Lightning 2, Bruins 1

Bruins stuck in middle

They take pass in 2d period and Lightning take charge

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 29, 2009

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TAMPA - In the first 40 minutes, when the Bruins decided that hard work and emotional engagement weren’t going to be part of their plan, they still had a chance to erase a 1-0 deficit.

David Krejci, holding onto the puck while fighting off Tampa Bay defenders, spotted Blake Wheeler in the high slot. Wheeler took Krejci’s pass and whistled a wrister that glanced off the right post.

“We were flat in the second,’’ Wheeler said. “Maybe a good break and a bounce into the net, and it’s a tie ballgame. Maybe that gets us going. You’d like to say you deserve good bounces. But the way we played in the second, it was probably the way it should have gone for that not to go in. We played pretty poorly. You’ve got to make your own bounces.’’

The Lightning, up 1-0 after 20 minutes, assembled a 24-shot assault on Tim Thomas in the second period. They only managed to slip one second-period puck behind Thomas. The Bruins, who opted to show up for the third, cut Tampa’s lead in half at 12:30 when Marco Sturm netted his third goal in the last four games.

But the Lightning, backstopped by a 31-save performance by Mike Smith, earned a 2-1 win before 16,926 at St. Pete Times Forum last night.

“We played one period,’’ said Marc Savard. “It was almost enough. But in this league, most nights, it’s not going to be enough.’’

Despite the second-period barrage, the Bruins had their chances in the third. After Sturm made it 2-1, the winger nearly tied the score when his long-distance slapper, with Daniel Paille setting a screen on Smith, clanged off the left post. With 1:27 remaining in regulation, the Bruins went on their third power play after Ryan Malone was sent off for an offensive-zone holding penalty.

Bruins coach Claude Julien pulled Thomas for an extra skater, but the Boston power play (0 for 3), which featured Zdeno Chara planted in front of Smith, faded away after Mark Recchi was nabbed for slashing at 19:26.

“For the first half and maybe for the first two periods, we just weren’t good enough,’’ Julien said. “We started off the first OK, but then just kind of lost it after that.

“They took the game over. The second period, we just weren’t good enough. We dug ourselves a hole, came back in the third, and did our best. But we weren’t going to get any help tonight, which was pretty obvious.’’

Referee Don VanMassenhoven was on the receiving end of some of Julien’s rants several times. At 19:23 of the second, Vladimir Sobotka was sent off for a questionable boarding penalty on Vincent Lecavalier, who was falling down. After brushing past Smith in the third, Savard was sent off for slashing at 8:24. Wheeler, who had been dumped by Steve Downie, was called for roughing at 13:30 while the Lightning agitator wasn’t penalized. During a third-period scoring chance, Steven Stamkos flipped Sturm’s stick out of his grasp. No call.

The Bruins, however, didn’t do themselves many favors. Tampa got on the board late in the first after Kurtis Foster’s long-range dump-in took a bounce that caught Thomas (37 saves) off guard.

“It didn’t bounce straight,’’ Thomas said. “It bounced off to the side. I was centered on it. It should have bounced into my five-hole. But the way it bounced, it bounced sideways. You’ve got to hand them credit. They all came to the net.’’

Thomas kicked the bouncer to Lecavalier, who promptly snapped a behind-the-back pass through the crease. Alex Tanguay, who had slipped behind the Boston defense, was at the far post to tap the puck into an open net at 18:59.

Tampa Bay scored its second on the power play with 11.4 ticks remaining in the second. As Malone set a screen on Thomas, Foster teed up a one-timer from the point that the netminder never saw. Thomas got a piece of Foster’s shot, but the puck rolled between his pads. Before the Bruins could clear it, Martin St. Louis poked the puck over the line at 19:48.

“I think they were hungrier than we were in the second,’’ Wheeler said. “They had the puck a lot more. We were doing a poor job of getting the puck out of our zone. We were turning a lot of pucks over at the blue line. They were creating a lot of offense off those. Any time you do things like that, it’s just going to breathe life into the other team when they get offensive chances off turnovers. The onus is on the forwards to be better on the wall and get the puck out of the zone. When you do things like that, you create more speed up the ice and create chances your way.’’

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