These three didn’t lay it on the line

Nothing worked for Krejci and Co.

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By Matt Porter
Globe Correspondent / May 22, 2011

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TAMPA — Bruins coach Claude Julien denied David Krejci was suffering carryover effects from taking a neutral-zone hit from Tampa Bay’s Marc-Andre Bergeron in Game 3.

True or not, it would have been a reasonable alibi.

It would be unfair to pin the Bruins’ Game 4 loss yesterday on Krejci, who was shaken up by the hit in Game 3 and missed the final few minutes of the first period. But given what the top-line center brings when his game is healthy, his poor performance was painful.

Krejci, who came in with 11 points in 13 playoff games and scored the opening goal in Game 3, was minus-3, did not land a shot on net, and gave the puck away twice. Usually winning a shade under 50 percent on the draw, Krejci lost 9 of 12 faceoffs.

He was turning away from the play when Sean Bergenheim beat Tim Thomas five-hole to tie the game at 3 at 10:53 of the second period. He was last on the backcheck when Simon Gagne potted the third-period winner. He skated slowly to the bench after Martin St. Louis sealed it with an empty-netter.

His linemates, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, combined for a pair of shots. Once again, the power play had little presence (0 for 2, now 4 for 52 this postseason), failing on two second-period man-advantages that preceded Tampa Bay’s three-goal outburst.

“There’s more than David on that line,’’ Julien said. “I think it was a tough night for their line tonight. And we know what impact they have for our hockey club when they’re on. Tonight was a tough night for that line.’’

None of the three was available for comment after the game.

“A lot of our players didn’t play their best game tonight,’’ Julien said. “We are a team that when we’re at our best, we win battles, we win races, we’re strong on the puck. From the second period on, I don’t think we spent much time in their end, compared to what we’re used to.’’

The Lightning controlled the puck over the final two periods thanks to Boston giveaways and misreads. From the start, the Lightning dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 60 percent of the draws. Aside from Krejci’s 25 percent success rate, Chris Kelly won just 2 of 10. Even Patrice Bergeron cooled from his 64 percent clip of Game 3, winning 11 of 20 (55 percent).

“Just us not battling,’’ Bergeron said. “You’ve got to win those battles. You’ve got to start with the puck.’’

Julien said the lack of aggressiveness in the circle was just another byproduct of a game in which too many Bruins were quiet.

“It’s indicative a little bit of the game we played,’’ he said. “In the first period, I think we were doing OK on faceoffs. Bergy was pretty good. David had a tough night in the faceoff circle. I think that identified the type of game he had tonight. It wasn’t the type of game we’re used to seeing David play. We had some mistakes tonight, which were clearly of our own doing.’’

If the Bruins were guilty of sitting back with a three-goal lead, Krejci and his linemates should be charged with never stepping forward. Lucic and Horton weren’t their crashing-the-net selves, and Krejci did not show his velvety touch with the puck.

“Some simple passes didn’t seem that simple for us tonight,’’ Julien said. “Sometimes you start feeling the pressure, and those kind of things start happening, and it kind of snowballs. You try to relax your guys and get them to execute well.

“After they scored a few goals, it almost looked like we were paralyzed out there. We weren’t moving, we weren’t reacting. We just lost our focus.’’

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