TAMPA — If the first two games of the Eastern Conference final between the Lightning and Bruins was must-see TV, Game 3 was more like C-Span.
It was stick-in-the-mud hockey. It was slow-motion hockey. Quite frankly, it was boring hockey.
"Neither team would give the other team anything," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said.
Get used to it. It probably is the type of hockey we will see for the rest of the series.
"I can't read the future, but if was a betting man, I would think so," said defenseman Andrew Ference, whose third-period goal put Boston up 2-0. "Both teams went back to their styles."
That style is grind-it-out, watch-your-back, take-few-risks hockey that places emphasis on keeping the puck out of your own net instead of offense. The result was a measly two goals — both by Boston — after the teams combined for 18 and about a gazillion scoring chances in the first two games.
Tuesday's 6-5 pond-hockey game was replaced by Thursday's plodding 2-0 affair that saw a lot more dumping and chasing than shooting and scoring.
"This was more of a playoff game between two teams who pride themselves on defense and playing tight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien estimated his team allowed the Lightning nine quality scoring chances in the third period alone of Game 2. The Lightning didn't appear to have that many in all of Game 3. The Bruins clamped down after taking a 1-0 lead 1:09 into the game. The Lightning was almost as stingy.
Aside from a defensive breakdown on the first goal and a seeing-eye puck that squirted through goalie Dwayne Roloson's pads in the third, the Lightning turned in one of its better defensive efforts of the playoffs. Boston had only 25 shots, its fewest this postseason.
This disciplined style is not as thrilling as Game 1 and, especially, Game 2, but the teams are interested in victories, not entertainment value, at this time of the year.
"I saw them talk after last game, and I saw us talk. And I think both teams felt the exact same way," Ference said. "(The first two games are) not a way to win a series and continue in the playoffs. This game was more like it."
Tom Jones can be reached at [email protected]