BEDFORD, Mass. -- The longstanding woes of the Bruins’ power play have been many times hashed over. But until last night, Claude Julien could count on the other half of the Bruins special teams, the penalty kill. For the most part, the PK had done its job in the Eastern Conference Finals, holding Tampa’s power play to two goals on 18 opportunities through the first five games.
They’d accomplished what they’d set out to do. That’s keeping the Lightning’s power play from becoming a force in the series.
That changed in Game 6, when Tampa tallied three goals in four tries on the man-advantage. Martin St. Louis’ second period power play goal was a momentum-shifter, Teddy Purcell’s sixth goal of the playoffs regained the lead and Steven Stamkos’ blast in the third kept the Bruins at arm’s length.
The Bruins may have let Tampa off the hook in forcing Friday night’s Game 7 at TD Garden, but they would be best-served not to let the Lightning’s power play — ranked sixth in the regular season and fourth in the postseason — back into the series as well.
“It was a tough night for them,” Julien said of the PK after the team charter arrived at Hanscom Field Thursday afternoon. “They’ve been so good throughout the playoffs, so I’m certainly not standing here criticizing our penalty kill because they’ve won us some games and they’re going to bounce back tomorrow.”
The Bruins are among the middle of the pack on the penalty kill in the playoffs with a 79.4 percent success rate, a shade below their regular-season average of 82.6. But they’d shut out Tampa on the power play in Games 3 through 5 when the Lightning went 0-for-11.
“I think they were having too many good looks, especially at the point,” Patrice Bergeron said of Wednesday’s performance. “There were some good shots. Obviously, Stamkos is a good shooter and he had two great shots. The first goal, it was kind of a scramble after that shot, but we still shouldn’t allow that.”
Bruins defenders had several swipes to clear the puck out of scrum in front of goaltender Tim Thomas in the prelude to St. Louis’ goal.
The Bruins want to ensure those lapses don’t occur again in the biggest game of the year.
“I think all of it is about desperation and making sure you do everything you can to keep the puck out of your net,” Bergeron added.
At this point in a seven-game series, there are no secrets being held. Each team has a good idea of what the other will look to do in certain situations. There likely won’t be any radical changes to how the Bruins respond as well.
So is it simply about execution?
“It’s a mix of both obviously,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “You need to execute, but you also have to respect the game plan, so I think it’s a balance of both.”
The rest is left up to puck luck.
“There were loose pucks that came out right on their sticks,” Julien said. “That’s the way it goes. Sometimes it ends up on yours and sometimes it ends up on theirs. We can make some adjustments and we will make adjustments. But the penalty kill last night wasn’t as good as it had been, but it will redeem itself because I know these guys and I know this team and they normally do that.”