By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me on Twitter @PlaydonJeff
For the first time since 1992, the Boston Bruins are in the Eastern Conference Finals. Their opponent for the finals was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coming into the 2010-2011 season, many NHL analysts predicted the Lightning to miss the playoffs entirely. Now they were in the Eastern Conference Finals, one step away from the Stanley Cup Finals. The lightning were a very dangerous team. While Boston was coming into this series with momentum, they would be without Patrice Bergeron for game one. Bergeron suffered an injury in game four against the Flyers.
Bergeron’s injury would be a major blow to Boston as they would be without a key leader, and the lines would have to be reshuffled to match the Lightning’s high-octane offense. The starting goaltender for Boston was Tim Thomas, who has been on a tear going 8-3, posting a 2.03 GAA, and a .937 save percentage. Across the ice starting for Tampa was Dwayne Roloson, who has also been on a tear going 8-3, allowing 2.01 goals a game, and a .941 save percentage. Game one is here, folks, and for the first time in 19 years, the Bruins are one round away from the Stanley Cup.
Lightning Score 3 in 1:30
The puck was dropped, and the Garden echoed with “Let’s Go Bruins” chants from the Boston faithful. Among the Bruins roster was Tyler Seguin, who made his playoff debut tonight. Seguin was a speedy young gun who established solid stick handling and getting the puck in the net. The first five minutes, the Bruins were getting open looks at Roloson, but Roloson stopped anything shot at him. A minute past the period’s halfway mark; the Lightning got on the board first.
Sean Bergenheim buried a rebound from Dominic Moore’s initial shot from the blue line, and it was 1-0 Tampa with 8:45 left in the period. Just 19 seconds later, Tampa scored again, and it was 2-0. Brett Clark flew by the Bruins defense and buried a backhand shot by Tim Thomas. Tampa Bay’s sudden onslaught didn’t stop there as they were able to score again 1:06 later. A turnover by Tomas Kaberle behind the net led to Teddy Purcell stealing the puck and scoring the goal. The lightning had scored three goals in a 1:30 span, and they had all the momentum.
With 4:01 left in the period, Tyler Seguin put the Bruins on his back and made it just a 3-1 deficit. Seguin deked around Mike Lundin and buried a wrist shot past Roloson. The Boston crowd was back on its feet and able to cheer for something. The final four minutes of the period passed, and after one, Tampa was leading 3-1. Shot totals for both teams were 12-Boston and 10-Tampa.
Second Period Action
Second-period action was underway, and 1:29 into play, Daniel Paille was called for tripping. Tampa Bay had the first powerplay opportunity of the night. Boston killed off the penalty, and just as powerplay ended, Boston would be getting their first powerplay of the night. Steve Downie was going to the box for interference, and Boston had a chance to cut the lead to one. No shots came from the powerplay, and Tampa still had a 3-1 lead. Five minutes later, the Bruins would get another chance to cut the deficit. Eric Brewer was going to the box for tripping, and Boston had its second powerplay of the night. One-shot was all that came from the powerplay, and the period continued.
2:46 later, Tampa got its second powerplay opportunity of the night. Chris Kelly was going off for tripping, and Tampa had a chance to make it 4-1. The Bruins did a stellar job killing off the penalty, and a minute later, Boston was getting their third powerplay of the period. Adam Hall was called for tripping, and the Bruins once again looked to trim the deficit. Tampa Bay’s penalty kill unit played 110%, and they still held a 3-1 lead going into the third period.
Lightning Electrocute Bruins/Win Game 1
The final 20 minutes of regulation were underway, and the Bruins looked to tie this game. 5:53 into the third, Vincent Lecavalier was whistled for slashing, and the Bruins had a pristine opportunity to make it a 3-2 deficit. With Tampa Bay clearing the puck repeatedly and Boston only getting two shots on the net, the Bruin’s powerplay was quickly over. As Boston continued to pressure Roloson, Johnny Boychuk was called for roughing, and Tampa went on the powerplay with 7:56 left to play. The Boston crowd wasn’t happy with the call since Boychuk got the worst of it. A clean hard hit from Boychuk on Simon Gagne led to Vincent Lecavalier pushing Boychuk, and Boychuk retaliated with a punch.
1:32 into the powerplay, Marc-Andre Bergeron buried the puck from a knuckling shot from the blue line, and Tampa held a commanding 4-1 lead with 6:23 left in the game. With time winding down to the final three minutes, the Bruins pulled Tim Thomas for an extra man. However, the extra man didn’t give the Bruins an advantage, and Simon Gagne netted the empty netter to give Tampa a 5-1 lead. With over half of the Bruins crowd gone, Boychuk scored a garbage-time goal, and Tampa won game one 5-2.
Game one was in the books, and Tampa led the series 1-0. Going into game two, the Bruins had many things to work on. One of the many things was their powerplay. It wasn’t a shock to many that the Bruins powerplay unit was below average, but the further you get in the playoffs, the better your units must play. Three goals in 1:30 for Tampa really set the tone for game one and let Tampa skate away with momentum. Game two would take place May 17th at T.D Garden, and Boston would look to tie the series.