2011 NHL Playoffs: Road Warrior Tampa Bay Lightning Deliver Against Boston
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For Tampa Bay Lightning fans (yes, Bruins, we found them), its the same script, different opponent. The Lightning won for the sixth consecutive time on the road in the playoffs and eighth time overall by doing what they do best, confounding their opponent.
Expected to employ the defensive minded 1-3-1 forecheck, Tampa Bay didn't go to their most trusted system until the second period. Instead, the Lightning charged and pounded in the Bruins zone, shocking the Boston defense into mistakes,
They scored three goals in an 85-second span midway through the first and you had a sense that even at this early stage of the game, it was over.
While Thomas certainly allowed in a couple softies, it was his unbelievable play in the late stages of the first and throughout the remainder of the game that kept it from being 6-1 or 7-1.
Thomas stoned Vincent Lecavalier on a semi-breakaway, stopped Martin St. Louis on a bee-line drive to the net, kicked out Ryan Malone's bid for an easy one and Steve Stamkos' rebound. He straight up robbed Steve Downie on a diving glove save.
That has to be scary for the Bruins. It wasn't the big three of Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos that blew their doors off. It was playoff dynamo Sean Bergenheim with a "look what I found" goal, Brett Clark looking like Bobby Orr (Brett Clark, really?) and Teddy Purcell's tireless forecheck forcing a giveaway and burying it behind Thomas.
It was Mark-Andre Bergeron blasting one in on the power play and Simon Gagne getting the freebie in the empty net.
Make no mistake, the Big Three will get theirs in this series. The fact they weren't needed has to be a bit disconcerting for the Bruins.
"I thought we gave them some easy goals and that was more of our doing than it was theirs," Julien said to the associated press.
Indeed, the Boston coach was singing the same "we gave them the game" stuff that the other defeated coaches before him said.
The problem is, that's what Guy Boucher's team does to you. He throws different matchups, lines, strategies, and looks—nothing is ever the same. They put the pressure on your back checkers to make the right decision. If they do, your team has a chance for a big play. If they don't, it's going to end up in the back of your net.
"That's what we do," Bergenheim told the Associated Press, "We went in on the forecheck and we went in front of the net and we score that way."
In Game 1, Boucher's Lightning simply wanted it more. You saw Nate Thompson taking Zdeno Chara's 106 mph blast from the point just above the family jewels (hopefully he had some extra padding), you saw the Lightning superstars Marty St. Louis and Steve Stamkos surrendering their bodies to block shots.
"We're not a team that's waiting to win games," Boucher said to the press, "We like to push to win games."
Without Patrice Bergeron in the lineup for the Bruins, Tampa Bay dominated on the faceoff dot and as expected excelled on special teams, going 1-for-3 (not counting the last two penalties where they didn't try to score) on the power play and 4-for-4 on the kill.
Boston can't even point to the long layoff for why they were rusty—Tampa Bay had two extra days.
Boston looked like Washington, a team going on the ice and simply expecting the Tampa Bay Lightning to draw fear from the black sweater.
When the Lightning didn't back down to the bully and beat him up, things got ugly down the stretch.
Two sucker punches, two guys in the box for Boston in the waning minutes and Lightning coach Guy Boucher decided it was better to respect the Bruins and not try and run up the score than embarrass them further.
The classy move was met with a shower of debris onto the ice by the Boston faithful.
For the Lightning, victory in Game 1 steals home ice advantage and puts a little bit of doubt in the back of the mind of the Bruins. The pressure is on Boston now to win Game 2. Of course, if they lose that one, they'll point back to the Montreal series.
The sooner the Bruins realize the Canadiens are nothing like the Lightning, the better off they will be.
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