt to move the puck out from behind Thomas was picked off by Teddy Purcell, who stuffed in a shot at the right post at 12:40.

The Bruins called a timeout.

“That was the right time for a timeout,’’ Thomas said. “I was OK, still, mentally. It was just a weird goal.’’

Thomas took a moment, then changed his mind.

“Having said that, now that I’ve thought about it maybe it was good for me, too,’’ said Thomas, “just like it was for everyone else.’’

The Bruins got one back on Tyler Seguin’s first career playoff goal at 15:59, but that was a one-man special as the rookie deked Mike Lundin onto his behind and then rifled a shot past Dwayne Roloson. As a team, the Bruins couldn’t make anything happen. It was a game that Thomas would like to see in the rearview mirror as soon as possible. The Bruins and Lightning play Game 2 Tuesday.

“I wish we played quicker than another two days off,’’ said Thomas.

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