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Bruins v Lightning - 2011 Stanley Cup Conference Finals

Six Questions: How big is Roloson's return?

Shawn P. Roarke and Corey Masisak - Staff Writers

TAMPA, Fla. -- We're finally at the elimination point of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tampa Bay needs to win Wednesday's Game 6 at St. Pete Times Forum to keep its season alive. Boston will advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 21 years with a victory.

If Tampa Bay does prevail Wednesday night, a winner-take-all Game 7 will be in Boston on Friday.

Yet, despite how deep we are into this series, so many questions remain. Here are six of the biggest facing both teams heading into Game 6:

1. Will Zdeno Chara see more time as forward on the power play?

It appears likely. Boston's man-advantage unit has struggled throughout the postseason and has just four goals in 16 games. In Game 5, it was more of the same as Boston couldn't generate anything on its first two power-play chances, including a long 4-on-3. So, on the final PP of the game, Boston coach Claude Julien deployed the huge defenseman as a net-front presence and the power play showed some modest signs of life.

Bruins' penalty-killers coming up big

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

TAMPA, Fla. -- With Boston's power play mired in an almost unfathomable slump throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston has had to find other ways to win.

As often as not it has been the deadly one-two punch of the brilliance of goalie Tim Thomas and an unwavering five-man commitment to defense. But in this round, it has been the penalty kill that has allowed Boston to survive against the highest-scoring team left in the postseason.

Never was that more evident than in Monday night's Game 5, a 3-1 come-from-behind victory.

Boston trailed 1-0 and faced back-to-back penalties to Nathan Horton – each for interference – bridging the end of the first period and start of the second period. Going down 2-0 might have been more than the Bruins could handle -- at that point the Bruins just four shots, had yet to challenge replacement goalie Mike Smith. Now Tampa Bay's big guns – Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos -- were being given free reign with extra open ice with which to operate.  

Lightning face another elimination game

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- For the second time in three rounds the Tampa Bay Lightning will face a win-or-go-home contest at St. Pete Times Forum.

Guy Boucher is hoping a rested Dwayne Roloson will be just what the Lightning need to begin another comeback. Boucher said Tuesday that Roloson, replaced for Game 5 by backup Mike Smith, will be in net for Tampa Bay on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins, who own a 3-2 lead in the series.

"He was the guy that took us here and that's how I felt before last game; but like I said, I felt like it was time to give him a little breather," Boucher said. "At the same time I felt that [Smith] played really well. So it's a perfect situation to put [Smith] in. If something were to go wrong in the previous game, put a new goaltender in for a do-or-die, I don't think it would have been a good moment for anybody. So this is a perfect situation. He's going to be the only rested guy in the two teams."

Roloson in for Game 6

Emily Kaplan - Staff Writer

Dwayne Roloson is back in for Game 6.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher has confirmed that Roloson will be Tampa Bay's starting goalie for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).

After pulling Roloson with 2:02 left in the first period of Game 4, Mike Smith came on and stopped all 21 shots he faced as the Lightning rallied for a 5-3 win.

That earned Smith the surprise start for Game 5. He stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced, but the Lightning lost 3-1.

Roloson has a 2.51 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 15 playoff games, but he's been pulled twice now in four games against the Bruins.

Missed opportunities cost Lightning in Game 5

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Should Tampa Bay not advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history, members of the Lightning could spend this summer thinking about what could have been in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Lightning dominated the Boston Bruins in the first 20 minutes Monday night at TD Garden. They thwarted three Boston power plays, including a 4-on-3 for 97 seconds. Guy Boucher's club swarmed the Bruins and goaltender Tim Thomas in the third period.

Yet here are the Lightning, trailing 3-2 in this series after a 3-1 defeat in Game 5.

Smith gets surprising start for Lightning

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Members of the Smith family settled in to watch Game 5 and were welcomed with quite a surprise -- their favorite member of the Tampa Bay Lightning was starting in goal.

Coach Guy Boucher didn't tell Mike Smith he was replacing Dwayne Roloson as the starter for the Lightning until just before he left TD Garden to return to the team hotel and grab some lunch.

"No, I didn't want to tell [my family] or my wife," Smith said. "I kept it to myself and I think a lot of the guys didn't know until I got here this evening for the game either. It was just one of those things, I guess."

Smith stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced in his first career start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but his Lightning were defeated Monday night by the Boston Bruins 3-1. The Bruins now possess a 3-2 lead in the series with a chance to eliminate the Lightning in Game 6 Wednesday night at St. Pete Times Forum.

Horton: 'We're going to have to work even harder'

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

BOSTON – Everywhere you looked in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston power forward Nathan Horton was in the middle of it.

Early on, Horton was the scapegoat, taking back-to-back interference penalties late in the first and early in the second period, allowing Tampa Bay's potent power play the opportunity to build on a 1-0 lead.

Then, after Boston killed off the penalties, Horton tied the game at 1-1 in the second period with a wicked 1-timer on a pass from Milan Lucic to get Boston's rally going.

When it was all over, Boston had fashioned a 3-1 victory against the Lightning on Monday at TD Garden to move within one win of the franchise's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1990. In the game, Horton saw almost 18 minutes of ice time, had the goal on 3 shots, took the aforementioned two interference penalties and delivered 4 hits.

Thomas robs Downie to preserve win for Bruins

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

BOSTON – Maybe Tim Thomas is really a miracle worker.

That certainly was the contention of Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher after Tim Thomas almost singlehandedly stole Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 33-save performance Monday that was capped with a save-of-the-year candidate against Steve Downie in the third period that sealed the deal in a 3-1 victory at TD Garden that puts the Lightning on the brink of elimination.

"Against this goaltender, you need more; you need more," Boucher said.  "You need miracles.  (Thomas) is making miracles. We have to come up with miracles."

It is hard to argue with Boucher's contention that Thomas is making miracles when the play he made against Downie with 10:40 left in the game and Boston under siege again, clinging to a 2-1 lead, is entered into evidence.

Stamkos: 'We've been in that position before'

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning put all kinds of pressure on Boston goalie Tim Thomas, but were unable to recover from a pair of second-period goals against in a 3-1 defeat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Stamkos made a great play on Tampa Bay's goal, feeding Simon Gagne with a perfect 2-on-1 pass. He also created a 3-on-1 chance in the second period by skating past Patrice Bergeron near his own blue line and racing up the ice with the puck. He finished with two shots on net in 20:07 of action, but also won only 4 of 13 faceoffs as the Bruins were successful 58 percent of the time in the circle.

Here's what Stamkos had to say after the game.

Smith gets the nod for Lightning

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Guy Boucher was given six chances to say Dwayne Roloson was his starting goaltender for Game 5 and he never officially said it -- for good reason.

Mike Smith led the Tampa Bay Lightning onto the ice for warumups at TD Garden on Monday night and will be between the pipes for the start of this critical Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Roloson has started every game this postseason for Tampa Bay, but has been pulled in two of the past three contests against the Bruins.

Smith has been perfect in relief of Roloson, stopping all 29 shots he has faced. He was 21-for-21 in Game 4 as the Lightning rallied from a 3-0 hole for a 5-3 victory. Tampa Bay has outscored Boston 7-0 with Smith in net during this series.
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