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Bruins lose defensive grip on Bolts

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor


Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For slightly over four periods it seemed like Claude Julien's Bruins had figured out how to slow down Tampa Bay's relentless offensive attack.

After yielding 10 goals to the Lightning in splitting the first two games of the series, Boston shut out the Bolts in Game 3 and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth meeting.

But, Boston's defensive mastery of the Lightning proved fleeting, as Tampa's offense broke free in the second and third periods of Saturday's Game 4 in Florida. The Lightning scored three times in just under four minutes in the second period and would eventually take the contest by a 5-3 score.

Instead of Boston grabbing a 3-1 lead in the series, the Bruins and Lightning are now tied at 2-2. The swing in momentum has Julien's club right back where it was following Game 2, wondering what is the best way to stop Tampa from dominating play with its speedy forwards.

It appeared as though the return of Patrice Bergeron to the Bruins lineup could have been the key to slowing down Tampa, but after Saturday's turn of events it's obvious that Boston needs a more concerted defensive effort from its entire club.

The Lightning scored three times in just under four minutes in the second period of Game 4.
Bergeron, who is regarded as Boston's best defensive forward, sat out the first two games of this series before returning to action for the 2-0 shutout in Game 3. He scored two goals, including a short-handed tally, in the first period on Saturday to help stake Boston to the early 3-0 edge.

But, even Bergeron was unable to swing things back in Boston's favor once the Lightning began to ramp up the pace in the second period.

"Yeah, it was a perfect first period," Bergeron told his team's website. "And we stopped battling and we stopped being hard on the forecheck. I mean, that's what gave us success in the first period and we sat back. They've got too much speed and too much firepower up front to do that."

Boston's head coach was also left searching for answers for his club's collapse and Julien will need to come up with a quick fix before Monday's Game 5 in Boston.

"Somehow we started getting stretched out again," Julien said in his postgame press conference. "They started getting speed. They started getting momentum. And after they scored a few goals, we almost looked like we were paralyzed out there. Just weren't reacting, weren't moving, and just snowballed from there."

Meanwhile, the Lightning, who received two goals from Teddy Purcell and a goal and two assists from Simon Gagne in Saturday's comeback, may have rallied around a comment made by Boston goaltender Tim Thomas following Boston's Game 3 shutout.

Thomas suggested that he felt "comfortable" in Boston's shutout win and Tampa head coach Guy Boucher felt those comments had a big impact on his team.

"Well, some of the players talked a lot about it," Boucher said. "He (Thomas) did say that it was an easy game to play against us last game. And obviously a lot of the guys were very fired up for this game. Certainly, I did hear it in the locker room, for sure."

It's difficult to tell whether or not Thomas' comments were the spark that led to Tampa's Game 4 comeback, but one thing is clear: the Lightning proved that there is no easy fix to containing their explosive offense.

If Boston is going to take this series than it may need to win ugly like it did in a 6-5 victory in Game 2. As Tampa proved in Game 4, Thomas and the Bruins can no longer expect to win this showdown in "comfortable" fashion.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.

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