Horton’s Game Winner Sends Boston to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals

Nathan Horton's goal proved to be the difference in Game 7 of the Bruins-Lightning contest.

By Joey Murr 

The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning met in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden and it was a battle of the goalies, as Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas put on a show for the fans.

The first period featured several scoring chances for the Bruins, yet, Roloson stopped 14 -shots. Nathan Horton missed the last seven minutes of the first period with a leg injury, but did return.

The Lightning lost Steven Stamkos when Johnny Boychuk’s shot hit him in the nose. Stamkos returned later in the period with a cage similar to the one Chris Kelly wore in first round of the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins picked up pace in the second period, but couldn’t get anything past Roloson. Although, the Bruins did eventually beat the 1-3-1 zone, as Horton scored on a David Krejci pass with 7:32 left in the third period to break the scoreless tie and give Boston a 1-0 win.

Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots, as well as recorded his second shutout of the series. Boston will now advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 21-years against the Vancouver Canucks next Wednesday in British Columbia.

Tampa Bay Forces Game 7, Beats Boston 5-4

Dwayne Roloson helped the Lightning by saving 16-shots in Game 6 against the Bruins.

Teddy Purcell wasted little time after the opening face-off, as he scored the Lightning’s first goal in less than a minute to give Tampa Bay the early momentum.

Boston responded nearly seven minutes later when Milan Lucic netted the Bruins first goal of the game, which was followed up by a David Krejci score nearly 10-minutes later.

The Bruins took their lead into the first intermission, but their Eastern Conference Finals celebration was short lived, as Tampa Bay responded with two more goals in the second period, thanks to Martin St. Louis and Purcell.

Tampa Bay then stretched their one-goal lead to two, when Steven Stamkos scored his first goal of the contest. Afterward, Boston and Tampa Bay started trading goals, as Krejci scored his second and third to complete the hat trick, while St. Louis scored his second goal of the contest.

Tim Thomas saved 21-of-26 shots between the pipes, while Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson saved 16-of-20 shots.

Tampa Bay earned their third victory of the series and forced a Game 7 on Friday at the TD Garden. The winner of Game 7 will advance to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks.   

Lightning Storm Back to Beat Boston, 5-3

Simon Gagne secured an important win for the Lightning on Saturday, as Tampa Bay tied the series with their Game 4 win.

By Dan Rubin 

It was a game that felt like a two-for-one.

In the first game, the Boston Bruins dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning, chasing goalie Dwayne Roloson from his crease as they outpointed the hosts with a three-goal, lightning-strike (no pun intended) lead.

Then came the denouement. Changing goalies to Michael Smith and Tampa Bay stormed back. They took Game 4 on home ice by a 5-3 count, evening the series at two games apiece in the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals. The series now shifts back to Boston for a best of three for the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Patrice Bergeron scored twice in the first period as Boston jumped out to an early lead. Michael Ryder added another as his stellar playoffs continued, and the Bruins threatened to end the game before it really got started. Bergeron got his first strike unassisted in the 12th minute before Ryder added his a few minutes later. Less than a minute after Ryder, Bergeron pushed a soft shot by Roloson to give the Bruins command of the game.

But after that, the Bruins seemingly started skating in quicksand. The kicker came after the final buzzer of the period, as Rich Peverley dropped the gloves with Tampa Bay’s Marc-Andre Bergeron.  In the ensuing scrum, Zdeno Chara got caught up with instigator Steve Downie. Downie and Bergeron put up enough of a fight to give Tampa Bay energy into the locker room, which they capitalized on in the second period.

With their backs to the wall, the Tampa offense did what it’s done so many times in the past – scored fast goals to put a team on its heels. Teddy Purcell notched his first in the seventh minute of the frame, adding a second less than a minute later. The first goal was relatively soft to get by Tim Thomas, and Thomas laughed it off in light of the multi-goal lead. But the second goal quieted his smile when the Lightning faithful roared their approval of what was developing.  And two minutes after Purcell’s second tally, Sean Bergenheim tied the game off a feed from Dom Moore.

Bruins killer Simon Gagne announced his arrival into the fourth game when he scored the game-winner in the third period.  Martin St. Louis would add an empty-netter, as Tampa Bay made this a whole new series while sending it back to the TD Garden.

The Bruins had plenty to be happy about in earning a split in Tampa Bay.  On paper, it allowed them to regain home-ice advantage in a series where the Boston faithful have been louder than in recent memory.  But the two Boston losses were punctuated by bad skating and a lack of effort down the stretch.  The Lightning’s ability to score quick goals seemingly deflated the Bruins in both Games 1 and 4, and it caused Boston to work slow and heavy as opposed to fast and fleet.  It’s not necessarily true that the Lightning have truly beaten Boston; they’ve done enough of the little things to take the wind out of the Black and Gold sails.

It remains to be seen if head coach Guy Boucher will go with Roloson to start Game 5.  Roloson has been chased from the previous two games, a fate endured by Brian Boucher in the Bruins’ series with Philadelphia. But where Peter Laviolette refused to bench Boucher, the Tampa edition might not stick with Roloson after two solid performances turned in by Smith.  The Tampa netminder turned back 13 Bruins shots, as Boston failed to notch a goal after the first period output.

As for Boston, it’s back to the drawing board.  They’ve proven they can beat this Lightning team, but at the same time, they’ve proven they are just as beatable. A trip home to the Original Six market might prove enough of a shot in the arm for a pivotal Game 5.  The winner of that game moves within one game of the Prince of Wales Trophy and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 5 is slated for Monday night at 8 PM.

Bruins Even Series, Beat Lightning, 6-5

Tyler Seguin recorded his second and third playoff goals on Tuesday, as the Bruins beat the Lightning at the TD Garden.

By Matt Noonan 

After losing Game 1, Boston needed to bounce back, otherwise, they’d be starring at a 0-2 deficit en route to Tampa Bay, Florida on Wednesday.

So, what exactly did the Bruins do on Tuesday, well, they won, but also, kept the score a little too close, as the Bruins edged the Lightning, 6-5 at the TD Garden and evened the Eastern Conference Finals series at 1-1.

Tampa Bay began the game by scoring first, as Adam Hall beat Tim Thomas to give the Lightning a 1-0 advantage.

However, the Bruins responded with a Nathan Horton power play goal, which was followed up by Martin St. Louis’s seventh goal of the playoffs.

The Lightning took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but then watched the Bruins roar back, as they netted five goals in the second period, thanks to Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder, who scored twice and David Krejci. Although Tampa Bay managed to score once during the period, as Vincent Lecavalier scored at 7:48.

Entering the third period, Boston watched their comfortable 6-3 lead go away, as the Lightning tallied two more goals, which wasn’t enough to force the Bruins into overtime. Steven Stamkos and Dominic Moore recorded both goals in third period for Tampa Bay.

Thomas finished the game with 36-saves, while Dwyane Roloson and Mike Smith combined for 35-saves between the pipes for Tampa Bay.

The Bruins and Lightning will return to the ice on Thursday for Game 3 in Tampa Bay, face-off is scheduled for 8:00pm eastern.

Tampa Bay Scores Early and Often, Lightning Beat Bruins, 5-2

By Brian Willwerth 

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Bruins were struck early and often by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts made that early strike stand up.

Tampa Bay scored three goals in a span of less than 90 seconds in the opening period, and went on to win, 5-2 and now the Lightning lead the series, 1-0.

The Bolts got on the board at 11:15 of the period when Sean Bergenheim picked up a loose rebound in front of Tim Thomas, and put one in an open net. He has eight goals in the playoffs – four of them coming in the last three games. Then 19 seconds later, Brett Clark made it 2-0 when he broke in on the right wing and backhanded one past Thomas – a shot Thomas would love to have back.

Just over a minute later, Tomas Kaberle was sloppy behind his own net. Teddy Purcell picked up the loose puck and stuffed it behind an unsuspecting Thomas to make it 3-0.

The Bruins never recovered.

They did get on the board at the 15:59 mark when Tyler Seguin, making his playoff debut, made a nifty move to get through the defense and beat Dwayne Roloson to the glove side to make it 3-1.

The Bruins outshot the Lightning 12-10 in the opening period. But Tampa Bay had the lead.

In a scoreless second period, each team got its first power-play opportunities.  The Lightning had several chances, but was denied by Thomas. The Bruins did not get a shot on Roloson when they had the man advantage. On their second and third power plays of the period, Boston put on more pressure, but as we’ve seen so often in these playoffs, no goals.

The Lightning outshot the Bruins in the period, 13-8.  The guys in the white-and-blue sweaters had the edge in play.

The Bruins got another power play early in the third period. They had a few chances, but yet again, came up empty on the scoreboard. When the Bolts got their chance with the man advantage, they converted. Marc-Andre Bergeron’s shot from the point beat Thomas to the stick side to make it 4-1. After that tally, the number of empty seats at TD Garden grew exponentially. Simon Gagne added an empty-netter. Johnny Boychuk scored for the Bruins in what would be the equivalent of garbage time.

Tampa Bay outplayed the Boston on this night. There is little doubt about that.  The Bruins have some work to do before Game 2 Tuesday night in Boston. But they lost the first game of the Montreal series at home, and we all know how that turned out.

Face off Tuesday is at 8 p.m.

NHL Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Boston vs. Tampa Bay

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has been hot, so expect that to continue against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday!

By Brian Willwerth 

Doesn’t it seem like forever since these teams last played? When the puck drops Saturday night, it will have been eight days since the Bruins took the ice in a meaningful game, while the Lightning have had a 10-day break. These two teams have taken similar paths to the conference finals. Both won their opening series in seven games. Both swept their favored, second-round opponents. Both feature outstanding goaltenders.

Start with the goalies: Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson. In these playoffs, these two are the best in save percentage and goals against average. Roloson has won eight straight games. Thomas’ streak is at five. While Thomas’ spectacular play has consistently made the highlight reel, Roloson should not be overlooked.

The Bruins will be without Patrice Bergeron, at least for the start of the series.  Tampa Bay will not have Pavel Kubina on defense. He’s one of three Bolts still remaining from the 2004 team that won the Cup. The other two are big-name veterans: Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

Boston’s problems on the power play in the postseason have been well documented. The Bruins finally broke through in that category against the Flyers in Game 3, but overall this has been a weak spot. Tampa Bay’s power play has been much better; the Lightning has scored a power play goal in six of their eleven-playoff games. It’s something to keep an eye on if you’re a Bruins’ fan, flashing back to how important this was against Montreal. When it comes to killing penalties, both teams have been very good.

These teams met four times during the regular season, with the Bruins winning three of them. Of all the professional sports teams in Boston, the Bruins have risen to the top of the list, at least for the moment. Yes, the Red Sox are taking on the Yankees this weekend in the Bronx, but baseball is on the back burner for the time being.

The series begins Saturday night at TD Garden in Boston. I could easily see this series go seven games.