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Up to speed on pivotal play

Three-center setup helped seal victory

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 25, 2011

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TAMPA — With 1:08 remaining in Game 5 and play halted for a Tampa Bay timeout, Bruins coach Claude Julien had zero doubt about his personnel for the neutral-zone faceoff.

On the back end, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were slam dunks. Up front, Julien wanted three centers, including two right shots: Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly.

“I didn’t know if there was an icing, which side the faceoff would be on,’’ Julien explained. “We had two right centermen and a left. I thought that was important.

“At the same time, even more important was the fact that those guys have good speed. They were really, really good at putting pressure on Tampa so they couldn’t get themselves going and getting in our end as quickly as they would have liked to.

“I thought they did a great job, even on the interchange in the neutral zone. When one guy forechecked and they moved it to the other side, they did a great job of interchanging. We kept the pressure on those guys.’’

Bergeron lost the faceoff to Vincent Lecavalier, and the Lightning gained the blue line. But because the Boston forwards rotated and kept attacking the puck, the Lightning never set up in their six-on-five formation with goalie Mike Smith pulled for an extra skater.

Kelly attacked Marc-Andre Bergeron at the point, and his pressure caused Bergeron to cough up the puck to Peverley. Bergeron recovered and blocked Peverley’s initial shot, but Peverley found the the puck and buried the game-ending empty-netter.

“Chris forced the puck bobble by Bergeron,’’ Peverley said.

With Shawn Thornton scratched for Games 3 through 5, Peverley has taken the enforcer’s spot on the fourth line alongside Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. But Julien has been quick to tap Peverley for ice time in all situations.

Peverley has been on the power play. He has killed penalties. In the third period of Game 4, Peverley took even-strength shifts on the second line. In Game 5, when Tampa coach Guy Boucher double-shifted Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on his third line, Julien countered by switching Peverley with Tyler Seguin.

Peverley has been Julien’s ultimate utility player.

“I had to put Peverley out there at the point and make sure we had some experience against some of those guys,’’ Julien said of flip-flopping Peverley and Seguin. “This is where Pevs becomes a real useful player.

“He did a great job on the penalty kill, and he jumped in there on the third power play we had. He was used for faceoffs, and he was very good. You can’t just put a guy like him on the fourth line and just give him a few minutes.’’

Peverley’s current role is exactly what management projected when he was acquired from Atlanta in a package for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart. Because of his speed and versatility, Peverley has turned into a go-to player for Julien. That suits him just fine.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,’’ Peverley said of being on the ice in the final minute. “You’ve got to go out and block shots.

“I think the majority of the reasoning is because we’re all good on faceoffs. If one of us gets thrown out, another can jump in. To be relied on, it’s a big confidence booster.’’

A big spot for Chara In the third period of Game 5, for the first time in the playoffs, the Bruins rolled out their biggest player for net-front power-play duty. Upon study of game tape, Julien liked what he saw of Chara setting up shop in front of Smith. Asked if he would use Chara down low again tonight, Julien said, “Always a we’ll-see kind of answer. But I liked what he did in front of the net. He’s a big body. He’s a big presence. It seems when he’s in front of the net, the guys don’t hesitate to shoot either, because they know he’s there. You have to be able to get control of the puck. You have to be able to move it around. You have to be able to move to the shooting areas. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter if Z is in front or not. But the guys that were out there managed to get control of the puck and managed to get some quality shots.’’ Chara has been manning the point on the No. 2 unit alongside Bergeron. In Game 5, Andrew Ference filled Chara’s point position. It’s likely that Chara will remain down low tonight. “You can’t do much,’’ Adam McQuaid said of battling a widebody like Chara. “Obviously you’re not going to be able to move him. I don’t really know that there’s too much you can do. You probably can’t worry too much about him. You’ve got to worry that shots don’t get through.’’

Boychuk is OK At 10:54 of the third period, Steve Downie finished his check on Johnny Boychuk, slamming the defenseman’s head into the glass. Downie was called for boarding. Boychuk staggered down the runway with assistance and didn’t return. Yesterday, Boychuk was clear-eyed and cheery as usual. “I was a little foggy,’’ he said. “But after I got off the ice, I felt totally fine.’’ Boychuk will play tonight . . . After backing up Smith in Game 5, Dwayne Roloson will start tonight. “Doesn’t change anything for us at all,’’ Mark Recchi said. “They’re both good goalies. Smith has come in and done a great job for them. Roloson’s done a great job all year from the time he got traded from the Islanders to here.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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