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Lightning, Smith hold on against Bruins

BOSTON — It wasn't perfect, but it sufficed in times like these.

After the morning skate on Thursday at TD Banknorth Garden, Lightning goaltender Mike Smith considered the new helmet motif he and his painter in Toronto had settled upon after his trade from the Stars.

"This was the first one," he said. "We had a whole bunch of ideas. One had Borat on it in a banana hammock, so it was pretty funny."

But it had no chance of actually making it into a game. This one beside him had a white lightning bolt cleaving an otherwise serene sunset-at-the-beach motif with palm trees, a conch shell and a crab. It's not exactly what he's looking for, and he will have a new one by next season. But like Thursday's performance, it was good enough.

Smith made 35 saves, weathered an early Boston onslaught and a late rush as Tampa Bay defended a one-goal lead, a shot to the collarbone that winded him and a dull skate that caused him to fall flat in the third period as the Lightning beat the Bruins 3-1.

In winning consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 14, the Lightning took small steps in preparing for next season while Boston — currently seventh in the East — continued taking steps backward in preparing for its less-certain postseason.

Both the Lightning and Smith persevered.

There was the stop against Phil Kessel on a breakaway up the middle in the second period, the sprawling tip of a puck from Marc Savard in the crease just four minutes later. Another lunge to spirit the puck from an on-rushing Peter Schaefer in the third. And there was shot after potential-tying shot in the last six minutes.

But the Lightning defense hunkered in front of Smith, relegating the Bruins to shots from the outside that were deflected or smothered until Vinny Lecavalier, playing in his 700th game, scored an empty-netter with eight seconds left.

Boston outshot the Lightning 36-26.

"It wasn't a perfect third period, but we fought through it," coach John Tortorella said. "I thought we did a really good job in the middle of the ice."

Smith, who allowed four goals on 24 shots in his last start, withstood an early Boston onslaught and 7-1 shots advantage to settle in.

"You need your goalie to back you up when you're not on your game, and I think he did that," defenseman Dan Boyle said of the opening minutes.

Jeff Halpern, continuing an incendiary first nine games with the Lightning, redirected a Filip Kuba blast between Tim Thomas' legs for a 1-0 lead eight seconds into a first-period power play.

And Andreas Karlsson gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead at 7:43 of the second when he skated onto a loose puck in the neutral zone and scored — for the first time since Jan. 1 and just the second time this season — on a breakaway.

Chuck Kobasew cut the margin to 2-1 with 12:03 left when he tipped down a shot from Marco Sturm, but Smith held on.

"Two or three games, we've lost it in the last two or three minutes," Smith said.

"My stomach got a little tighter with two minutes left in this one, but we were fortunate to come out on top."

Lightning 1 1 1 3
Bruins 0 0 1 1

First Period1, Tampa Bay, Halpern 15 (Kuba, Boyle), 7:41 (pp). PenaltiesSchaefer, Bos (hooking), 7:33; Picard, TB (hooking), 18:09.

Second Period2, Tampa Bay, Karlsson 2 (Lundin), 7:43. PenaltyStewart, TB (boarding), 9:32.

Third Period3, Boston, Kobasew 20 (Sturm, Wideman), 7:57. 4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 37 (St. Louis, Ranger), 19:52 (en). PenaltyLecavalier, TB (hooking), 12:17. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 12-10-4—26. Boston 15-12-9—36. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 1 of 1; Boston 0 of 3. GoaliesTampa Bay, Smith 14-14-0 (36 shots-35 saves). Boston, Thomas 23-17-4 (25-23). A13,373 (17,565).

Lightning 3

Bruins 1

Lightning, Smith hold on against Bruins 03/13/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2008 7:39pm]

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