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Saturday, Nov 18, 2017
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Goalie Smith gives Bolts a chance after bold call

BOSTON - It was a tough spot that Lightning goalie Mike Smith was asked to step into: his first playoff start. He was taking the place of mainstay Dwayne Roloson, who was as big a reason as any why Tampa Bay had racked up 10 of the 16 wins needed to win a Stanley Cup. That they didn't get No. 11 on Monday was no fault of Smith's. If anything, his work forestalled what became a 3-1 Bruins victory. Smith stopped 17 Boston shots, allowing two goals,  in his first playoff loss.
"He made the saves," said gritty Tampa Bay center Nate Thompson. "He gave us a chance." Said Smith: "I thought I played pretty well. I gave up two goals. They were tough plays. You're never satisfied when you give up a goal." The first of those, the game-tying tally by Nathan Horton, was a laser from the left circle, unstoppable by virtually any netminder outside of hockey's Hall of Fame. "I think I could have gotten a better push across," Smith said. "But it was a tough one. You can always get better. There's always something you can do." There was little he could do on Brad Marchand's second-period game winner. Same spot. Same result. Smith was something of a surprising, and gutsy, choice made by Lightning coach Guy Boucher to start such a key contest. Boucher kept the decision to himself until informing Smith after the morning skate. "All year we've used everybody and we prided ourselves on giving everybody a good chance,'' Boucher said. "When people deserve things, whether they're a fourth line or a third line or seventh or eighth D, when they deserve -- I'm one of those guys that I'll give people a chance. And I felt that Smitty had been terrific for us for a long, long time, and he deserved to get a game. "At the same time, I felt that giving a little breather to Roli. It's a decision I don't regret at all. So it wasn't something emotional at all. It was something thought of methodically and it was unanimous as a staff, that we wanted to give a breather to Roli and give a chance to Smitty to participate in something he's been a part of.'' In fact, Smith was the second goaltender off the ice. Roloson was the first. "When the coach told me," said Smith, "he just told me to have fun and enjoy it. I tried to keep it in the back of my mind. I think he was more nervous when he told me than when I got out there.'' Smith saw only four Boston shots in the first period, hardly enough to get into a rhythm. However, Smith said he wasn't concerned about that. "We've been a team all year that didn't give up many shots," he said. "I learned to deal with that and stay calm when the puck is not in your end. And when it is, try and get your focus back." As to whether Smith will be asked to keep the Bolts from being eliminated in Tampa on Wednesday night, he said he didn't know and wasn't even thinking about that. "I have no expectations right now," he said. "It's up to the coach. If it's me, I'll be ready to go."
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