Bruins beat Lightning, take series lead

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Bruins beat Lightning, take series lead

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Tim Thomas turned it another brilliant performance, making 33 saves, and Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand erased a 1-0 deficit with second-period goals as the Bruins defeated the Lightning, 3-1, Monday night at TD Garden and took a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Bruins can close out the series and move onto the Stanley Cup finals with a win in Game 6 Wednesday night in Tampa.

Horton tied the game at 1-1 at 4:24 of the second period when he blasted a one-timer from the top of the left circle past a sprawling Mike Smith, who couldnt get to the right post in time after Milan Lucic sent a hard, cross-ice pass from the right circle.

Marchand, after going hard to the left post, followed it up with a one-timer of his own and knocking home a Patrice Bergeron pass from the opposite corner with 4:04 left in the period, putting Boston ahead to stay.Rich Peverley added an empty-net goal at the end.
Simon Gagne had given the Lightning a 1-0 lead when he finished off a 2-on-1 with a shot to the left side of the net just 1:09 into the game. The odd-man rush started when David Krejci was manhandled in front of the Lightning bench, as he tried to slow down Tampa Bay's offensive attack. Steven Stamkos turned it up the right wing, faked a shot from the right circle, and put a pass across the slot to Gagne for the early lead. Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard.

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while ready for the Chris Sale era to begin with the Red Sox in a 1975 throwback uniform at Fenway’s opening day.

*Larry Brooks says that the New York Rangers are in “deep trouble” despite all of the goals that they’re scoring, and here’s why.

*The New York Islanders are playing with fire when it comes to John Tavares potentially leaving if they can’t find a running mate for him.

*Good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector about Kris Russell defying the analytical critics with his work for the Edmonton Oilers.

*Scary scene with the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks where Taylor Hall knocked out Philip Larsen with a hit, and then touched a brawl where the unconscious Larsen was kicked in the head a couple of times.

*Here’s some very good news about former B’s forward Craig Cunningham, who has begun communicating with his AHL teammates through Facetime calls and is alert, joking and sounding like somebody that’s starting to make a slow recovery from whatever mysterious thing caused him to collapse prior to a Roadrunners game.

*Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere has made such a splash with the Broad Street Bullies that he’s got a “Ghost Bear” beer named after him.

*For something completely different: The first trailer for "Spider Man: Homecoming" is going to be shown during Jimmy Kimmel, and it’s looking pretty cool in this snippet.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.