THN’s Take: When Tim Thomas left his net to play a simple dump-in less than seven minutes into the second period, his team was in complete control of the game and series. Seconds later, he was franticly scrambling in vein to get back in position, missing badly on a low shot to the corner by Teddy Purcell.
It’s hard to imagine one bumbled clearing attempt could completely alter the trajectory of the East final, but that’s sure how it seems right now.
Just 1:03 later Purcell had his second of the game and Tampa had cut a 3-0 first-period hole into just a one-goal deficit before the middle frame was half over. Thomas and the Bruins looked discombobulated the rest of the way, as the Bolts once again showed why betting against them is a bad idea.
Bruin-beater Simon Gagne, who scored the game-winner, has six goals in his past eight playoff games versus Boston. In stark contrast to the frenetic play of Thomas, Mike Smith settled his team down after replacing an ineffective Dwayne Roloson in the first frame. Smith stopped each of the 21 shots he faced and made a number of huge saves early in the second to prevent Boston going up by four.
From where we’re standing, Smith is Tampa’s Game 5 starter.
After winning just 43 percent of their draws in Game 3, the Lightning came away with 60 percent of the faceoffs in Game 4. The Bruins have to feel good about having two of a possible three remaining games at home, but the Bolts’ ability to strike quick and unwillingness to wilt has made what was starting to seem like a tune-up for the final a serious battle for Boston.
1. Teddy Purcell – Got the Bolts back in the game with one goal built on hustle and a second built on skill, when he rifled a shot just under the bar.
2. Mike Smith – His puckhandling made a real difference for Tampa. He looked big and steady in the net and, despite having a rough season, it’s important to remember he’s had good stretches of play in the NHL.
3. Patrice Bergeron – When he scored his second of the game – while shorthanded – to put Boston up 3-0 late in the first stanza, the Bruins’ first Cup final appearance since 1990 seemed about 100 minutes of hockey away. The fact it’s not anymore has nothing to do with Bergeron, who was a two-way force again.
The Black Hole
Tim Thomas – With the exception of his Game 3 shutout, Thomas has not looked good in this series. In Games 1, 2 and 4, he’s allowed 13 goals on 110 shots, giving him an .882 save percentage. That’s a far cry from his record-setting .938 mark in the regular season. The good news for Boston is this guy has made a living by battling when he’s down.
The NHL Game Night Recap will get you caught up with all the playoff action. THN will name our Three Stars for each game and tabulate the results after each series. First Star = three points, Second Star = two points, Third Star = one point.