Lightning bemoan system-wide breakdowns
There were lapses, many of them. There were breakdowns, but until the very end of the game the Lightning never quit.
They didn’t stop fighting despite falling behind, 4-2, and 6-3. In the final minute, the TD Garden fans were on the edge of their seats wondering if the home team was going to allow the visitors to come all the way back.
The Bruins held on for a 6-5 decision. The best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals is knotted at one game apiece as the venue shifts to the St. Pete Times Forum for Games 3 and 4. It was a rough night for starting goalie Dwayne Roloson, who was replaced by Mike Smith after two periods by Lightning coach Guy Boucher. It was the first NHL playoff action of Smith’s career.
It was the first postseason loss for Tampa Bay in nine games and to the Lightning, it was completely unacceptable.
“Yeah, we battled hard,’’ said center Vincent Lecavalier, who had one goal and three assists. “But our pride since the beginning of the year is our system. Our structure wasn’t the way it was supposed to be tonight and that’s what we’re disappointed in.
“We always fight, we always try to come back and we almost did, but we’re disappointed in the way we played. I don’t want to take credit away from the Bruins. They really came out tonight and played hard.’’
A split certainly isn’t the end of the world, but Lecavalier said the fact the Lightning won the first game wasn’t much of a consolation.
“After winning the first game, you want to win that second one,’’ he said. “But it’s a series and it’s 1-1, and we’re going back home and we’re going to try to play a better game overall in a couple of days. We had a lot of chances in the last five or six minutes but it’s disappointing. Even though we were close to tying it up, we came out of our structure and they definitely took advantage of it.’’
The Lightning had no business leading as the game headed into the first intermission.
The Bruins had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the visitors and only one shot made it through. But Tampa Bay not only weathered Boston’s storm, they took a 2-1 lead after one period on goals scored early and late.
Adam Hall beat goalie Tim Thomas just 13 seconds in, and after Nathan Horton tied it during a power play at 13:58, Martin St. Louis put the Lightning back on top with 6.5 ticks remaining in the period when he redirected a whirling backhand shot by Steven Stamkos, who was flying around the right circle.
Then the wheels fell off for Tampa Bay. The Bruins scored five of the next six goals before holding on as the Lightning stormed back.
“We had some chances to tie it up, so if there’s any positive, I guess that’s it,’’ said Stamkos, who had one goal and two assists. “But it shouldn’t come down to that. We have to play our game. You can’t afford to give up six goals and expect to win a game. Five goals scored should be plenty. We knew we were going to get their best game. They’re a great team for a reason. They’re not here by fluke. We didn’t have it tonight.’’
The Bruins got another strong outing by rookie Tyler Seguin (two goals, two assists), who was playing his second postseason game. His contribution didn’t go unnoticed by the Lightning.
“He’s a great skater and he’s a smart player,’’ said Lecavalier. “The first two games for him have been great, so we’re going to have to definitely keep an eye on him and structurally, play better and not give those chances.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.