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Bolts' defensive structure springs some leaks

by Corey Masisak /
BOSTON -- For eight straight playoff games, the Tampa Bay Lightning befuddled opponents with their system in the neutral zone and frustrated them further with strong defensive play in their own end.

Just as the Lightning's streak of eight straight wins came to an end in a 6-5 loss to Boston in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, so too did their stretch of sound defensively work.

"We didn't stick to our structure," center Steven Stamkos said. "That wins us games and that makes us lose games. Whether we are on or we're off, that's the difference in the game. Give them credit -- they came out strong and played well, but we shouldn't have put ourselves in that position."
Coach Guy Boucher said his team had a bad night after eight games of excellent hockey.

"It wasn't that it wasn't there at all; we got some [structure] for two or three minutes and then we got somebody who is normally very reliable doing things that we don't normally do," Boucher said. "That's surprising, but it has been eight games. If that's not consistency, I don't what is.
"If we have another eight games with our structure and our consistency after [this] I don't think we will be crying. The reality is after playing eight games of solid, structured, intense and doing things down to the T, you are bound to have something a little different."

Boston controlled play for nearly all of the first period, putting 18 shots on net and pinning Tampa Bay in its own end for long stretches. The Lightning were unable to get the puck out, consistently turning it over to the Bruins at even strength and during one of Boston's three power plays.

While the Lightning escaped to the dressing room after the first period with  2-1 lead, the Bruins clearly had dominated and didn't let the score hamper their momentum.

"I thought we got a couple of maybe unnecessary penalties and maybe to give them a little bit of momentum, but that is part of it sometimes," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "We are going to look at the game and look at all the little things that we could have done better and try to do it next game -- like we usually we do after a loss or after a win. Our first game, we played a good game, but we still made some mistakes and we tried to adjust and try to do that all the time."

Tampa Bay had plenty of chances during the second period, but breakdowns turned the middle 20 minutes into a disaster. Boston struck for five goals on only nine shots on net. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson was not quite as sharp as he's been in this postseason, but two of the goals were on odd-man rushes and two were on the power play.

The last two goals of the period were scored by Michael Ryder on rebounds – after Tampa Bay limited Boston to just one rebound attempt on net in all of Game 1. 

"To be honest it was a pond hockey game," Boucher said. "When you play a pond hockey game there is always a chance that it won't turn your way. Your breakaways, my breakaways, your 2-on-1s, my 2-on-1s -- it might be exciting for the fans but from the team's prospective and standpoint it is not how we've played.

"Even if we would have won that game, we wouldn't have been happy with the way we played."

Tampa Bay scored twice in the third period and created several chances in the final five minutes when one goal would have sent the game to overtime, but the damage had already been done. The Lightning didn't cope very well with Tyler Seguin's speed, and they weren't able to navigate Boston's forechecking pressure as well they did in Game 1.

From a big-picture standpoint, the Lightning earned a split on the road and nearly stole a second victory. Tampa Bay has shown it will be able to find offense, and the Lightning have 10 goals even though Tim Thomas has been outstanding at times for the Bruins.

It remains to be seen if Tuesday was just an anomaly at the defensive end for the Lightning. After eight straight victories and 12 postseason games without yielding more than three goals, the Bolts gave up five in one period against the Bruins before a too-little, too-late comeback attempt.

"We don't know quit. We have a lot of character and we believe in ourselves," Stamkos said. "We had some chances to tie it up. If there is any positive, I guess that's it. We can't afford to give up six goals and expect to win a game. Five goals for should be plenty."

Added Boucher: "I said it all year long -- we don't want to win those games because then it just it gives you the false sense of having accomplished something where your process wasn't good. They deserve the game and we don't. Period, that's it."
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