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Tampa Bay never found an offensive spark

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By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / May 20, 2011

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TAMPA — Tuesday night in Game 2, the Lightning couldn’t prevent goals. Last night, in Game 3, they couldn’t score any.

Goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who was yanked after two periods in Game 2 because he was under siege, was expected to rebound strongly, and for the most part he did.

But a breakdown in front of Roloson led to the first goal at 1:09 of the opening period when he was beaten by Bruins center David Krejci. His only other lapse was at 8:12 of the third when defenseman Andrew Ference blasted a shot from the left point through a screen. In between, Roloson (23 saves) was terrific. But Bruins netminder Tim Thomas was better. In fact, he was perfect (31 saves).

All of Tampa Bay’s top guns — most notably Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Steve Stamkos — were neutralized. The trio did combine for 11 shots. Tampa Bay went from being up, 1-0, in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals to being down, 2-1, with Game 4 tomorrow afternoon. It was the first back-to-back losses for the Lightning since the opening-round series against Pittsburgh, when they dropped Games 3 and 4.

“I felt we played a pretty good first period,’’ said Lecavalier, who had five shots, second only to Teddy Purcell’s team-high six. “It was a pretty even game. We made one little mistake on that [Krejci] goal and it cost us. We needed to support each other a lot more on the ice during the game. We got [31] shots but the quality of them wasn’t maybe as good as the previous games. They played us well.’’

Defensively, the Bruins weren’t doing anything particularly different to disrupt the Lightning. They just did a better job playing their system than the Lightning did.

“They are being disciplined to play their system,’’ said Lecavalier. “Offensively, the support is maybe the most important thing. If we’re all far from each other, we get two on one a lot and nothing happens from that. We’ve got to move on, it’s going to be a long series. We’ve got to bounce back here next game and play the way we know how to play. We were better defensively, but offensively we weren’t as sharp. To be close to each other and then to attack the net, we weren’t as good as we were the previous two games.’’

With Patrice Bergeron returning from a concussion, the Bruins had even more in their arsenal, and Lecavalier said that made a difference, too.

“He played great,’’ Lecavalier said. “He’s great on the draws and he plays hard. He’s one of the best. He’s an all-around player. He played well for them. Especially when you come back from a concussion like that, he came back and played a strong game.’’

Lecavalier said as good as Thomas was, they need to be better in front of him.

“I don’t think we attacked it as much as the first two games,’’ he said. “We’ve got to give him credit, he still stopped 31 shots. They played a patient game but we could’ve done a little bit more.’’

Coach Guy Boucher expects the rest of the series to be tight with the team that makes the fewest costly mistakes coming out on top. Obviously, last night, it was the Bruins who made fewer errors.

“It was down to who was going to make that one lethal mistake and we made it early,’’ said Boucher.

Offensively, Boucher said his team had opportunities, but couldn’t cash in.

“Some of them could’ve gone in, their goaltender played outstanding,’’ he said. “Obviously, he gets a shutout but their players played well, too, a lot of boxing out. It was obviously a much tighter game, which means it’s going to be a low-scoring game so you’re looking for those opportunities and things you normally do. Everybody was fighting so much harder defensively that there wasn’t many holes there. They know we’re tight defensively and we know they’re tight defensively. I think both teams are back to what they normally do.’’

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

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