Held at Bay
Bruins can’t finish the job in Tampa so there will be a Game 7 tomorrow
TAMPA — Johnny Boychuk picked the wrong time to go for a skate in the offensive zone.
At 9:46 of the third period, David Krejci scored a power-play goal — the second of what would be three strikes for the Bruins’ No. 1 center — to close the Lightning’s lead to 4-3. Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson (four goals allowed on 20 shots) was hardly inspiring confidence with his netminding.
But just 29 seconds later, partly because Boychuk was caught up ice, Martin St. Louis ripped out the Bruins’ hearts with a counterpunch on Tim Thomas, his former University of Vermont teammate. It turned out to be the deciding goal in the Lightning’s 5-4 Game 6 victory before 21,426 at St. Pete Times Forum.
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals is tomorrow at TD Garden. The winner moves on to Vancouver to play for the Stanley Cup. Loser hits the links.
“Throughout the playoffs, other than the first two games in the very first series, we’ve been able to bounce back,’’ Milan Lucic said. “It’s going to be our toughest challenge. We need to get a full 60 minutes.
“Once again in this building, we didn’t have a good second period. I think that’s a key to our success. We need to find a way to play a full 60 minutes. That’s going to be important going into the next game.’’
It was an uncharacteristic game for two teams known for airtight defense and lockdown goaltending. Roloson and Thomas entered the series as the two best goalies in the playoffs. Last night, they were far from their best.
“We won. That’s all. That’s all we’re asking,’’ Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said when asked of Roloson’s play. “We’re asking him for a chance to win. That’s what we got.’’
Just 36 seconds into the game, the Lightning’s Teddy Purcell opened the scoring. Boston’s No. 1 line responded with two first-period goals from Krejci and Lucic.
But Tampa Bay turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead with three power-play goals, off the sticks of St. Louis, Purcell, and Steven Stamkos. On each strike, the Lightning had crisp puck movement and heavy net-front presence.
“Their power play was able to move it around and get it to open people for really good shots in really good scoring areas,’’ said Thomas (21 saves). “That helped them out a lot.’’
Penalties to Dennis Seidenberg (cross-checking), Rich Peverley (interference), and Andrew Ference (cross-checking) led to the man-up situations.
“Really, really tough to swallow,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien said of some of the calls. “At the same time, you want your team to kill those penalties, which we’ve done a pretty good job of throughout the series. But tonight wasn’t the case. Obviously, it was the difference in the game.’’
Just 34 seconds into the third, Stamkos had given the Lightning a 4-2 lead with a power-play goal. But at 8:12, Vincent Lecavalier was sent off for hooking. The Bruins, 0 for 4 on the power play to that point, finally busted through.
Nathan Horton, stickhandling at the left circle, spotted Krejci in front. Krejci took a tape-to-tape pass and beat Roloson to trim Tampa’s lead to one. The Bruins had the momentum. They were pushing on Roloson, who looked just as rattled as he did in Games 2 and 4, when he was pulled.
But as the Lightning started the breakout from behind their net, rimming the puck around the left wall, Boychuk pinched down to keep the play in the offensive zone. Stamkos beat an onrushing Boychuk with a tumbling chip out of the zone that St. Louis settled at the red line.
With Boychuk caught up ice, Ference was left to stave off St. Louis and Steve Downie, who were approaching the offensive zone at full roar. Ference, like all defensemen fending off an odd-man rush, should have taken away St. Louis’s cross-ice passs.
But St. Louis threaded a pass through Ference and connected with Downie. Thomas lunged aggressively at Downie to close down the angle. Instead of shooting, Downie went back to St. Louis.
Before Ference could turn, recover, and mark St. Louis, the ex-Catamount had tapped Downie’s return pass past Thomas to give the Lightning a 5-3 lead.
Thomas got little help on the play. But where Thomas was dominant in Game 5, he looked human in Game 6. The Bruins need him to be sharper tomorrow.
“I know he’s going to be huge for us the next game,’’ Patrice Bergeron said. “Everyone in front of him has got to do a great job. It comes down to a team effort. Not just one guy.’’
Krejci’s third goal at 13:28 wasn’t enough for Boston to rally.
“When we got to within one goal, we got a D that got caught in,’’ said Julien. “You get a two-on-one right after you get within a goal. It’s a mistake that becomes costly in the playoffs.
“If we can minimize that stuff, come out hard the next game, take the lead, and hang onto it, no doubt we’re going to be winners.
“I think our guys are going to be fine for Game 7. I know our guys are going to be ready and they’re going to be positive. Our job is to make it happen.’’