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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Bolts need a jolt

TAMPA - After experiencing a brand of river hockey through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, the Lightning were slowed down considerably by the Bruins' dam defense in a Game 3 shutout loss to Boston. Tampa Bay's task, now that Boston has returned to its trademark style of defensive play, is to find a way to navigate around and rekindle the offense the Lightning found in scoring 10 goals in the first two games. "It evolves," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "The third and fourth game, you start to see where the series is going. I think that game showed us that it's going toward a very defensive series. So it's our job to adjust, and if we don't adjust and adapt, we'll be like the dinosaurs, we'll die." And after chasing the game from behind for most of the last two games, Tampa Bay is also going to have to find a way to raise their energy level up after looking slow and lethargic at times in the final two periods of Game 3 on Thursday night.
Part of that was Boston's neutral zone play, which completely bogged down the game to the point where it looked like both teams were playing in slush. Very little play was created off the rush, and Tampa Bay was not able to make plays in transition to utilize its speed through the middle parts of the ice. While the start of the game looked fine, according to Boucher, despite allowing a goal 69 seconds in, things appeared to catch up with the Lightning in the final two periods. "It was energy level, let's not kid ourselves," Boucher said of the final two periods on Thursday. "They had to defend in the third period down there, and we had to push, and there is a big difference in the energy level that we leave on the ice. We came out real strong in the first, we had scoring chances, we were driving. In that second period, we felt it and the third period we had no juice left. And because they were pulling back a lot, they saved a lot of energy and we were chasing again, we wasted a lot of energy." And it's not as if Tampa Bay is fatigued to the point of exhaustion. The team had plenty of rest during a 10-day layoff between sweeping the Capitals in the second round and the start of the conference finals. But following Game 2, the team's charter flight returned home just before 4 a.m., making for a short day on Wednesday that often throws off body clocks. The effect of that normally takes its toll not on the day of the return, but the following day. Did that early morning arrival lumped in with all the chasing from behind in the past two games result in players feeling tired on Thursday? Even if it did, you would have a hard time finding anybody to admit to it. "I don't think so, I'll chase the Stanley Cup every day," left wing Ryan Malone said. "I don't think really tired creeps into guys' minds during games, you have to go out there and get your job done. Tired is never an excuse by any means. "This is a great opportunity, and any time we walk out of (the locker room) toward the rink we see these pictures (on the walls) of what we are going after, and if that doesn't inspire you to work a little harder, play a little harder, if a coach is going through a life-changing event in California like Coach (Wayne) Fleming (recovering from brain surgery), all you have to do is think of him for a second and I don't think anybody should use the word tired." So if it's not fatigue, then perhaps it's the compete level that needs to come up as the normally net-charging presence of the Lightning was all but absent for most of the night, making Tim Thomas' 31-save shutout seem like an average night. Even after the game, Thomas admitted he felt at ease in his crease. "To see him on TV saying that he felt comfortable in front of his net, that's not something you like to hear because it means that you didn't do a good job in front of him, so we will definitely have to put more traffic in front of him," left wing Simon Gagne said. "We like to get in front of the goalie, put some traffic there and get some ugly goals." And as far as fatigue, well, it's all just part of the experience. "I think if you get to the end of the playoffs and you are not fatigued, you are not trying," right wing Adam Hall said, "but at this point, it's one of those things that you manage." eerlendsson@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7835
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