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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tim Thomas restores some order in the Eastern Conference finals

After scoring five goals in both Game 1 and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning's potent offense was due for a letdown. Likewise, the defensively strong Boston Bruins couldn't possibly play any worse in their own end.

Some order was restored to the hockey universe last night in Game 3 at the St. Pete Times Forum as Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (31 saves) shut out the Lightning 2-0, helping Boston grab the all-important 2-1 lead (and wrestle back the home-ice advantage they lost in Game 1).

If you watched the B's all season, the team that skated last night was a much closer resemblance than the frauds that showed up in Game 1 and 2. Yes they won Game 2, but they're not going to win many games playing run and gun hockey with a team as talented offensively as the Lightning.

David Krejci popped a goal 1:09 into regulation and from there, Boston improved to 7-0 in the playoffs when they score first. Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk had the assists on Krejci's team-high seventh of the postseason. A defensive breakdown by Tampa Bay allowed Krejci to camp in front of goaltender Dwayne Roloson (23 saves) and wait him out (he took a Thomas-esque dive) before shoveling a backhander in.

After a scoreless and truthfully dull second period (which plays exactly into Claude Julien and the Bruins' paws), Andrew Ference scored his second of the playoffs at 8:12 of the third period. Michael Ryder and Chris Kelly had the assists to a goal which was originally given to Tyler Seguin (who didn't come even close to tipping it). There was tons of traffic in front of Roloson and he stopped it but the puck had just enough steam on it to trickle over the goal line in slow motion.

Thomas had to make a couple great saves but other than that, Tampa Bay was pretty quiet even when they were down two goals.

Game 4 is tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and I don't have to be a genius like Lightning head coach Guy Boucher to tell you that it's the biggest game of the series. If the B's win, they'll be one game away from the Stanley Cup finals (!). If they lose, Tampa Bay is right back into it and they will have forgotten their struggles in Game 2 and 3.

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