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For first time in weeks, Lightning must regroup

by Corey Masisak
TAMPA, Fla. -- For nearly a month the Tampa Bay Lightning have left their opponents searching for answers, but now they must come up with some of their own.

Boston punctured Tampa Bay’s typically steadfast defense in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, collecting quality chances the Bruins couldn’t find in Game 1. The Bruins also coerced the Lightning into uncharacteristic mental mistakes, both before and after the whistle.

Not since dropping three of the first four games to Pittsburgh in the first round has Tampa Bay been the team that needed to review the video and correct more mistakes, but that’s the task before Game 3 of this series Thursday night at St. Pete Times Forum.

“Playoffs are like roller coaster rides,” Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier said. “But it's how you -- I think it's how you come back the next game or it's how you bounce back that shows what type of team you are and the character that you have in a team. And I really think we've been doing well.

“I mean, obviously with eight wins in a row, it probably is easier to say that. But, I mean, the times that we did -- like against Pittsburgh, we lost a few big games but we kept at it. We showed a lot of character. But we realize that it's a series. It's not one game. It's a series, and you're not going to win all your games. So you gotta make sure that when you do, when you don't win, then you bounce back and you play solid the next game.”

The Lightning were able to stifle the Bruins in Game 1, just as they did at times against Pittsburgh and Washington during their eight-game winning streak, but the first 40 minutes of Game 2 were altogether different. Boston not only controlled the play but was able to capitalize on the advantage.

Dwayne Roloson kept the Lightning from yielding several goals in the first period with some fine work, but the Bruins beat him five times on nine shots in the second, including two odd-man rushes and two rebounds -- opportunities that weren’t available to Boston in Game 1.

“We gave them things on the rush that we never give against anybody,” coach Guy Boucher said.

Added Steven Stamkos: “Our d-zone coverage wasn't what we wanted it to be. We have a certain mindset and certain game plan coming in. It's the little things that we talked about and worked on all year, you know, stick on puck, and just being smart, managing the puck. I thought throughout the playoffs, both the forwards and the defense in the d-zone have done a great job of taking that extra step to make a play and make a pass, and we were a little -- a step behind last night. I think our 1-3-1 for the first time in a long time, it didn't look like we were all on the same page. And for whatever reason that was the case. And that's something we need to address right away.”

There were obvious missteps -- players not being able to get the puck out of the zone, a blown coverage that left David Krejci all alone at the left post, an inability to regroup after missing their own breakaway away chance that led to a pair of Tyler Seguin goals at the other end.

Part of the reason was Boston’s increased sense of urgency, and part of it was because Tampa Bay’s players -- the same ones who were so composed in the first game of the series -- lost control of that composure with the puck and in post-whistle scrums.

“I think it was more decisions, decision-making,” Lecavalier said. “I want to give them credit for the way they played. They really came hard last night and they played a good game. But our structure -- I think it was more decision-making that we started doing. And sometimes it kind of snowballs, and it snowballed in the second period. We got a few penalties in the first. They kept coming after us. They had that momentum. In the second period I think, yeah, definitely some decisions that -- maybe a few turnovers, you know, just maybe mental on where to be on the ice, to be in that structure, we weren't there. That's what caused a few odd-man rushes and mostly in our zone, the chances that they got in our zone.”

Boston’s players took some liberties in the final moments of Game 1 that resulted in three penalties of frustration. It was Tampa Bay’s turn to collect unnecessary infractions in Game 2, and eventually a post-whistle penalty on Adam Hall led to Boston’s first power-play goal of the series.

“Yeah, for some reason a couple of penalties, the roughing penalties and stuff like that -- it was definitely penalties we don't want to get, where we want to be a disciplined team,” Lecavalier said. “We don't want to retaliate. We don't want to give the other team momentum. I thought for sure last night a few of the penalties were penalties that we could have avoided. We want to play physical but doing it in the right way.”

Added Stamkos: “We were physical, but at certain points we weren't smart with it and it cost us. We got some penalties and gave them some momentum. So we just need to stick to what works for us, and that's sticking to our structure and game plan and not get caught up in other things. … I have full confidence that we're going to put the negative stuff that we did in that game behind us, focus on the positives and be ready for Game 3.”
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