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Lightning thriving in opportune times

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / May 16, 2011

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The Bruins elected not to practice at TD Garden yesterday but the Lightning, 5-2 victors over Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night, ran through a breezy on-ice workout and then talked about the importance of staying the course in Game 2 tomorrow night.

Tampa Bay was able to feast on myriad mistakes by Boston in the opener but no one in the visitors’ dressing room expects a repeat of that poor start.

“We just know that they’re going to be really good,’’ said forward Martin St. Louis, who had an assist in Game 1. “They’re going to bounce back. The goalie [Tim Thomas] is going to play really well. We know we have to play better if we’re going to get another win so we’ve just got to prepare for that.’’

The Lightning have a rock-solid system that allows them to clamp down on other teams once they establish a lead. Saturday night, they scored three goals in 1 minute, 25 seconds in the opening period and their power-play goal at 13:37 of the third made it 4-1 and shut the door on any comeback aspirations.

“We’re all on the same page,’’ said St. Louis. “We’re together. [If we] attack with five, defend with five, I think we give ourselves a good chance.’’

That isn’t to say they expect to do to Boston what they did to Washington, which was four straight victories.

“This is a good team we’re playing,’’ said St. Louis. “They’ve done it all year, they’ve got great players. I think last game in the first period, we kind of got a little lucky and got a lead. Obviously, you’ve got to earn your bounces but we got some good bounces and we were able to play with a lead but we know we have to be better.’’

Although the Lightning have won eight straight contests, their focus is on what they want to accomplish, not what they already have.

“In the playoffs, you’ve got to live day by day,’’ said St. Louis. “We’ve been on a roll but this means nothing. We’ve got to earn it, we have to earn it every day and we’ve done a good job of that but we remind ourselves how important every game is and try to earn it every day.’’

One area in which the Lightning have been superior throughout the playoffs is blocked shots. In Game 1, Tampa Bay had 17 to 9 for Boston. On faceoffs, the Lightning won 41 to just 26 for the Bruins, further proof that Boston misses Patrice Bergeron. Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos said his team bears down when it counts, particularly in terms of taking one for the team.

“The playoffs is all about sacrifice,’’ said Stamkos. “It’s something I personally learned the first couple of games. This whole team has learned. A lot of guys hadn’t played in the playoffs before and you have to realize what it’s like to win in the playoffs before you can start gaining confidence. You don’t even think on those plays, it’s just a natural instinct. You don’t want the puck to go in your net.’’

In the end, though, it was the Lightning’s opportunistic nature that got the job done.

“I think we got some good bounces and that’s definitely part of the game,’’ said Stamkos. “You need bounces to go your way in order to win. We capitalized on those bounces. Whether we earned them or not, they were a goal.

“We were a little lucky on certain plays, but we pounced on them and we buried them. A lot of the times you get the bounces but you don’t score and those haunt you, so it was nice for those guys to bury their chances.

“Maybe it was a little uncharacteristic of them on certain plays, whether it was nerves or rust on both ends, but we were able to get that 3-0 lead and that was huge, especially in the first game.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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