BOSTON – Boston moved themselves to just a single win away from the Stanley Cup Finals with their 3-1 bounce back victory over Tampa Bay in TD Garden tonight.
|Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith dives out to protect the net with support from defenseman Mike Lundin as Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly controls the puck with center Tyler Seguin in back during the second period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in Boston on Monday, May 23, 2011. The Bruins won 3-1. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) |
The Bolts struck first, taking the early 1-0 lead on a Simon Gagne tally just 1:09 into the match. Boston's David Krejci
fell at the Tampa blueline, and the Lighting went on the two-on-one rush.
Steven Stamkos made a tape-to-tape pass across the middle of the ice to a charging Gagne, who buried the goal.
“In a funny way [I] to start to relax a little bit and I don’t know how it works but it kind of works that way for me,” Thomas said of allowing an early goal.
“I don’t want to let in an early goal, obviously, but I’ve had experience with it in the past and for some reason, sometimes it can relax me and that’s kind of the effect it had tonight.
"It was just kind of like I’m going to have to work hard and do the best I can to not let them get any further way and to give us a chance to win.”
Tampa had multiple scoring opportunities in the first, highlighted by their 14 shots on goal, to Boston’s four. But despite the Lighting having three power plays in the period, the Bruins penalty kill held strong, and kept Tampa from adding to their early lead while swinging some of the momentum back the B’s way.
“We got a few penalties in a row there. I think we did a good job killing them and not giving them too much momentum. And it kind of gave us some momentum,” forward Chris Kelly said.
Boston took that momentum and capitalized on it early in the second. Nathan Horton, fresh from his second stint in the penalty box, netted the tying goal at the 4:24 mark. The assist came from his linemates Milan Lucic and David Krejci, and gave the trio their first points in two games.
“It was a great win by [Krejci] there and [Milan Lucic] grabbed the puck and he took it. He didn’t go back to the point. I just tried to get open and he gave me a pretty nice backhand pass. So I just tried to get it on net and it went in,” Horton said of his seventh goal of the postseason.
“It was a big goal for us.”
Boston picked up the intensity after the goal and netted the go ahead tally with just over four minutes to go in the period. Forward Brad Marchand took a perfect setup from linemate Patrice Bergeron and buried the goal past Tampa goaltender Mike Smith.
“I was just waiting for [Brad Marchand] to get open. I knew he was going to beat him with speed and I was just taking my time to kind of suck that defenseman to me too and I just tried to put the puck on his stick,” said Bergeron.
The Bruins carried their lead and momentum into the third period, where goaltender Tim Thomas made some highlight-reel saves while standing on his head for Boston. Tampa continued to hammer away at Thomas, crashing the net at all opportunities and recording 34 shots on goal.
“It’s a huge win. We know we can play better but definitely Timmy [Thomas] stepped up for us tonight, and he helped us. And we didn’t play bad after the first period, after we got down we still kept pushing, and that’s how it goes sometimes,” Horton said.
“But in the end all that matters, we won the game.”
Tack on a Rich Peverley empty netter at the end and you get a 3-1 Bruins win.
But Thomas’33 saves landed the Bruins in the driver’s seat of the series. The B’s need just on more win to advance to the Finals. But as Boston knows, the fourth win is always the hardest.
The key to victory? Zdeno Chara has the answer.
“Play better than we did tonight.”