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The Eastern Conference Finals will come back to Boston at a dead heat on Monday, as the Bruins managed to blow a 1st period 3-0 lead, allowing Tampa Bay to score five unanswered goals in the following two periods for a final score of 5-3. Although the Bruins come away from their road trip with a victory, they also head into a must-win Game 5 with some glaring issues to address before they hit the ice to try to reclaim the series lead.
Game 4 started out as a dog fight, with Tampa skating fast and hitting hard and early. Nearly twelve minutes into the period, the Bruins finally drew first blood though, grabbing the lead on a Patrice Bergeron well-placed shot at the corner of the net the through the 5-hole of Roloson. From there on, the period belonged to the Bruins.
Michael Ryder followed up Bergy’s goal less than five minutes later with one of his own; a wild shot that took a lucky bounce off a Bolts defenseman’s stick to give the B’s a two-goal advantage.
At 17:51 in the period, Dennis Seidenberg was called for high-sticking on Steven Stamkos to put the Lightning on the first power play of the game. But, it was Patrice Bergeron that came out blazing; firing a long wrist shot past Roloson to get the shorthanded goal just 7 seconds into the penalty kill and giving Boston a 3-0 lead that they would take to intermission.
Having allowed 3 goals on just 9 shots from the Bruins, the normally dependable Roloson was pulled from the game and relieved by backup netminder Mike Smith.
The Bruins started the period with a pair of power plays that were characteristically ineffective, producing just two shots on goal. That was the last time the Bruins had a chance in this game. Red hot Lightning winger Teddy Purcell went on to cut the Lightning’s deficit to 3-2, grabbing two consecutive goals midway through the period. The first came on a backhanded shot from the slot at 6:55, which was followed 1:03 later by a wristshot from the right circle.
Brad Marchand put a hard hit on Steven Stamkos behind the Bruins net, which earned him a questionable penalty for interference. Tampa Bay was scoreless on the ensuing power play, but they pressured the B’s in their zone enough to continue building on their momentum. At 10:53, Sean Bergenheim scored his playoff-leading 9th goal of the postseason on a zinger to tie the game at 3, beating Tomas Kaberle behind the net to pull off the wrist shot on the wraparound.
According to the score, it was anyone’s game going into the third; but by then the Lightning had struck hard and made it clear that they intended to steal the game for good. The Bruins started the period taking a continual pounding in their own zone, with things finally imploding on the woeful B’s at 6:54 when Ryan Malone found Simon Gagne wide open for an uncontested wrist shot.
The B’s held off on pulling Tim Thomas from the game until there was less than a minute and a half to go, and still the Lightning found their way to the empty net on a two-on-one breakaway resulting in a St. Louis garbage goal with 30 seconds to go; putting the game away for good.
After the game, Claude Julien and his players acknowledged a lack of full focus and preparation for the way that Tampa Bay executed, especially down the stretch.
“If you’re going to win games at this stage of the season, you certainly have to look at 60-minute effort,” said Julien. “And it could be effort. It could be focus, whatever you want to call it… I don’t think we had the focus tonight for 60 minutes because you know second period clearly showed that.”
Patrice Bergeron was one of the few Bruins who stood out positively on Saturday afternoon, but he too expressed disappointment with the way his team reacted to the Tampa Bay pressure.
“Yeah [we’re] not happy obviously. Every game counts. It’s frustrating we only played 20 minutes and that why we lost I guess.”
Of course Bergeron knows best about moving on after disappointment.
“With that being said, it’s a long series and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Bergeron said. We have to go back to doing what was giving us success in the last game and the first period.
In an effort like this one, where even the team leader and the coach can come out and say that their team lacked focus and motivation, there always has to be someone to blame.
The Bruins first line forwards have been up and down all postseason. On Saturday, they more resembled the ineffective group in the no-so-long-ago 7-game series with Montreal than the powerhouses that they were against Philly. Nathan Horton and David Krejci were ineffective and lazy in the Tampa Bay zone. Instead of pushing the puck through the neutral zone and forcing the Lightning defenseman back, they played outside their zones and seemed to try to do too much with too little opportunity.
These players have to remember how they score in the first place; by creating opportunities, not waiting for them. Surprisingly Milan Lucic was the most redeemable of the three, purely because he put in a fair defensive effort and played physically; more than can be said for his line companions. Still, it wouldbe nice to see the B’s leading goal scorer remember how to put the puck in the net.
The Bruins seem to make the most obscure and difficult shots while managing to miss more pucks floating freely in the crease than should be humanly possible. If they are going to pull out a win in Game 5, they need to find a way to capitalize on short rebounds and loose pucks in and around the crease; most especially when a backup goalie with some obvious rust is the only thing between you and the net. Come on.
Tim Thomas…NOT the problem, folks. This was probably most pressure Thomas has faced in the playoffs, as not only were Stamkos, St. Lous and LeCavalier skating fast and furious as ever, but guys like Purcell, Bergenheim and Dominic Moore were playing as well as their All-Star counterparts.
Those are guys that are hard to stop on a Saturday in December, let alone in May with the Eastern Conference title at stake.
He was peppered in the net all night long, and still managed to save 32 of 36 shots while he was in the game. Intensity and willpower were lacking on both offense and defense for the Bruins in Game 4, and his team did nothing after the 1st period to help him help them. As Tom Cruise would say.. “Help me, help you. HELP ME, HELP YOU!!” Guys, hook Timmy up Game 2 style. If you are looking for your goalie to save a game for you, your chances of winning are slim.
Saturday’s Bruins loss ensures at least a Game 6 in Tampa Bay, so the schedule will go as follows:
* – If a Game 7 is necessary
Follow Tanya on Twitter: @TanyaRay18