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Tim Thomas: Bolts first goal actually made me ‘relax’ 05.24.11 at 12:43 am ET
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It was the most sensational save of a sensational season for Tim Thomas.

With 10:40 left in the third period and the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead, an Eric Brewer missed shot off the boards from the point meant Steve Downie had an open net for a game-tying tap-in. Then Thomas and his stick appeared at the very last possible moment. Thanks to that brilliant save and 32 others, the Bruins won, 3-1, and are on the doorstep of their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1990.

And to think Thomas actually credits the spectacular save and phenomenal game – in part – to the only goal he allowed on the night. The score 69 seconds into the first by Simon Gagne – of course – might have made the crowd and Bruins fans everywhere really nervous. It had the opposite effect on Thomas.

“Well, two things happen,” Thomas explained. “One, the thought crosses your mind that, oh, I got to bear down even if it’s another two-on-one I got to find a way to make the save because we can’t afford to get down 2-0. The teams are too tight and the games are too tight for that to happen, so that thought is in there.

“The second thing that happens is actually in a funny way to start to relax a little bit and I don’t know how it works but it kind of works that way for me. I don’t want to let in an early goal, obviously, but I’ve had experience with it in the past and for some reason, sometimes it can relax me and that’s kind of the effect it had tonight. It was just kind of like I’m going to have to work hard and do the best I can to not let them get any further way and to give us a chance to win.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Simon Gagne puts talk of being a ‘Bruins killer’ on hold … for now 05.21.11 at 7:42 pm ET
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TAMPA — Well before scoring the go-ahead goal Saturday in Tampa Bay’s 5-3 win over the Bruins, Simon Gagne had a earned the reputation in Boston as a Bruins killer. Asked after the game if his third-period, go-ahead tally was just another example, Gagne said he’ll hold off on nicknames until the series is over.

“Actually, that’s the first time I’ve heard it,” Gagne said. “It’s funny but like I said, whatever happened last year, personally that’s something I’m always going to remember. That’s for sure. But now this year it’s a different thing. I’m with a different team. I would like to do it again but it’s still not done. It’s 2-2. Whatever happened today even, getting the game winner, we didn’t win the series. It’s 2-2. We’ll focus on the next game first and we’ll talk about that nickname later.”

In Gagne’s first game back in the 2010 playoffs, he scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4, keeping the Bruins from eliminating the Flyers. Of course, Gagne’s most crushing goal came in Game 7 of that same series with the Flyers, when he scored on the power play late in the third after the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.

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Mike Smith is loyal to Dwayne Roloson, thinks Rollie will start Game 5 at 7:14 pm ET
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TAMPA — Despite coming on and stopping all 21 shots he face to help his team come back from an early 3-0 hole, Lightning goalie Mike Smith doesn’t think he’ll get the call to start Game 5 Monday night in Boston. Smith came on with 2:02 left in the first period after Dwayne Roloson allowed a shorthanded goal to Patrice Bergeron, the third against him in nine shots.

“No, I don’t think so,” Smith said when asked directly if he thinks he’ll start Game 5. “It’s one game. Rollie has got us this far and he’s played outstanding in the playoffs. I don’t doubt that he comes back and plays really well for us. I have no doubt in my mind that he rebounds from a game like this.”

Smith’s coach, Guy Boucher, was far less definitive while hinting that he’s leaning toward starting Roloson in Game 5 since he’s still the Lightning’s No. 1 goalie.

“We just finished this game,” Boucher said. “We’re happy we just beat a terrific team and we’re just happy that we were a lot harder to play against today. And Smitty was part of it, and Roloson is. It doesn’t change the status.”

That answer followed a much longer and complicated response to the same question moments earlier.

“We have a our No. 1 goaltender. He’s taken us to this place right now,” Boucher said. “And that’s the reason why we’re here. And we have our [backup]. Smitty has been terrific. He’s had a [save percentage] average of over .940 since Dec. 15. And the fact that Rollie came in certainly helped him with pressure and poise and all that. And whenever he was asked to play since Roloson has been here, he’s been terrific. I mean, he’s just been terrific.

This was the second time in three games in the series that Mike Smith came on with the Lightning down three goals. He started the third period in Game 2, with the Lightning down, 6-3. Tampa Bay scored twice in the third and nearly pulled off the comeback.

Saturday, he came in with 2:02 left in the first and was around as the Lightning did complete the comeback.

“So, whenever it’s time for him to help the team and try to change momentum around, I don’t hesitate. It was the same in Boston,” Boucher said. “We put him in. He didn’t get scored against in the third period. We were trying to come back. He played well again. So, I don’t remember the last bad game he’s played. So obviously, when there’s an opportunity to help the team try and turn things around, we’re not afraid to use him. He did a good job today.”

And, presumably, he’ll be available out of the Lightning bullpen on Monday night at TD Garden.

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Patrice Bergeron’s ‘perfect first period’ goes to waste in collapse at 6:23 pm ET
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TAMPA — Patrice Bergeron scored twice in the first period, including a shorthanded tally with 2:02 left in the opening 20 minutes that put the Bruins up, 3-0. Then he watched as the Bruins lost all of their momentum in the second period and gave up five unanswered goals in a 5-3 loss to the Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at St. Pete Times Forum.

“It was perfect first period,” Bergeron said. “We stopped battling, we stopped being hard on the forecheck which is what gave us success in the first period. in the second, we sat back, they have too much speed and too much firepower up front to do that.”

Bergeron’s two goals came as the Bruins won nearly every aspect of the game in the first period.

“It was more execution,” Bergeron said. “We weren’t executing at all. The good thing about this is we [can] put it behind us and go back home and worry about that fifth game. That being said, we have to be a lot better.

“They’re a good a team but we were on our heels and we didn’t find a way to get back to what was giving us success. Once we did that, we had some good shifts that’s because we were first on the puck. Tonight was just a matter of we stopped playing. I don’t think it was anything else than that. We let them come back in the game. They’re a good team and if we do that, they will score.”

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Tim Thomas: Bolts ‘took over and outplayed us’ at 5:39 pm ET
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TAMPA — After blowing a 3-0 lead to the Lightning in a 5-3 loss in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, Tim Thomas said the Bruins were simply a victim of their own mistakes and lack of hustle.

“We got outworked,” Thomas said. “They took over, they outplayed us, they started getting scoring chances and we stopped getting scoring chances.”

Midway through the second, Thomas had a 3-0 lead and stopped the first 14 shots he faced before the Lightning scored on three of their next five shots in the period to tie it. Thomas said it won’t do the Bruins any good to look back on the Game 4 collapse but rather focus on Game 5 Monday night at TD Garden.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “It’s 2-2. I don’t know what the use of worrying about that would be but I think the focus should be oin winning the next game.”

Game 6 is scheduled for Wednesday back in Tampa.

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Michael Ryder says Game 4 will come down to ‘first 10 minutes’ at 12:24 pm ET
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TAMPA — The Bruins are expecting a big rush from the Lightning at the beginning of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. If they can withstand that, many Bruins feel they’ll have a good chance to win the game and head back to Boston with a chance to clinch on Monday night at TD Garden.

“Definitely excitement, that’s for sure,” Bruins winger Michael Ryder said of the feeling in the dressing room prior to Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game. “It’s a big game, it could be an even series or up 3-1. It’s the biggest game of the series so far. For us, we have to take that mindset. I think we’re ready to go. It’s all about the first 10 minutes of the [first] period. We have to come out hard, throw pucks in and just get that momentum and take it to them quick.”

On the rare occasion this season the Bruins failed to look energized, it seemed to always come on a Saturday afternoon. Daniel Paille says he’s not exactly worried about that today, considering a win will leave the Bruins one win from the Stanley Cup finals and a chance to clinch Monday night at TD Garden.

“There’s no excuse for that,” Paille said of any energy drain from an early Saturday afternoon start. “I think everyone one of our guys and their guys will provide a lot of energy. If you can’t get up for Game 4 in the conference finals, you’ve got a lot of trouble. I know, myself, I’ll be really energized today.”

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Claude Julien still has confidence in a ‘more poised’ Tomas Kaberle 05.20.11 at 8:43 pm ET
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TAMPA — No one in black and gold felt the heat more late in the season and during the first two rounds than Tomas Kaberle. But the Bruins and Claude Julien believe the 33-year-old veteran blueliner has turned a corner – with his confidence.

The Bruins coach knows his players better than anyone and he could see that the defenseman obtained at the trade deadline to bolster a lagging power play was pressing and struggling.

Julien tried everything. He sat him more. He played him more. Finally, last week, Julien took some of the burden off his shoulders by talking to him and letting him know that he and the team still believe he will help the team at critical times and that there was no reason to be putting the struggles of the Bruins power play unit on his shoulders.

It was during Tuesday night’s 6-5 shootout win in Boston that Julien could really start to sense that Kaberle was heeding the message. Ironic that Julien would see Kaberle start to shine in a high-scoring game, of all things. On Thursday, during a more typical 2-0 shutout win, Julien could see the confidence growing in the veteran defenseman as he and Bruins’ D cleared lanes for Tim Thomas to see and stop all 31 shots.

“I don’t know if it was our best but obviously, it was good enough to win a hockey game,” Kaberle said of the Bruins’ team D effort. “And Timmy behind us was playing pretty well and he saw a lot of shots and we spent a lot of time in their end. When we do that we have a good chance to win a hockey game.”

“I think he’s played really well in the last couple of games,” Julien said Friday. “And we had a conversation about maybe taking some pressure off his shoulders about everything that wasn’t going right about the power play. Fingers kept pointing at him.” Read the rest of this entry »

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