BOSTON – It took a promising rookie benched for the Boston Bruins’ first 11 playoff games to stop the Tampa Bay Lightning’s run of eight straight wins.
Speedy, shifty Tyler Seguin had two goals and two assists in his second game back in Boston’s lineup Tuesday as the Bruins fended off Tampa Bay’s late offensive pressure for a 6-5 win that tied the Eastern Conference final 1-1.
Just 19, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft energized the Bruins and thrilled the spectators. He was an onlooker himself in Boston’s first two series because of defensive shortcomings.
“It’s hard sitting there and not being able to help the boys,” Seguin said.
So on Tuesday night, with the Bruins facing a possible two-game deficit heading into Tampa for Game 3 on Thursday night, Seguin said, “I wanted to take advantage.”
Seguin rejoined the lineup for the series opener, getting a goal and an assist in Boston’s 5-2 loss, when Patrice Bergeron sat out because of a mild concussion.
On Tuesday, with Bergeron still sidelined but not ruled out of the entire series, Seguin tied it 2-2 just 48 seconds into Boston’s five-goal second period then made it 4-2 at 6:30. Vincent Lecavalier cut the Lightning’s deficit to 4-3 with a power-play goal at 7:48, but Seguin set up two goals by Michael Ryder that put Boston on top 6-3 entering the third.
“He was really the reason we won,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said.
For the Lightning, it was their first loss in 27 days since rallying from a 3-1 deficit against Pittsburgh in the first round.
“After eight games of playing solid, structured and intense and doing things down to the T there’s bound to be some point you have something that might be a little different,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “Even if we would have won that game, we wouldn’t be happy with the way we played.”
The Bruins won and they were far from satisfied.
Certainly not with the five goals they allowed and several they didn’t give up because of goalie Tim Thomas’ late-game determination.
“I don’t think anybody’s happy,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We want to score goals. There’s no doubt there. But the way we’ve been giving up goals, there’s nothing to be proud of.”
Steven Stamkos and Dominic Moore scored in the final period for the Lightning.
Adam Hall gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 13 seconds after the opening faceoff, the quickest goal in the team’s playoff history. In their opening 5-2 win, the Lightning set club post-season records with two goals in 19 seconds and three in 1:25, all in the first period.
Nathan Horton tied Game 2 with a power-play goal at 13:58, but the Lightning took a 2-1 lead when Martin St. Louis scored with seven seconds left in the first period.
“We knew we had to be better,” St. Louis said. “At that point, we were lucky to be up 2-1.”
The Bruins came out aggressively in the second period.
Seguin started the barrage when he took a pass from Ryder at his blue line and used exceptional speed to race between Tampa Bay defencemen Randy Jones and Victor Hedman. Seguin went in alone on Dwayne Roloson, cut from right to left, and lifted a backhander over the sprawling goalie.
His playoff benching after playing in 76 regular-season games provided motivation.
“Whenever I face adversity, I always try to take a negative and turn it into a positive,” Seguin said.
David Krejci put the Bruins ahead for good at 2:24 with the only Bruins’ goal of the second period that didn’t involve Seguin.
Thomas stopped Ryan Malone on a breakaway and, 22 seconds later, Seguin connected again at 6:30. Skating in on the right side, he called for the puck. Horton passed from the left, and Seguin put in a 10-footer to the left of Roloson.
After Lecavalier cut the lead to one at 7:48, Seguin sparked the Bruins again.
His shot from the top of the right circle hit Ryder’s leg in front of the net. It slid to the left, where Ryder gained control and beat Roloson at 16:16 on a power play.
The crowd chanted, “Tyler Seguin, Tyler Seguin.”
And he wasn’t through.
In the final minute of the period, he made a backhanded pass from the left boards to Chris Kelly, stationed about 15 feet in front of the net. Roloson made the save but Ryder converted the rebound.
“When (Seguin) is skating and holding onto the puck and making plays, that’s when he’s at his best,” Ryder said.
Roloson, who entered with the NHL’s best goals-against average and save percentage in this year’s playoffs, was replaced at the start of the third period by Mike Smith after allowing six goals on 27 shots. Smith stopped all eight shots he faced.
“We didn’t stick to our structure,” Stamkos said, “and when we don’t stick to our structure that is what happens.”
Boston got a scare when Stamkos scored at 3:47 of the third period, and Moore made it 6-5 at 13:15. But the Bruins held off the Lightning, ensuring that the series will return to Boston for a fifth game.
“We had some chances to tie it up,” St. Louis said, “but they deserved it more than we did.”
Notes: Roloson allowed only 25 goals in Tampa Bay’s first 12 playoff games. … The Lightning took a 1-0 lead for the seventh straight game but fell to 8-1 when scoring first in the playoffs. … Bruins centre Marc Savard, who missed most of the season with a concussion, watched in street clothes from a box in the stands. … Patriots coach Bill Belichick waved and smiled to the crowd when shown on the video screen beside girlfriend Linda Holliday.