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Sounds of the game… Bruins 3, Lightning 1

03.31.09 at 10:28 pm ET
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Maybe the most important aspect of Tuesday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning was that it wasn’t pretty.

After all, in two weeks, style points are going to mean even less than they do now.

The Bruins have won four straight and are 6-1-1 in their last eight, and their coach can already see an improvement in the way they’re approaching the game.

“I think we’re starting to get back to that so-called North-South type of game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win. “We’re going in direct lines and our speed is much better coming out of our own end as a unit instead of being all spread out. That part of our game is slowing coming back.”

Manny Fernandez looked much better between the pipes on Tuesday night, after surviving a 7-5 win in Toronto on Saturday night.

“We sat down and we’ve talked to each other and looked each other in the eyes and I think from here on out we let the personal stats take a hike and what’s important is the two points every night,” Fernandez said. “There won’t be any easy ones from here on out.”

And that will be especially true after the regular season finale on Easter Sunday, April 12. The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin several days later and captain Zdeno Chara will be one of the key players the Black and Gold will look to for leadership.

They certainly didn’t have to wait long to see it on Tuesday when he got into it with Evgeny Artyukhin eight minutes into the game. The fight set the tone and the Bruins followed in step.

The punch of the night was delivered by Cam Neely-reincarnated Milan Lucic. His right cross to the face of Tampa Bay blue liner Josef Melichar with 12 seconds remaining in the second showed that the Bruins hadn’t fallen asleep in this one. Melichar turtled but the Bruins didn’t.

But Julien reminded everyone that he would like to see his team finish with more of a killer instinct as the Bruins allowed the Lightning hope when they made it a two-goal game with 12 minutes into the third. A long shot from the top of the slot got by Fernandez only to ring off the post behind him and keep the B’s ahead 3-1.

“It almost seems like we’re afraid to run up the score and all of sudden there’s times where we’re starting to make those cute plays again and those are the things that you can’t have once you get into the playoffs,” Julien said.

“We can’t be looking at who we play,” said Chara, who netted two goals on the night. “We just have to be playing our way and bring the intensity and determination from every game now on.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara

Shawn Thornton injury “minor” in nature

03.31.09 at 9:37 pm ET
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Shawn Thornton missed his first game of the season with an undisclosed injury that he suffered at the Tuesday morning skate prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Banknorth Garden. Following the game, Julien termed the injury “minor” in nature and said that the rugged winger would be back on the practice ice either Wednesday or Thursday. Byron Bitz dressed in place of Thornton and played in his first game action since a March 15 game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bruins fire up the Bolts by a 3-1 final score

03.31.09 at 8:10 pm ET
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14:39: Matt Lashoff just got welcomed back to Boston with a huge body check from Patrice Bergeron in the Tampa offensive zone. Bergeron has two hits through the first two periods and has played one of his most physically-engaged games of the season. The rap on Lashoff in Boston was that he was never physical enough to compete, and there’s another piece of evidence in the building case.

8:34: Time out for the Lightning in a 3-0 game with 8:34 to go in the third. Rick Tocchet must be drawing up the famous three-goal play on the dry erase board. Obligatory boos followed the TO call, of course.

7:53: The timeout must have worked as rookie Steve Stamkos finally cashed one in for the Lightning on a second-effort whack at a puck in front of the net. Ryan Malone put heavy pressure on the net with a pair of bids up close before Stamkos filled lit the lamp. The score was the 20th of the season for Stamkos. Lashoff also picked up a helper on the score.

5:41: Bruins power play wiped out by a high-stick call to Chuck Kobasew. The missed PP chance leaves the B’s 2-for-5 on the man advantage this evening.

3:55: Near miss as Vinny Lecavalier hits the left post on a bid from the high slot that immediately rocketed back out. Big bounce for the Bruins that could have made it a one goal game, but instead My Center Vinny goes away frustrated.

3:00: Ryan Malone in the box for tripping. PP for Boston, and a nice save by McKenna on a Matt Hunwick bid from the right point.

1:53: Great cross-ice set-up from Krejci to Chara at the right faceoff circle, but McKenna again makes the pad save.

The Bruins take their fourth in a row with a 3-1 victory over the Lightning at the Garden.

The Bruins still riding the Lightning by a 3-0 score

03.31.09 at 7:06 pm ET
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18:14: A near score for P.J. Axelsson right at the doorstep off a crisp pass from Savard.

17:18: A couple of good bids by Dennis Wideman that McKenna was able to turn away. The second was a nifty little cross-ice pass from Savard in the left corner.

Chuck Kobasew followed up that flurry with a few bids of his one after following his shot and nearly knocking home the rebound.

16:00: Tampa defenseman Matt Pettinger tossed Matt Hunwick over the boards and into the visiting Lightning bench causing a stoppage in play.

14:00: An easy-to-stop backhanded bid from the right faceoff circle by Lightning winger Adam Hall represents Tampa’s best bid of the night. Ouch.

13:34: Great stick save by McKenna as he managed to throw the shaft at a Chuck Kobasew rebound attempt and toss it aside when it looked like a sure goal. The B’s look on the verge of adding to their lead.

13:04: Artyukhin goes off for hitting Mark Recchi with a high stick, and just like that the B’s PP makes it 2-0. Great backdoor pass by Patrice Bergeron to a crashing Zdeno Chara, who had the whole open net to look at and didn’t miss.

12:34: What looked to be a second goal for the Bruins is instead called goalie interference on Blake Wheeler as he motored through the crease and made slight contact with McKenna right before the score.

8:10: I’m getting tired of writing Artyukhin. Wideman broke his stick on a one-time attempt, but then made a nice recovery play to get the puck away from Artyukhin rushing up the right side of the ice. Artyukhin was coming all by himself with only Wideman to beat, so a solid play by Wideman to hip check the big Tampa skater sans stick and snuff out what could have been a solid scoring opportunity for Tampa.

6:25: Great tip from Chuck Kobasew for a power play score from a long bomb shot from the right point by Zdeno Chara just seconds into their power play. Kobasew managed to redirect the puck despite a mad slash from Matt Smaby that knocked the stick right out of Kobasew’s hands. The power play is absolutely on fire over the last handful of games, and Kobasew has been all around the net again this evening.

4:30: Best Manny Fernandez save of the night. MF beautiully dropped down in the butterfly to kick away a Jeff Halpern bid from the high slot with a pair of Bolts skaters rushing at him. Fernandez hasn’t been challenged much, but he’s looked solid between the pipes.

3:39: A big scrum in front of the Boston net turns into a second fight between Byron Bitz and Richard Petiot in the corner. Bitz lands one solid right and then crash lands on top of Petiot. The Tampa D-man looked a bit shook up after the impact with the ice.

00:11.2: Fight night at the Garden. Milan Lucic finally got in his two cents as he scored a TKO over Josef Melichar with one punch. Melichar came in high with an elbow on Lucic, and both skaters pushed and shoved before dropping the gloves. Lucic came over the top with one right-hand to the face and Melichar hunched and basically waved the white flag. Quite a bit of passion for a late season tilt between a team up high in the standings and another that’s been a doormat all season.

The B’s are riding the Lightning by a  3-0 score after two full periods of play at the Garden.

Wheeler and Savard team up to give B’s a 1-0 lead

03.31.09 at 6:19 pm ET
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13:57: The Lightning just killed off a Brandon Bochenski penalty. Yes, that Brandon Bochenski. The journeyman that the B’s traded Kris Versteeg for was just called up by Tampa Bay for tonight’s game. Not incredibly crisp on the PP, but a few good bids by Zdeno Chara and some good energy from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci on the second unit.

11:17: Great action over the last minute. Tampa goaltender Mike McKenna made a great save on a Mark Stuart shot from the slot, and then Zdeno Chara and Evgeny Artyukhin ended up dropping the gloves following a big Milan Lucic hit on Artyukhin in the neutral zone. Chara went off for two minutes roughing and five for fighting while Artyukhin simply got a rough. The fight was preceded immediately by a Vinny Lecavalier penalty on David Krejci as he made a rush into the Bolts zone. Chara got in a few good shots, but Artyukhin eventually scored the take-down at the end of a fight between two big boys on skates.

7:46: A Michael Ryder tip of an Aaron Ward blast from the point hit pipe and then ricocheted away.

7:25: A Bruins goal was waved off when the play was ruled offsides. The whistle clearly blew prior to the puck going in the net.

5:57: Crafty little play by Marc Savard as he snuck to the back right corner as McKenna played the puck, and then jumped all over the play when the Tampa goal threw the puck directly Savard’s way. Savard took a quick bad angle shot from the right side that McKenna saved, but Blake Wheeler jumped all over the rebound and poked it through short side. A score totally created by Savard’s craftiness.

The goal is Wheeler’s 20th of his rookie season, and gives the Bruins their sixth player with 20 goals this season.

2:07: Looch to the box after taking out former Harvard D-man Noah Welch in front of the Tampa net after Michael Ryder threw a puck in front of the net. First PP opportunity for the Bolts.

1:33: Aaron Ward gets Martin St. Louis with a high stick to the grill, and also goes off to the sin bin creating a 5-on-3 PP for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay managed only one shot during 90 seconds with a two-man advantage and only mustered four shots in the first period. They look as if they left their game on the Lightning charter jet at Hanscom.

The B’s lead the Lightning by a 1-0 score after one full period at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Shawn Thornton out with undisclosed injury

03.31.09 at 6:11 pm ET
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A few notes at the start of tonight’s Bruins game against the Tampa Bay Lightning:

Bruins bruiser Shawn Thornton will miss tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury. It’s the first game that Thornton has missed this season. Byront Bitz has taken Thornton’s place on the fourth line after serving as a healthy scratch since a March 15 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Goaltender Manny Fernandez gets another start in net, which surprised some pundits after the netminder’s shaky performance early in Saturday night’s goal-fest victory in Toronto.

Phil Kessel could be in lineup next Tuesday vs. Senators

03.31.09 at 11:42 am ET
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Phil Kessel was out for the  weekend games with an undisclosed injury, and wasn’t on the practice ice for this morning’s pre-game skate — which means he’ll miss his third straight game tonight. 

But Bruins coach Claude Julien indicated that Kessel may be a possibility for next Tuesday’s road game against the Ottawa Senators. The problem is believed to be a shoulder injury suffered March 10 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the B’s bench boss remains tight-lipped about the nature of Kessel’s injury. Julien also indicated that the winger will rejoin the team on the practice ice at some point later in the week.

“I think we’re going to see him come back with the team at some point this week, and I guess we anticipate that he should be playing again early next week,” said Julien with a smile on his face. “It’s still undisclosed. We’re in the business of protecting our players, and you guys are in the business of exposing them. We’re going to stick with keeping them from being exposed.”

Kessel has missed 8 games this season with a bout of mono and this current injury, but still leads the team with 31 goals scored on the year.

–Patrice Bergeron was happy to accept the PHWA nomination for the Masterton Trophy, and took it as another encouraging step back in his return from last season’s concussion issues. Bergeron has been noticeably picking up his play over the last six weeks of hockey, and boasts 3 goals and 11 assists in his last 19 games dating back to a Feb. 14 road game against the Nashville Predators.

The 23-year-old center has shown all of the trademark characteristics of a Masterton nominee — perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey — during a season-long journey returning from a potentially career-ending concussuon last season. Bergeron said that he took to cooking and reading books in English during his time out with injury — in part to keep his brain working — and derived a great deal of inspiration from reading “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” during his recovery.

“I’ve been through a lot over the last year and [the nomination] means a lot,” said Bergeron. “It’s been a long process, but I’m happy that it’s behind me. I feel like my game is coming back, and I’m just happy to back out there with the guys helping them try to win every game.

“Now it’s about getting back to my game and being back to where I’m out there having fun every day during practices and games,” added Bergeron, who added that he’s using a different foam and shell inside his Reebok helmet and finally gave in to the B’s equipment guy’s requests that he start using new shoulder pads. “I think I’m pretty close. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of bounces and the puck going in and getting that confidence. Other than that, I am feeling pretty good out there.”

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