By Joe Haggerty
TAMPA Milan Lucic and David Krejci did the big damage on Thursday night in Game Three with a nifty play in the opening minutes, but they couldnt follow it up strongly.
Instead they were the ones taking on damage Saturday afternoon in a forgettable performance as Bostons top forward group that looked as listless, disinterested and defeated as theyve appeared since the Montreal series.
Krejci was slammed hard by Marc-Andre Bergeron in Game Two, and that seemed to have long-lasting effects for the Czech Republic playmaker as he attempted to push his team to a 3-1 advantage in the series.
Instead Lucic, Krejci and Nathan Horton combined for two shots on net and a minus-5 on the night with the center taking it on the chin via the stat sheet rather than a literal hit on the ice. The line's best threat of the day came in the third period when Lucic had a good portion of open net to work with, but instead found Tampa goalieMike Smith's pads as the Bruins often did over the final 40 minutes of play.To say Bostons top there forwards were non-factors would be tremendously accurate in a game that could have so much more had any of them been able to get offensive work done either on the power play (0-for-2) or five-on-five.
The offensive no show from those three was one of the biggest head scratchers in a day full of them as the Bruins collapsed on a three goal first period lead, and limp back to Boston after losing a 5-3 decision in Game Four at the St. Pete Times Forum.
On top of that, David Krejci won only three out of his 12 face-offs in another lackluster game on the draw and showed little of the combination flairtenacity that usually emerges when hes at the top of his game.
Instead Krejci was largely invisible while finishing with a team-worst minus-3 and was one of the culprits among a team-wide breakdown over the final 40 minutes that looked all too familiar.
David had a tough night in the face-off circle, and I think that kind if identified the type of game he had tonight, said Claude Julien. That wasnt the type of game were used to seeing David play. I didnt feel our players a lot of our players did not play their best gamer tonight.
His line after two periods had no shots on net. But theres more than David on that line. I think it was a tough night for their line tonight. We know what impact they have for a hockey club when theyre on. Tonight was a tough night for that line.
So much for Tomas Kaberle turning the corner with the Bruins.
After showing something in a pair of wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman was right back in the Bs hamper with possibly the worst 11 minute performance in the playoffs to date.
Two amazing things stand out about Kaberles tough night in 11:35 of ice time during the 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum in Game Four: the Bs defenseman managed to finish at only a minus-1 and he could be in danger of becoming a healthy scratch in favor of Steve Kampfer if things continue along at their current rate.
Of course, there were plenty more bad plays to go around. Milan Lucic had a cringe-worthy turnover near the blue line that led to Simon Gagnes game-winner in the third period, and that capped off a totally absent game from Bostons top line of Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton.
But it was Kaberle that was completely manhandled by Sean Bergenheim behind the Boston net for Tampas game-tying goal in the second period at the end of the 3:38 barrage that saw the Lightning tie the game.
I saw Bergenheim coming and I lost it between my legs. I have to be a bit sharper on that play. Its one of those games you have to learn from. We all have to pretty much forget about the second period, said Kaberle. We have to worry about playing a full 60 minutes and then we wont have any problems.
And it was Kaberle again in the third period that couldnt get on the same page with Tim Thomas when Ryan Malone and Simon Gagne rushed in for the game-winner while the Bs struggled to hang on for dear life.
Kaberle was suffering from the same malady that seemed to be infecting the rest of the team so acutely from the second period moving forward.
We had to continue playing the same way, said Julien. Somehow we started getting stretched out again. They started getting speed. They started getting momentum.
Kaberle certainly did nothing to stem the momentum, and the question becomes what to do with Kaberle and defenseman partner Adam McQuaid -- a tandem struggled to hold the fort in the final 40 minutes of Saturday afternoons collapse job in Tampa Bay.
The conventional wisdom is that the Bruins would never scratch Kaberle given that they surrendered two first round picks (Joe Colborne and an actual first round pick) to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the defenseman. But when it comes to winning and losing, the former Leafs D-man didnt do anything but hurt on Saturday.
The Bruins dropped their first game of the playoffs after scoring first, and now sit 7-1 in the postseason when scoring the first goal against their opponents.
Dennis Seidenberg blocked a game-high seven shots in 24:58 of ice time, but was also on the ice for a pair of Tampas goals including the Simon Gagne game-winner that came just moments after his final blocked shot of the game.
Patrice Bergeron potted a pair of goals to give him a team-high 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in the 12 playoff games hes appeared in, and his second goal was his first career short-handed goal in the playoffs.
The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play and are now 4-for-52 in the playoffs on the man advantage a 7.7 percent success rate. It is simply amazing that they stand two wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals given that horrendous statistic.