TAMPA, Fla. — Tim Thomas rebounded from two tough games in grand fashion.
Thomas made 31 saves for his first playoff shutout this season and second overall, Andrew Ference and David Krejci scored and the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
“That felt more like a normal game,” Thomas said. “That felt like the game we played most of the season. Playoffs are always faster and more energy and a few more scoring chances than a regular-season game, but that was Boston Bruins hockey.”
Thomas, the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the top regular-season goalie, gave up nine goals in the first two games of the series.
“As the game goes on, he keeps making saves, feels better about himself and is gaining confidence,” Lightning right winger Martin St. Louis said. “We’ve just got make his game a little tougher and we didn’t do that. Chew on it for 10 minutes and get back to work.”
Ference made it 2-0 with a shot from point at 8:12 of the third when the puck trickled between goalie Dwayne Roloson’s legs and into the net.
Game 4 is Saturday in Tampa.
Patrice Bergeron returned to Boston’s lineup after missing two games because of a concussion sustained when he was hit by Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux in the final game of the second round. He had two shots, won 18 of 28 faceoffs and played 19 minutes, 13 seconds.
“You could see the difference he makes,” coach Claude Julien said.
Krejci was alone in the low slot and opened the scoring on a backhander just 1:09 into the first. Boston is 7-0 during the postseason when scoring the first goal of the game.
“One big mistake,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
Krejci was briefly shaken up late in the first when he was hit in the neutral zone by Tampa Bay defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who received a minor penalty for elbowing.
Both teams were looking to play tighter defense after combining for 18 goals in the first two games.
Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos said before the game that the Lightning wanted to avoid “run and gun hockey.” Boston center Brad Marchand added that both teams hoped to “buckle down” on defense.
Stamkos had three shot as the Lightning outshot Boston 10-8 during the first. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara made a nice defensive play during the period to break up a Tampa Bay 2-on-1.
“We got some chances and their goalie made some good saves,” Stamkos said. “We’re not panicking. We’ve got to be ready for the next one.”
Thomas made a strong save in the first on St. Louis’ shot from the low right circle. The goalie stopped 15 shots in the third.
Roloson finished with 23 saves.
“Both goalies made huge saves,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “This just felt more normal. I think both teams got more towards the type of game they wanted. I think it was a lot more typical and expected from us.”
NHL NOTEBOOK: The San Jose Sharks lost more than the first two games in the Western Conference final during a lost trip to Vancouver. They also lost their composure. From captain Joe Thornton challenging Ryan Kesler to a fight before the opening faceoff of Game 1 to enforcer Ben Eager’s parade to the penalty box late in Game 2, the Sharks have been on the wrong side of the aggression line too often the first two games and find themselves down 2-0 in the series. Led by Eager’s 20 penalty minutes, the Sharks committed 53 minutes in penalties in a 7-3 loss in Game 2 on Wednesday night, leading to seven power-play chances and three man-advantage goals for the opportunistic Canucks. “That’s often a result of frustration,” coach Todd McLellan said Thursday. “It catches up with you. … It wasn’t like we lost it when it was 5-2 or 6-2. We lost it at 3-2. That’s not the sign of a team that can win a series. That has to get better.” The Sharks held an optional workout Thursday as they look to get back into the series in Game 3 at home on Friday night. Eager was the biggest violator for the Sharks, committing four minor penalties and a misconduct in the final 21 minutes of the game. He also scored San Jose’s third goal and was praised by McLellan for his forechecking and skating — a sign that he likely will stay in the lineup despite the penalty-filled game. The Canucks believe that shouldn’t be San Jose’s choice. Coach Alain Vigneault was upset there wasn’t more punishment from the NHL for Eager’s hit from behind against Daniel Sedin in the final minute of the second period. Eager also got a roughing call for taunting goalie Roberto Luongo after scoring to cut the deficit to 7-3 and called Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa a “phony” for fighting Sharks top-line player Patrick Marleau instead of a more accomplished fighter.