When the series started many people (me included) said the series would be won and lost with special teams play.
Coming into the Eastern Conference Finals the Bruins power play was struggling, at the same time the Lightning power play was red hot.
With five games in the books and the Bruins holding a 3-2 series lead, the Bruins power play continues to struggle.
The B’s are 2-19 on the power play against the Lightning, with both goals coming in their 6-5 Game 2 win, and one of those two coming with just one second left with the extra attacker.
In Tampa Bay’s series wins over the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Lightning had succeeded 12 times out of 45 chances. At 26.7 percent the Lightning had the best power play numbers in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
One of the biggest reasons the Bruins now sit one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals is because of the play of their penalty killers.
The Bruins have killed 16 of the 18 penalties they have taken, and have not allowed a power play goal since Game 2.
Sometimes a huge penalty kill at the right time is enough motivation to sway the momentum in your favor, and that certainly was the case last night for the Bruins.
With under a minute left in the first, and the Bruins down 1-0 after being outplayed by Tampa Bay for the whole period, Nathan Horton was sent to the box after a dumb interference penalty.
The Lightning started the second with about a minute of power play time which the Bruins killed. Shortly after that, Horton took another bad interference penalty putting the Bruins back behind the eight ball.
In a situation where a Lightning goal may have been just enough to burst the Bruins balloon, the penalty kill came up huge, once again and killed it off.
Less than a minute after his penalty minutes expired, Horton redeemed himself with the game-tying-goal, not only did Horton tie the game, but the combination of his goal, and two huge penalty kills stole the momentum from the Lightning and helped propel the Bruins to the huge Game 5 victory.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien knew the two kills, and the Horton goal was exactly what the Bruins needed to take back the momentum.
“Well I think it kind of actually did the same thing in our favor that it did in their favor last game. You know, we had those two early power plays in the second period and we didn’t do much and they built momentum off that. I know that when Horts [Nathan Horton] came out of that second one there, he scored a big goal for us and got us back in the game. So it did build some momentum. I think our penalty kill did a great job tonight for us. Right now, before the series started, special teams were the big concern, and right now I think in both areas, we’re pretty even.” said Julien.
Horton agreed with his coach that the two penalty kills early in the second were the difference
“Well as you can see, I think after all my penalties, we just got the momentum. We feel it, and I think everyone felt it, and we just kind of took it off from there. We were kind of struggling a little bit on the power play, but when you do that hopefully the penalty kill steps up.” said Horton. “And they sure did tonight. Timmy [Thomas] was great again, he made some unbelievable saves and that’s what you need to win the games.”
Bruins top penalty killer Patrice Bergeron was quick to point to those same two penalty kills as one of the reasons why they got the win.
“Yeah, I mean obviously you got to get your legs going. Obviously on the penalty kill you got to find a way, you got to find your energy and just go out there and keep going. Yeah it was huge. I think it was one reason why we won, the way that we killed those penalties.” added Bergeron.
Another perfect night on the penalty kill, and a goal with the extra attacker in Game 6, and the Bruins could be punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.