Despite both coming off long layoffs after sweeping their previous opponents, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked fresh in victory on Saturday, while the Boston Bruins appeared to be still shaking off the cobwebs.
Chasing a second Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay beat Boston 5-2 to draw first blood in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series, with the home team unable to recover from a three-goal salvo mid-way through the first period.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first-year head coach Guy Boucher credited the confidence Tampa Bay has gained during what has become an eight-game winning streak going back to April 23 as the key to their -improved play.
“We only focus on our emotions, not the other team’s emotions. We were really calm and we stayed calm,” Boucher told reporters. “Once you get to the playoffs, you have to figure out a whole new level of maturity.”
The Lightning struck quickly and decisively, with three goals in an 85 second span, a club record for a playoff game. The 19 seconds between goals one and two was also a team playoff record.
Finnish left winger Sean Bergenheim, 27, became the top scorer of this year’s playoffs with his snap shot 11:15 into the game, kicking off the Lightning’s blitz.
Bergenheim struck while Bruins’ defensemen Dennis Seidenberg flailed in front of the net after -losing his stick in a collision and could only kick away a shot by Dominic Moore, which the winger pounced on to open the scoring.
Moments later, defenseman Brett Clark backhanded the puck past Thomas and right wing Teddy Purcell performed a similar feat at 12:40 in the first period, leaving the Bruins shell-shocked and the capacity crowd in stunned silence.
“It’s a good feeling, but to be honest, the best feeling is that we are winning,” Bergenheim said of his league-leading goal tally.
Boucher also credited the team effort.
“It’s not about him, it’s about his line. It’s about team chemistry. It’s about players who will gel,” Boucher said, adding that Bergenheim and center Dominic Moore were “like brothers.”
Tampa Bay’s winning streak goes back to Game 5 of their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 23. They then demolished the top-seeded Washington Capitals.
The Lightning had not played since May 4 and the Bruins finished off Philadelphia two days later, but refused to blame their sluggish play on the extended break.
“Both teams had the same layoff. We actually came out playing pretty good,” goaltender Tim Thomas said. “I just credit it to our inability to do what we needed to do.”
Thomas, rock-solid against Philadelphia, was briefly shaken by the Lightning’s rapid-fire hat-trick.
“It’s a tough hole to get out of,” he said.
By contrast, veteran Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson hung on through a tough second-period assault from the Bruins, who came up empty on four power plays on the night.
The 41-year-old Canadian saved 31 of 33 shots.
“Roli [Roloson] is making key saves when they get around what we are trying to do ... They have good shooters and good passers and obviously since they have made it this far, they are good,” Tampa Bay forward Marc-Andre Bergeron said. “We do not want them to be on the power play too much.”