The Boston Bruins inched closer to their first Stanley Cup Finals in more than 20 years after a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday put them one win away from clinching the Eastern Conference title.
The Bruins squandered a 3-0 lead in Game 4 on Saturday to let Tampa Bay even the series, but after falling behind in the first period on Monday they rallied with two goals in the second and a late empty-netter to move to the brink of their first Cup finals since 1990.
“Tampa Bay showed character by turning it around after the first period in their building and we showed character by turning it around in our building,” Boston goaltender Tim Thomas told reporters.
Thomas was on top form on Monday with a sprawling stick save on a shot from Steve Downie in the third period one of the highlights of his 33 saves.
Boston can clinch the best-of-seven series with a win in Game 6 today in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning had hoped to ride the momentum from Saturday’s 5-3 comeback win by starting Mike Smith in net after his perfect 21-save performance in relief of Dwayne Roloson.
Tampa Bay’s Simon Gagne scored just 1 minute, 9 seconds into the game and the Lightning controlled the opening period, outshooting the home side 14-4, but Boston’s Nathan Horton tied the game after 4:24 of the second and Brad Marchand put the Bruins ahead 11 minutes later.
In the final minute, Tampa Bay pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker looking for the equalizer, but Rich Peverley capitalized on the empty net to score and seal the 3-1 win.
While the Lightning are down, they are certainly not out of the series. They won three consecutive games to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in a seventh game in the first round.
Tampa Bay must also decide whether to start Roloson or Smith in Game 6.
“They were playing a little bit of mind games [before Game 5], they knew who they were going to start, but we knew either way we had to get shots in front of their goalie. We did that pretty good tonight,” Marchand said.