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Game Day: Tampa Bay vs. Boston

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
AP Summary

Tampa Bay 0 1 2-3
Boston 3 1 1-5

First Period-1, Boston, Lucic 7 (Wideman, Kessel), 6:44 (pp). 2, Boston, Kessel 17, 9:29. 3, Boston, Ryder 7 (Hnidy, Hunwick), 10:46.

Second Period-4, Tampa Bay, Hall 2 (Artyukhin, Ranger), 13:06. 5, Boston, Chara 5 (Krejci, Wideman), 18:43 (pp).

Third Period-6, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 8 (Lecavalier, Ranger), 9:27. 7, Tampa Bay, Szczechura 1 (Malik, Meszaros), 19:42. 8, Boston, Axelsson 1 (Bergeron), 19:50 (en).

Missed Penalty Shot-Axelsson, Bos, 9:32 second.

Shots on Goal-Tampa Bay 5-9-15-29. Boston 13-7-4-24.

Goalies-Tampa Bay, Smith. Boston, Thomas. A-16,973 (17,565). T-2:27.

0:00 - End of the game. Boston has won 10 games in a row at home -- their best streak since the Black & Gold won 11 straight in the Garden in 1982-83.

10.0 - Axelsson scores into an open net to ice the game. It was his first of the year.

19.0 - Boston could NOT clear the zone and, with the extra man, the Lightning scored. It's 4-3.

1:19 - Kobasew is stopped by Smith who skates toward his net.

2:47 - Thornton blocks a shot and then helps clear the zone. Nice play.

3:32 - Thomas robs Recchi. WOW.

4:13 - Another save by Thomas.

6:51 - Tim hangs on to a tough shot from the point.

7:32 - We're back to even strength...

9:38 - Malik interferes with Kobasew. Boston will go back on the PP.

10:33 - That puck hit at least three sticks before it beat Thomas -- Timmy had no chance. It's 4-2, Boston.

11:47 - The B's killed that one and then had a bit of scramble in front of their goal. Nothing came of it. Shots are 22-20, Boston.

14:22 - Krejci came out of the box and smoked one of the Lightning in front of the Bruins bench. He goes back to the box for interference.

15:09 - On the opposite side, Thomas stops Smolenak.

16:18 - Thomas just stoned St. Louis on the short side. Beautiful save.

17:05 - Krejci is in the box for hooking...

17:39 - Thornton tests Smith with a turnaround wrister from above the circle to the goalie's left.

19:11 - A excuse me shot almost sneaks through Smith, who had to snow angel to keep it out.

20:00 - Start of the Third Period. Stephane Yelle will not return.
0:00 - Boston survived a pretty uneven period and came out with a three goal lead.

1:17 - Chara blasts the puck through Smith to give Boston a 4-1, lead. As a colleague in the press box said, "A Zee backscratcher from 15-feet. Good luck with that."

1:26 - Smith stops Wideman again with a quick glove save.

1:59 - Jokinen is called for holding. That's a 1:13 five-on-three for the B's.

2:47 - The Bergeron line (and Chuck Kobasew) just put the spark back into Boston's game. Wideman forces Smith to make a tough save through traffic and Downie is called for roughing. Boston is 1/3 on the PP.

6:54 - One of the B's d-men got beat on the blueline and the puck ended up on Artyukhin's stick. He shot and sent the puck off Tim Thomas' shoulder -- it looked as if it touched another Tampa Bay player before trickling into the net. Boston still leads, 3-1. Give the goal to Hall.

8:06 - Lucic crunches Jokinen to stop a minor Tampa threat.

10:28 - P.J. Axelsson is hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway. Penalty shot. Smith just stopped him.

10:35 - Marc Savard in the box for hooking. BTW: Stephane Yelle left the ice after colliding with a linesman.

11:17 - Apparently Tim didn't stop has stopped. And it looks like the goal is under review. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the call stands -- NO GOAL. Boston is ahead, 3-0.

11:55 - Timmy made two sprawling saves to stop Tampa from getting on the board.

12:26 - I missed the play, but Stephane Yelle just went to the dressing room after coming up lame.

13:27 - Not too much happened on that power play. But the shots are still 15-9, Boston.

15:59 - Artyukhin in the box for hooking. Boston is back on the power play. Boston is 1/2 on the PP.

18:01 - Thomas stops Stamkos on a point blank shot from the B's goalie's left.

18:25 - Thomas hops on a puck that was floating by slowly and hangs on for the faceoff.

19:15 - Kobasew took out Prospal and both men ended up going into the Bruins net. Chuck got a penalty for interference.

19:59 - Tampa Bay wins the opening draw.

20:00 - Start of the Second. Phil Kessel's goal in the first gave him the longest goal scoring streak (six goals in six games) since Glen Murray scored nine goals in six games in 2004. Phil's 12-game point streak is the second longest streak in the NHL this season and the longest current streak in the league.
0:00 - End of the first. A very good first period. The fans gave an appreciative round of applause.

2:20 - Excellent work by Yelle's line to bottle the Bolts in their end for the better part of a minute.

3:13 - Hunwick took a stick to the face and just kept going and helped shut down a short Tampa Bay scoring opportunity.

4:23 - Boston continues to press. This time it's Wheeler who drives deep. Stuart ended up with a couple of chances.

5:19 - Smith had to make another tough save with Kessel right on the doorstep. Shots are 10-3 Boston.

6:57 - Smith just got a Bronx cheer for stopping a slow roller that made its way into his crease. Not the goalies fault, though.

7:56 - Icing Lightning.

9:14 - Ryder scores. Tampa was really running abound and Shane Hnidy found Ryder standing alone in the circle to Smith's right. Shots are 8-3, Boston. The score is 3-0, Boston.

10:31 - Kessel banks it in off Ranger for the Bruins second goal. It looked like an accident, but hey, it still counts. An unassisted goal for Phil. It's 2-0, B's. Kess has goals in six straight.

11:18 - Tampa is having trouble getting out of their own end. Shots are 6-3, B's.

13:16 - It certainly wasn't the best power play, but Lucic found himself in front of Smith alone and with the puck. He tapped it in and made the score 1-0, Boston. Wideman was the man who found Milan with a pretty no-look pass from the edge of the right circle. That gives Kess a point in 12 straight games and 100 career points for Wides.

15:00 - Paul Ranger (slashing) gives Boston another power play. B's are 0/1 on the PP.

16:39 - Smith has already had to make two tough stops on this first man-advantage for Boston.

17:05 - Stamkos is in the box for Tampa. Boston has its first PP.

17:14 - Thomas snags a line drive for a faceoff.

18:03 - Shots are 2-1, Boston.

19:10 - Chara and Artyukhin have words and shoves...

19:56 - Boston controlled the faceoff.

20:00 - Start of the First. A stellar first period would be outstanding.

Boston Starters: Thornton, Yelle, Nokelainen, Chara, Hnidy, Thomas
Tampa Starters: Lecavalier, Downie, Eminger, Ranger, Artyukhin, Smith

Switching to time on the clock.

6:39 p.m.
The Lines...
Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Axelsson - Bergeron - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Thornton - Yelle - Nokelainen
Chara - Lashoff
Hunwick - Wideman
Stuart - Hnidy

Sturm, Ward

6:29 p.m.
Thomas and Smith led their teams out of the tunnel...

Timmy is 7-1-1 in his last nine starts and is 9-2-1 on the season with an NHL-best 1.83 Goals Against Average. His .942 save percentage ranks second in the league behind Florida’s Craig Anderson who has posted a .943 mark.

6:09 p.m.
Tonight's Press Box Notes...

The Bruins enter tonight’s matchup winners of their last nine at home (9-1-1 at home this season).  During these nine games, the B’s have averaged 5.11 goals per contest and have outscored their opponents 46-18.  Their last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto.
  • Phil Kessel has a career best 11-game point streak in progress with 9-5-14 totals over that span.  Kessel’s streak is the longest active streak in the NHL, and second longest of the season, topped only Evgeni Malkin’s 13 point streak from October 16 through November 15. 
  • Kessel has a five-game goal streak in progress as well, which is also the longest active streak in the league and the second longest streak on the year (Zach Parise, NJ 6).
  • Other notable active streaks on the Bruins include: David Krejci, who has the second longest active points streak in the league behind Kessel, with an eight game run where he has notched 5-9-14 totals and Blake Wheeler who has a four game point streak with 3-3-6 totals.
  • The Bruins own the league’s top ranked power play on home ice, having converted 32.6% of their chances with a man advantage. Tampa Bay meanwhile is ranked 29th in penalty killing on the road with a 73.7 percentage.
  • For the Lightning, tonight’s game marks a stretch where they play their next four games on the road and seven of their next eight away from home.  Following tonight’s game with the B’s, Tampa Bay will play at Buffalo (12/10), at Montreal (12/11), at Ottawa (12/13), home against Colorado (12/18), at Atlanta (12/20), at Pittsburgh (12/23) and at Florida (12/26).
  • Tampa Bay hosted the Bruins four days ago on December 8. The B’s captured a 3-1 decision behind two goals from Phil Kessel and a shorthanded tally from David Krejci.

5:58 p.m.

One other player who has gotten credit and deserves that credit is David Krejci.

One local beat writer mentioned that Krejci often plays much "bigger" than he actually is.

"Well he does," agreed Coach Julien. "He goes into the corners and he goes along the boards and he’s determined to win those battles for loose pucks.

"To me that’s what playing big is all about.

"You got Martin St. Louis on the other side who does the same thing. It’s not his stature more than it’s his determination. When he goes in the corners, he comes out with the puck more often than he doesn’t. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what (David) Krejci is doing right now for us."

4:23 p.m.

FYI: I just asked around and if you are looking to score some tickets to see the greatest show on ice, swing by the Garden tonight -- it sounds as if there are some seats to be had. JB
Matt Hunwick (at right) has stepped up and taken an important spot on the B's blueline. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
While on the subject of having key players out due to injury, the depth of the Bruins organization became a key topic of conversation during Coach Julien's press scrum.

"Well, we always talk about being a team," began Julien's explanation. "You certainly miss individuals for what they bring, but nothing better than the team as a whole playing together on the ice.

"Sometimes that’s just as important, if not more important, than the individual skill that you have.

"If guys continue to work together no matter who comes into the lineup, it helps us get through those tough times," he said.

And although it's becoming a bit of a broken record, the ability of the youngest Bruins to step into the spotlight can't be discounted.

"I think a lot of those guys have had the opportunity to grow," said the Bruins bench boss. "As far as an organization is concerned...they know the expectations and the guys that have come in obviously see what’s going on around the dressing room.

"And they’ve kind of fallen into that spot or that area as well. I think everybody kind of sees what it brings to our team as a whole, and definitely it’s a lot of fun and they want to keep it going."

But maintaining a balance between fun and work is important, as well.

"I think we all are (having fun)," said the coach. "Any time you win at the rate we’re winning right now, it becomes a lot of fun.

"At the same time, we’ve found that balance that exists between having fun and being focused and working hard during games.

"From a coach’s point of view...we’re just not allowing them to get soft or lackadaisical out there.

"If they have a bad game or some bad shifts, they’re in (the video room) and they’re looking at it. We’re just trying to keep our team sharp and alert and trying to prevent the fact that we can start sliding the other way too," he said.

2:06 p.m.
With 16 goals, Phil Kessel is tied for third in the league. His teammates spoke about the young forward's game.'s Angela Stefano writes:
Boston Bruins' Phil Kessel (81) celebrates with teammate Marc Savard (91) after scoring a third-period, empty-net goal during an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, Dec. 4, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Phil Kessel a quiet guy, but his stat line says plenty.

Kessel currently rides an 11-game point streak (nine goals, five assists) and has scored six goals in five games; both are the longest current streaks in the NHL and the second-longest this season.  The 21-year old also has 16 points (10 goals, six assists) in his last 15 games.

“Things are working.  Things are going in the net,” said Kessel.  “Savvy (Marc Savard)’s finding me, and Luch (Milan Lucic) is making a lot of room out there, and he’s making a lot of good plays, too, so they help me out.”

Their strategy?  “We’re just trying to work our plays,” said Kessel, simply.  “Shoot pucks at the net, crash it, get rebounds, whatever.”

Basically, they’re just playing offense.  And Kessel, having developed into a goal-scoring machine recently, says he’s “just shooting the puck the way I’ve always been shooting it.” 

Only now, it’s going in – a lot.

“He might not have put as many away in the last couple years as he would have liked to, but I think he’s more than making up for it this year,” said Blake Wheeler, who also played with Kessel at the University of Minnesota.  “He’s definitely on fire, and it’s awesome to see.”

The fast release on Kessel’s wrist shots has been the talk of the town – make that of the locker room – lately.

Boston Bruins' Phil Kessel gets high-fives from teammates after scoring a second-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL hockey game Thursday night, Dec. 4, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
“He’s had (that shot) since he…started playing hockey,” said Wheeler.  “That’s just one of the unique parts of his game that I don’t think many guys have – he puts it right where he wants to put it in a short period of time.”

The third-year veteran has been contributing in other ways, too.

“Everyone knew he had the talent and skill to play at this level, and I think he started to show it this year: how hard it competes, his back checking, doing the little things,” said Matt Hunwick.  “I’m sure his confidence is pretty high, and when that goes on…it becomes a pretty easy game.”

Lucic, who played on a line with Kessel for a bit last season, can see a difference in his linemate’s play from a season ago.

“He’s confident, he’s bearing down, and he’s hitting the back of the net,” said Lucic.  “We’ve been able to gel together…and I think all three of us bring something different to the line that makes us successful.”

For their part, Lucic and Savard are enjoying sharing the ice with each other and Kessel and being a formidable line to play against.

“We’re having a good season, the three of us,” said Savard.  “It’s fun playing with [them] right now, and hopefully we can continue it.

“We want to help out the team every night offensively, and obviously be respectful defensively,” he said.  “Every shift, I tell [them] we’ve got to want more, and [we’ve] been able to do that.”

1:36 p.m.
Boston Bruins left wing Marco Sturm (16), of Germany, is congratulated by teammates Patrice Bergeron (37) and Michael Ryder, rear right, after scoring his second goal of the game past Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Again, Marco Sturm and Aaron Ward are not expected to play this evening, but they are both coming along and should make the trip to Washington on Tuesday afternoon.

Coach Julien was asked about Aaron Ward’s status:
“He skated yesterday. He skated today, and obviously will be going on the road trip with us – and that’s how well he’s progressing – but he won’t be playing tonight…Yesterday was his first day back on the ice, but he was able to jump (on) with us and do most of the drills, so it’s heading in the right direction.”

Julien was also asked about Marco Sturm:
“You saw him skating today and as far as I am concerned right now, he is going on the trip, unless he has a setback…he’s back on track now and we’ll keep working with him. Hopefully, he’ll continue to go in a positive direction.”

When asked about his progress this morning, Sturm was candid when he talked to the media:
“We’ll try it again and see how it goes. We’ll probably take it a little easier than last time, last week. And hopefully today and tomorrow I don’t have any problems…I just didn’t feel right and that was the main reason.”

12:04 p.m.
Defenseman Aaron Ward and forward Marco Sturm both skated at a very full pregame practice. According to Bruins head coach Claude Julien neither man will go this evening.

Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice and that should indicate that he will be in the nets this evening for Boston.

9:51 a.m.

Boston Bruins' Petteri Nokelainen, left, from Finland, pressures Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, also from Finland, during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Jeff McIntosh)
The Bruins hit the ice at 10:30 a.m. for their day-of-game skate.

I must say that thinking about things to write about this edition of the Black & Gold is not all that challenging. What is challenging is remembering not to forget anything or anyone. And one member of the Black & Gold whose contributions have been overshadowed during this impressive run has been Petteri Nokelainen.

The Finnish forward may not have a point as of yet, but he and the other members of the Bruins energy line have made it impossible for any opposing club to catch a breath against any of the B’s four trios.

Nokelainen said that from top to bottom everyone in the Bruins lineup is playing with a purpose. And with so many younger players bringing their best, it makes it easier for each player.

"We've got such a great group of young guys here -- guys who support each other -- and it kind of drives you when you see the other guys doing well, and you want to do well, too,” said Nokelainen. “And (that camaraderie) goes off the ice…too.

“We spend a lot of time together, and we know each other well, so it's definitely a good thing.”

Having veteran linemates like Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton helps as well.
“Yeller, he talks (to me) a lot,” Nokelainen said of the usually soft spoken Yelle.  “And both of
those guys are really positive guys, and they try to give you a boost.

Petteri Nokelainen
“(Yelle and Thornton) have been around forever, and they know what to do. Sometimes I have to listen to them, and sometimes they just come to me and say, 'You know what, keep it simple.'

“That's the biggest thing to do, and I can learn that from them,” he said.

The Bruins coaching staff has also put him in a position to succeed.

“Right now, I know the system and I've had a couple talks with Claude (Julien), and he's been telling me what to do better, and it's been good,” explained Nokelainen. “Now it's all about me, and I have to be better.

"It's about consistency, too.  I can't have a good game, then a bad game, then a good game again, so I try to keep it consistent.

“But whatever happens, we just go forward and try to play better and better every time.”

And as much as he would like to contribute on the scoreboard, Nokelainen knows that might not be the top priority for his group.

"I mean, it's definitely a  (checking) role I must play right now,” he said. “But I hope to score, and I haven't scored yet.

“That's something that I just try to keep working hard at, and hope that it's going to come.”

Thornton marvels at Nokelainen’s attitude.

"I've been in that situation before; it's tough to just watch games and jump right in,” said Thornton of the times where Nokelainen has been the odd man out of the lineup. “Obviously he works so hard, and he's got a really good skill set, so it's fun to play along side him.”
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