With a 3-0 lead after the first period of Game 4, the optimistic Bruins fan was smiling at the potential of a 3-1 series lead. The pessimistic Bruins fan was pointing out that there were two more periods. The pessimists were right.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored five unanswered goals, delighting the home fans while stunning the Bruins’ fans, players, and coaches alike. With the series tied up at 2-2, the teams will resume the Eastern Conference final Monday night in Boston.
FoxSportsFlorida.com’s Paul Kennedy provides a Tampa Bay perspective on the series.
NESN.com: The Lightning fell behind 3-0 early in Game 4, but stormed back for a 5-3 win. Is there one thing you can point to as the turning point of the game, and do you expect the Lightning’s momentum to carry into Game 5 in Boston?
Paul Kennedy: Let’s call this the “Chicken Parmesan Sandwich” rally. Down three goals, Tampa Bay set a franchise record for the largest comeback in its playoff history. The parm sandwich our Fox Sports producer Jeff Wesol grabbed in the first intermission with Boston dominating 3-0 may have been the biggest ever seen outside of your North End. Before he’d eaten only half, the game was tied 3-3.
And Jeff, along with the B’s and the Bolts, still had a long way to go.
While building a commanding lead, all three Bruin goals were the result of turnovers. Victor Hedman, fanning on the puck behind his own net, enabled Patrice Bergeron to ram an unassisted opening tally past Dwayne Roloson. When the Bolts’ steady Marc Andre Bergeron failed to connect with defensive pair Mike Lundin, Michael Ryder richocheted a second goal past Rolly. The ol’ marinara sauce on the necktie moment arrived with a third gaffe, just as the Lightning were unleashing the league’s most vaunted power play.
Steven Stamkos’ pass, to the right of center ice and intended toward his own blueline to set up the attack, was pounced on by Bergeron–unfortunately for the Bolts it was Patrice, not Marc Andre.
Sacre bleu, 3-0. Shorthanded, too.
On this one, compared to Boston’s first two goals, Roloson had more time to react yet failed to make the save. With the dishes crashing all over the kitchen, Bolt chef Guy Boucher pulled Rolly in favor of backup Mike Smith. Boston had scored five unanswered goals in Tampa Bay, and was on the verge of a 3-1 series lead, and here came Jeff’s sandwich.
To your question — and true to this game — everything changed on a Boston turnover. This time by Zdeno Chara.
Boucher said in the locker room Tampa Bay had “legs and ammunition” with 40 minutes to play. Plenty of time. They had outhit Boston 10-4 in the first period, energized after a flat Game 3. In this space last week, we recalled Washington’s Mike Knuble being “flabergasted” at how the Lightning tended to score goals in micro bursts. Case in point would be the three goals registered in 85 seconds of Game 1 in Boston.
Here came another weather front.
Ryan Malone jarred the giant Chara and the puck popped free behind the Bruin bench. Simon Gagne controlled and found a flashing Teddy Purcell. Off the backhand, the Bolts had finally flipped the puck past Tim Thomas. Two minutes later, it was Purcell again. Ninety seconds after that, Sean Bergenheim, and the Bruins suddenly trailed 3-3.
That’s the way it felt. Even Claude Julien remarked afterward the B’s were frozen. They stopped skating at the pace to which they had played in this series. And when, in the third, star-crossed Tomas Kaberle was caught out on the ice after valiantly blocking a shot only to be hobbled, Milan Lucic turned the puck over at center, and Malone and Gagne teamed up on Simon’s game winner.
That was for Simon Gagne, going back to his historic run with Philadelphia in the comeback against Boston last season, his 6th goal in 8 playoff games against the Bruins. He and Tampa Bay are flush with momentum and confidence and in a rush to return to Boston, where the Bolts will practice Sunday afternoon. The team charter’s departure time moved ahead to 11 am.
All of this following turnovers — by both teams — that accompanied one large chicken parm sandwich.
NESN.com: What did you see out of the Lightning offensively that allowed them to score five goals after getting shutout in Game 3?
PK: It is one thing to pitch a shutout. It is another to talk about it being “comfortable.” I certainly understand that goaltender Tim Thomas was praising his teammates following his 2-0 Game 2 win, but those comments didn’t fall on welcoming ears in the Lightning dressing room. This was the same netminder who’d been peppered for nine goals the first two outings of the series.
The Bolts were insulted.
Boucher raised the subject following Saturday’s comeback. He heard his players talking “a lot about it.” Malone, engaging in the lingua franca of hockey-speak, pointed to “the goalie says he had an easy game, ” despite facing 31 Lightning shots.
So much for comfy. The Bolts went to net and snuggled up. A lot of company surrounding the crease. They kept the puck in Boston’s end much of the day.
Tampa Bay enjoys outstanding speed and the capacity to also “stretch the ice” and play at a faster tempo, leaving defenders scattered across three zones. Numerous times in the second and third periods, here came Marty St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier on odd man rushes. The didn’t score, but they could have.
Puck possession was impacted, too, by an improved face-off performance. Tampa Bay won 39 draws. Lecavalier posted a team-best 14-21 outing. Stamkos finished 9-of-14. This is a bit off the chain, but I looked at David Krejci’s draws as a factor in Boston’s earlier success. He struggled in the Game 1 loss before a solid Game 2 and his dominating 15-of-18 performance in Game 3. Claude Julien, on that theme, observed he was used to seeing Krejci play much more effectively than he did on Saturday, when he controlled just 3-of-12. And Rich Peverly was 5-of-16.
NESN.com: Defenseman Victor Hedman made an ill-advised pass that led to the first Boston goal of Game 4, yet he was a key component of the Lightning’s ability to preserve the lead, logging ice time in the final minute of the win. What does this say about the confidence that Guy Boucher has in the 20-year-old, and how has he progressed since getting drafted second overall in 2009?
PK: Ah, The Education Of Young Mr. Hedman. An interesting tale. The moment Victor Hedman over skated the puck and Patrice Bergeron pounced on the opportunity for the matinee’s first goal, I thought of Hedman’s earlier mistake in Game 3 that left Krejci free at the crease and handed Boston a lead it never relinquished.
Oh, no. Not again.
Let the record show that Boucher nevertheless played Hedman more shifts than any other skater on Saturday. He totaled 37, his career high for a regulation game — regular season or playoffs — in a contest played nearly exclusively five-on-five. There were only two power plays per team on the day. It wasn’t as if Victor was adding shifts to his total on special teams. And even with the bobble, Hedman finished a heady plus-3 for the game — against the formidable Boston Bruins, for goodness sakes.
Very impressive, especially considering Hedman is all of 20 years of age, skating in just his third Stanley Cup playoff series. Every game is a crash course in persevering under postseason pressure. If you are GM Steve Yzerman as well as Boucher, you take the bitter with the sweet, and practice patience. Tampa Bay has exceeded expectations in the first year of this administration’s turnaround, and every on-ice minute is benefiting not only this young Swedish defenseman but a Bolt roster that offered nine players without a drop of postseason experience when the playoffs began a month ago.
Hedman, towering at 6-foot-6, still six months shy of his 21st birthday, and a hemisphere removed from his homeland, is going to be an All-Star for a decade in the NHL.
NESN.com: Teddy Purcell, who posted career-high numbers across the board this season, scored two goals in the second period of Game 4 to get the Lightning going. What has allowed him to flourish in Tampa Bay this season, and what is his impact on the team?
PK: Amazing that a guy waived by the Los Angeles Kings becomes the winger Lecavalier and the Lightning have sought, seemingly for years, to complement their superstar centerman. He is still another Bolt enjoying his first taste of the playoffs and, like all in this series, stands but two wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
His two bang-bang scores in the second period resuscitated Tampa Bay and transformed this series into a best-of-three. The fastest one-two combination he’s ever produced shoved Boston back on its heels.
Purcell is grit personified, going into the corners and battling on the boards. He also is sufficiently speedy, capable of keeping up with such rotating linemates as Vinny, Marty, Gagne, Stamkos, and Bergenheim.
Those dudes move. Teddy corrals the puck and finds them. And when he goes to net, they find him. Every Purcell goal is baked in Hell’s Kitchen. In the jungle of traffic.
Note, too, that it was Gagne and Malone assisting on Teddy’s goals. Add Vinny’s playmaking, and Purcell is the beneficiary of skating in a cast of elite teammates–and they all get along. As with most successful clubs, Tampa Bay boasts a tight locker room. A closely knit group and Teddy Purcell fits in nicely.
In April, when Lecavalier organized a fund raiser for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Tampa based Children’s Hospital treatment center named in Vincent’s honor (his $3 million gift endowed the magnificent facility), he needed volunteers to join him in soliciting pledges and shaving their heads.
Purcell volunteered, as did St. Louis, Malone, goalie Mike Smith (quite the head of hair, too), and a number of others. It was a lot of laughs and a lot of locks shorn for a whole lot of money.
It’s all for one and one for all on and off the ice.
NESN.com: After goaltender Dwayne Roloson was pulled for the second time this series, Mike Smith stopped all 21 shots he faced. Should the Lightning go back Roloson in Game 5, or has Smith earned an opportunity to start?
PK: To paraphrase Boucher, we ain’t got no goaltender controversy down here in Tampa Bay. Yes, Roloson has surrendered nine goals in his last two games, but Boucher pointed out that the first two on Saturday were far from being his fault alone. There were accomplices. And it wasn’t all on the Bolts. The Bruins’ Bergeron and Ryder have enjoyed a tremendous postseason.
Recall, too, Dwayne played very well in the Game 3 duel with Thomas. His save early in the second period was incredible to keep Tampa Bay with a goal.
Had Yzerman not acquired Rolly from Long Island at the New Year, the Lightning would be working on a second straight month of tee times and fishing trips. His backstopping strengthened this team’s backbone. As they align in the tunnel set to take to the ice prior to every game, the Bolts — to a man — are convinced they’re going to win. Their confidence is unshaken.
That is no slight on Smitty, stellar in his first two career playoff games — an eight save effort in the near comeback in Boston, and the 21 save performance that earned Mike his first postseason win Saturday.
(Did I mention that Led Zepplin’s Robert Plant would have been proud of the mane Smith buzzed off to raise money for children? It was a sight to see).
Mike earned Yzerman’s respect at midseason when Steve shipped him out to the minors. Smitty, an NHL veteran, reported promptly, arrived at AHL Norfolk with the right attitude, and played his way back to the big leagues. He is, at this moment, the perfect backup to Roloson. A No. 2 who can play like a No. 1 at any given moment.
Thanks again to Paul Kennedy for answering our questions. Please check back before every game of the Bruins-Lightning series for more Across Enemy Lines. You also can read NESN.com Bruins reporter Douglas Flynn’s contributions to this feature on FOXSportsFlorida.com.