BOSTON — Rookie Brad Marchand made his first point of the Eastern Conference finals count, scoring the game-winner at 15:56 of the second period as the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Monday to move within a win of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 21 years.
The Bruins, who last won a Stanley Cup in 1972, can clinch a trip to the NHL's best-of-seven NHL championship series by beating the Lightning Wednesday in Tampa.
Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara assisted on the game-winner. On the play, Tampa's Martin St. Louis seemed to have Marchand covered, but the rookie was able to get his stick on the puck as it came through the slot area. Bergeron has at least a point in 10 of his 14 playoff games.
Midway through the third period, Thomas made a memorable diving stick save against Steve Downie to preserve the one-goal lead. He finished with 33 saves.
The Bruins are now 6-0 in these playoffs when they take a lead into the third period. Boston was 30-2-2 when taking a lead into the third period during the regular season.
Puck possession was crucial for the Bruins in Game 5, and their puck possession advantage was aided by their 58% faceoff efficiency.
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher shook up his lineup by inserting Mike Smth into the Lightning net in place of Dwayne Roloson, who had started every previous Lightning playoff game but had been twice during this series.
Smith, who had never started a playoff game, faced 12 shots in the first 40 minutes and was beaten on two of them.
Lightning winger Simon Gagne converted on a 2-on-1 break-in 69 seconds into the first period to to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
The game remained that way until Nathan Horton scored one a one-timer against Smith after receiving a perfect centering feed from Milan Lucic at 4:24 of the second period.
When the shot went past Smith, it ended his 85 minutes, 15 seconds of shutout hockey, including his two relief apperances. He played more than two periods Saturday when the Lightning posted a come-from-behind 5-3 win.
Rich Peverley scored an empty-netter with 12.1 seconds left to seal the win.