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Key questions for Bruins, Lightning in Game 3

by Shawn P. Roarke and Corey Masisak /
Tampa Bay stole home-ice advantage in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but Boston now is in position to take it back after a wild win in Game 2.

Both teams will look to be better defensively in Game 3 Thursday at St. Pete Times Forum (8 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS) after they combined for 11 goals allowed in Game 2. The Bruins could have one of their key players back in the lineup, while the Lightning are expecting a bounce-back effort from their veteran goaltender.

Here is a look at six pressing questions before Game 3:

1. Was Game 2 an anomaly for Tampa Bay's defense?

Boston found all kinds of ways to beat the Lightning's defensive system en route to six goals in less than 40 minutes Tuesday. Tyler Seguin skated through it for a highlight-reel goal, and the Bruins were able to pressure the Lightning into turnovers in their own end. One of the best ways for Boston to defeat the Lightning's 1-3-1 is to not let Tampa Bay set up in it, something the Bruins accomplished a lot in the first two periods.

There have been some similarities between Tampa Bay and the 2010 edition of the Montreal Canadiens. Both beat Pittsburgh and Washington to reach the conference finals and both used a frustrating defense to ward off strong offensive clubs. Philadelphia figured out how to attack Montreal last year -- has Boston found the secrets to besting Tampa Bay that Washington and Pittsburgh (to a lesser degree) could not?

2. Will Tampa Bay be more disciplined?

The Lightning have been shorthanded 64 times this postseason -- one more than San Jose for the most of any club. While the Lightning have won games because of their top-notch penalty killing, they took too many penalties against the Bruins in Game 2 and it cost them.

Tampa Bay still has the best penalty-kill success rate of any team that reached the second round, at 92.2 percent, but the Lightning have to avoid giving the Bruins momentum on special teams. Boston has been one of the best teams in the League all season at even strength, and Tampa Bay needs an advantage on special teams to combat that.

3. Is the Steven Stamkos from the first part of the regular season back?

Stamkos was one of the top two offensive players in the League for the first half of the 2010-11 season, racking up 31 goals by the turn of the new year en route to becoming a leading Hart Trophy contender. His production slipped in the second half, and his output in the postseason has come in spurts, with six of his nine points coming in two games.

He had a big night in Game 2, with a goal and 2 assists, and created lots of chances. The quest now is for consistency. Consistent production from Stamkos, to go along with how well Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are playing, could make the Lightning even scarier -- and they already lead the League in goals per game (3.69) this postseason.
4. Will we see another game with a double-digit goal total?

That's highly unlikely. Neither team was happy about the pond-hockey nature of Game 2, which featured 11 goals.  Tampa Bay has spent the past two days talking about getting back to its structure and Boston was not happy with its defensive-zone play, either. Both coaches in this series are defense-first guys, so expect a much tighter effort in both defensive zones. To a man, the Bruins believe they gave up too many scoring chances in Game 2 and insist they will be better in Game 3.

5. Can Milan Lucic get going?

Boston certainly hopes so. Tyler Seguin has played in two playoff games and he already has more points (6-5) and goals (3-2) than Lucic, who scored 30 goals in the regular season. Lucic may have hit rock-bottom Tuesday, when his attempt to score into an open net from the blue line was unsuccessful after he lofted a wrister too high. Plus, he is battling a foot injury that has hobbled him. He did not skate in Thursday's morning session.

"There are no issues with Milan," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He'll be in tonight. He's going to be there and there won't be any excuses to his game at all."

6. Is Boston’s power play cured?

Boston had two power-play goals Tuesday after scoring just two in the first dozen postseason games. Even more promising, the power-play units moved the puck better than in the past and that crisp movement led to more opportunities. Julien believes it can continue if the effort is there.

"I think we were moving the puck better, we shot it more and we had better net-front traffic and we just seemed to be more determined as a group," Julien said. "We talked before the game that we felt it was important for us to win the special-teams battle against a team that is really good in regards to that. Our power play was better and if we can continue to play like that, it will help us a lot."
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