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Lightning dominate Bruins to win second-round series in five games

Tampa reaches conference final by raising level of play after dismal series opener

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA -- It wasn't close. Even the Tampa Bay Lightning are surprised by that.

They won the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins in five games, stunning when you consider they lost 6-2 in Game 1.

"I don't think any team goes in thinking you're going to clean out a team in the second round in five, but it happened," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "When you play the right way, you get rewarded for it."

Tampa Bay woke up after losing the opener and dominated the rest of the way, closing it out with a 3-1 win in Game 5 at Amalie Arena on Sunday. The Lightning advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, where they will face the winner of the second-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

 

[WATCH: All Bruins vs. Lightning Game 5 highlights | RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]

 

The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 heading into Game 6 at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).

"It's 100 percent buy-in from this group," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That's why we're here and what we're doing now."

Cooper credited the Bruins for setting the bar for the Lightning, for showing them the level they had to get to, not only in Game 1, but in the regular season.

Tampa Bay lost to Boston on March 17 (3-0) and again March 29 (4-2). The Lightning responded with a 4-0 win against the Bruins on April 3, but Game 1 gave them a reminder of how far they needed to go.

"They made us a better hockey team by waxing us in the regular season," Cooper said. "We wanted to match them, and we did."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Lightning move to Conference Final

The Lightning did so with four straight strong performances. They have arguably never played better under Cooper than they did in these past four games, including when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 or when they got to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2016.

This was Tampa Bay at its best with four lines, three defense pairs and a goalie taking it to the Bruins shift after shift by hitting, forechecking, grinding, forcing turnovers, protecting the puck, making the right reads, making smart decisions, drawing penalties and scoring.

"Everyone was involved," Stamkos said. "No one was shying away from anything."

Consider how the Lightning did it after Game 1:

-- Tampa Bay didn't allow a 5-on-5 goal in the final 1:87.20 of the series, outscoring the Bruins 7-0 in those situations.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Miller nets PPG off give-and-go play

"When you don't turn the puck over, usually good things happen," Cooper said.

-- Tampa Bay's 17 goals in the series came from 11 different players, led by three each for forwards Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point. Defenseman Dan Girardi had two, the same as Stamkos, including the overtime winner in Game 4.

-- Point was minus-5 in Game 1; he finished the series plus-2. Palat was minus-4 in Game 1; he finished the series plus-2.

Point, Palat and Tyler Johnson (minus-3 in Game 1, plus-2 for the series) were assigned to shut down the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, which combined for 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in Game 1, and had six points (two goals, four assists) total in Game 2-5.

"The way they responded after that first game was pretty inspiring for our team," Stamkos said.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Bruins, Lightning exchange handshakes

-- Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed five goals on 23 shots in Game 1 for a .783 save percentage; he allowed seven goals on 109 shots in Games 2-5 for a .936 save percentage.

-- The Lightning top line of Stamkos, Miller and Nikita Kucherov was held without a point until Stamkos scored an empty-net goal in Game 3, then scored two of the three biggest goals of the series.

The first was Stamkos scoring the game-tying goal with 7:04 remaining in regulation in Game 4 off a defensive play and pass from Kucherov. Miller scored the game-winning goal on the power play in Game 5, with Kucherov and Stamkos getting the assists.

"We didn't give up much and we played the way you're supposed to play to win," Miller said.

There was more.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Point slides home nifty backhander

Anthony Cirelli scored a key goal, giving the Lightning a 3-1 lead in Game 3, was a big part of the Lightning penalty kill.

Cedric Paquette centered the Lightning fourth line, with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz on his wings, that hounded the Bruins all series with a relentless forecheck. Callahan had six hits Sunday. Paquette had four.

"They didn't leave one guy off the hook," Miller said. "They hit every single guy and made it a nightmare for them."

Callahan was a big part of the Lightning penalty kill, which was able to protect a one-goal lead in Game 5, when Ryan McDonagh was in the box for tripping Pastrnak at 15:42 of the third period.

"Everyone was probably on edge a little bit with how good their power play was (5-for-12 in the series), but again we showed [it]," Stamkos said. "[Johnson] is out there diving. [Callahan] is out there blocking shots. It was just an unbelievable team effort."

In all four wins.

"To get four in a row against Boston in the playoffs is pretty unreal," Miller said.

***

 

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