2011 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 - Boston 3, Tampa Bay 1 – Bruins lead series, 3-2
After blowing a three-goal lead in Game 4, the Boston Bruins wasted a chance to gain a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference finals. A team with a history of failing to close the sale in the postseason had every opportunity to wilt on Monday night as a tied best-of-seven series entered its late-stage pivot point. When the Tampa Bay Lightning scored just 69 seconds into the contest at TD Garden in Beantown, it became that much easier for Boston to slump its shoulders and cede leverage to the fifth-seeded Bolts, who stood on the ledge last Saturday on home ice but transformed their fortunes by wiping out a 3-0 deficit.
However, in this springtime of resilience, the Bruins – learning from their Philadelphia el-foldo a year ago and hardened by their steely comeback against Montreal in April – continued to show that they’re made of sterner stuff. Blitzed in the early going and outshot by a stunning 31-12 margin in the first 48 minutes of play, the Bruins – who were on the run for most of the night – found the timely offense and spectacular goaltending they needed to fend off the Lightning before a delighted home crowd. The ballsy, brassy display gave the Bruins the comfort of knowing that even if they can’t finish the series in Game 6 on Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Florida, they can still come home for a Game 7 and win the series in their own building. True, Tampa Bay came back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round to stun the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Bolts – with backup goalie Mike Smith now between the pipes – might find it a little harder to mount a comeback. The absence of No. 1 goaltender Dwayne Roloson could prove to be decisive in a Game 7, so it was instrumental that the Bruins flew to Florida with a lead and not a deficit in this extended series.
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Two terrific, bang-bang passing plays lifted the Bruins from a one-goal deficit to a lead in the second period. At 4:24, Nathan Horton received a fabulous feed from Milan Lucic after a face-off and blasted a one-timer to Smith’s right in the upper left-hand corner of the net to tie the score. At 15:56 of the period, Zdeno Chara of Boston used his big body to control the puck near the boards. Patrice Bergeron received a soft pass from Chara and then whipped a perfect delivery through the crease to Brad Marchand, who zoomed up the ice and, at the left doorstep, tapped the puck past Smith to give Boston the lead. The Bruins’ defense committed a number of lapses in the third period, but roughly two thirds of the way through the final 20 minutes, Boston goalie Tim Thomas produced a save that will be talked about for years. Tampa’s Steve Downie walked in at the left doorstep to pop in an easy rebound, but Thomas, lunging to his right across the goal, flung his stick in front of the puck near the left post and got the full width of his stick on the rubber to keep it from going in the basket. Tampa wouldn’t get another chance as good as that one, and when Rich Peverly gave the Bruins an empty-net goal with 12 seconds on the clock, the win was sealed.
Boston isn’t breaking on ice. That’s a new narrative in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now comes the final test: making the franchise’s first Stanley Cup final since 1990.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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