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Role players come up big again for Lightning

by Corey Masisak /
BOSTON -- In previous seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a handful of elite players to matchup against just about any team in the NHL.

What the club was missing was depth, and first year general manager Steve Yzerman's moves to improve the Lightning's roster continue to look better with each playoff victory. Tampa Bay's role players -- many of them in their first year with the organization -- continued to be a theme Saturday night for the Lightning's success in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

"You've got to do your role and more and those guys are bringing it," Martin St. Louis said after a 5-2 victory. "You need everybody at this time of year. We don't have any passengers and that's why we're having the success we are."

Sean Bergenheim has become the most publicized member of this group, and for good reason. He put Tampa Bay into the lead with a first-period goal -- his NHL-leading eighth of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bergenheim was a free agent addition after parts of five seasons with the New York Islanders. He drove to the net and found a loose puck -- a prototypical postseason tally. His center, Dominic Moore, earned an assist on the play by also being around the net.

Those two, along with Steven Downie, have formed maybe the best third line in this postseason. Moore was also a free-agent signing by Yzerman this summer.

"I think it's like the rest of our team. It's not about [Bergenheim] -- it's about his line," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "It's about team chemistry. It's about players who will gel. Certainly he's had success scoring goals, but if you look at the way the goals have been scored, [Dominic] Moore is always on his plays and [Steve] Downie's there, too. So there's always a beginning and finishers get the glory most of the time. There's a lot of steps in the process that make that happen. 

"The thing is they’ve got a line now with Downie that clicks really well. Moore and Bergenheim have played most of the year together and they're like two brothers."

Defenseman Brett Clark had spent the past six seasons with Colorado before joining Tampa Bay five days into the free agency period in July. He had his best season since 2005-06 with the Lightning, collecting 9 goals and 31 points.

Clark gave the Lightning a 2-0 advantage 19 seconds after Bergenheim scored. He collected the puck near his own blue line and carried it up along the right wall and into the Boston zone before shoveling a backhanded shot off Tim Thomas' armpit and into the net.

"He's deceptive and surprising," Marc-Andre Bergeron said. "I don't think people see him like this but he's got a lot of good skills and he's very patient with the puck. He sees the ice really well. He takes what is given to him and just put it on net and from there … you know."

Bergeron missed the start of the 2010-11 campaign because he was recovering from a knee injury, and he didn't have a contract until Tampa Bay signed him to a two-way deal in early January. He played in 13 games with Norfolk in the American Hockey League before joining the big club.

He doesn't see a lot of ice time when the Lightning dress seven defensemen, but he's the quarterback on the No. 2 power-play unit and he has now scored extra-man goals in back-to-back games for Tampa Bay after he sealed this game with a shot from the left point in the third period.

"That's a big reason for our success. You look at other teams -- everybody has their top players and everybody has the role players at the end of the day that are going to make a difference," Bergeron said. "I think the goalie, the power play, the PK -- it those kind of special [teams] too that is going to make a difference and so we've been fortunate with that and guys are going to keep working hard."
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