THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Game 7 showdown next for Bruins

A second-period shot slipped past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to give the Lightning the lead last night. A second-period shot slipped past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to give the Lightning the lead last night. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 26, 2011

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TAMPA — The Bruins have not won the Stanley Cup since 1972, when most fans watched Bobby Orr on black-and-white televisions that had aluminum foil crunched around a UHF antenna.

The Bruins have not been in the Stanley Cup finals since 1990, when Johnny Carson was still host of “The Tonight Show.’’

The last time most of us actually saw the Stanley Cup was in 2001, when Ray Bourque, who toiled 21 seasons for the Bruins, brought it here from Colorado to remind us what it looks like.

So you didn’t think the 2011 Bruins were going to make things easy, did you?

The Bruins had a chance to skate into the finals last night, but coughed up a 2-1 second-period lead and dropped a 5-4 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.

And so an epic series will conclude tomorrow night at TD Garden, on the latest date an NHL game has ever been played on Causeway Street.

“For just about all of us, it will be the biggest game of our lives,’’ said Bruins winger Milan Lucic.

“We played the whole season to get home ice,’’ added David Krejci, who had a hat trick in Game 6 last night. “Now it’s our building, our fans. It’s going to be exciting. We’re still one win away from the Stanley Cup finals.’’

Believe it or not, some Bruins fans like it better this way. There were folks in Boston yesterday who were saying they’d rather see the Bruins drop Game 6 and come home for a Friday night Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

Back in 2004, there were arrogant New York fans content to see the Yankees lose Games 4 and 5 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park so they could come home and win it at Yankee Stadium. How’d that work out for them?

No Teddy Bear Picnic this time. Your Bruins tomorrow will be lugging decades of pressure onto the ice. In 2009 and again in 2010, they were eliminated from the playoffs in a Game 7 at home. Losing would be unBearable. You don’t get this close very often.

A few weeks ago, the Bruins faced a first-round Game 7 at home against the dreaded Canadiens. Boston prevailed. And coach Claude Julien hopes his guys bring that memory to the Garden tomorrow night.

The Six Flags ride of 2010-11 looked as if it might advance in noble fashion when the Bruins skated to a 2-1 lead in the first period last night. Boston held the explosive Lightning to a mere four shots on goal in the first 20 minutes.

Then came the Lightning power play — which had been shut out (0 for 9) in Games 3, 4, and 5. Tampa’s high-flying forwards snapped out of it with three power-play goals in Game 6.

The Lightning tied the game in the middle of the second period on a power-play goal by Martin St. Louis. The ex-Vermont Catamount, a college teammate of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, banged one home from in front of the net, triggering yet another playing of the Kingsmen’s iconic “Louie, Louie.’’

Tampa regained the lead with 6:25 left in the second period on another power-play goal. This time it was Teddy Purcell slipping a hard wrist shot past Thomas after taking a feed from Steve Downie. Thomas slammed his stick on the ice after the puck dribbled into the back of the net.

Tampa took command in the first minute of the third, and again it was a power-play goal by one of the flashy forwards who’d been suppressed in the first five games of the series. Steven Stamkos drilled a slapper past Thomas.

The Bruins cut it to 4-3 briefly when Krejci scored again (nice pass from Horton), but then it was “Louie, Louie’’ time again as St. Louis scored on a nifty two-on-one break with Downie.

Krejci’s third goal, with 6:32 left, cut it to 5-4. Boston applied more heavy pressure on Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson but ultimately succumbed.

Julien was not happy with all the Lightning’s power-play opportunities and indicated that the Bruins might have been victims of some old-time gamesmanship by Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher.

After the morning skate, the Lightning coach was asked about the assignment of an official (referee Eric Furlatt) whom he deemed to have been “very lopsided the past few games.’’ Most coaches would have scoffed at the inquiry, but Boucher was all over it.

“Twenty-four, nine against, right?’’ said the coach. “Yes, I’m aware of it. Very aware of it. Very, very aware of it. It has been a part of our discussions quite a few times in the last game, the last games we did have that particular ref. And it is lopsided.’’

According to the Lightning, in Furlatt’s last four games (three of them playoff games), he called 24 penalties against Tampa Bay, only nine against Tampa Bay opponents. According to the Globe’s intrepid Fluto Shinzawa, the disparity was 22-13 in three playoff games. By any measurement, Boucher’s embrace of the question was a rare demonstration of referee scorekeeping in the hours before an elimination game.

It reminded me of something Red Auerbach would have done. And it worked. Tampa Bay got the power plays it needed to bring this series back to Boston.

“I don’t know if I agree with those calls, and hopefully what was said today didn’t affect that,’’ said a peeved Julien. “Obviously, it was the difference in the game.

“Looking back at some of those penalties, when you hear what happened today, it makes it look even worse.’’

Yikes. Controversy from gentle Claude. And a Game 7 to boot.

It all goes down tomorrow night at the Garden. Winner goes to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the Stanley Cup finals.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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