BOSTON -- This Eastern Conference Finals clash between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning shifted dramatically between Games 2 and 3 and then again during Game 4 after the first intermission.
Tampa Bay rallied for a dramatic 5-3 victory on Saturday afternoon after falling behind by three goals, and the series is now level at two games apiece. Trying to predict where the series goes from here would be pretty difficult given the wild swings of momentum and scoring sprees by both teams -- with a 2-0 defensive battle mixed in there as well.
Patrice Bergeron was fantastic for Boston in Game 4 and has been the team's best player since returning from a concussion -- just as he might have been before the injury. He could be making a strong push to be a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate.
Tampa Bay again leaned on its supporting cast to tie the series. Teddy Purcell scored twice and Sean Bergenheim struck again. The Lightning's second line, led by Ryan Malone and Simon Gagne, also had maybe its best game of the postseason.
Boston needs more from its top line. Tampa Bay needs a bounce-back effort from its 41-year-old goaltender. Expect both coaches to preach limiting mistakes and better work in the neutral zone. Here's an attempt to answer six important questions in the hours leading to Game 5 Monday night at TD Garden:
Can Boston forget Game 4?
At this point in the season, there is little doubt that they can.
"It's not too hard, we have done it in the past," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "We use it as motivation to come out even stronger tonight and do what we didn't do the last two periods."
They have proven it over and over again. Remember this is a team that was down 0-2 in the first-round series to Montreal, their most hated rival and a team that had won 75 percent of the playoff series between these teams. This is also a team that didn't blink when it drew Philadelphia in the second round, even though Philadelphia had recent history -- a historic four-game comeback after losing the first three to Boston -- on its side. Now, they sit in a best-of-3 series holding home-ice advantage. They'll take that.
Can the Bruins regain control of the neutral zone?
If they want to win, they must. Boston has been at its best this series when it is in control of the neutral zone in both directions. On the attack, it must read the Tampa Bay defensive alignment and make the right decision with the puck. On defense, it must have a proper structure to slow down the Lightning's quick-strike abilities. According to most players, it is a matter of focus and function. "I don't think we moved our feet well enough the second part of that game and we looked like we were skating in mud and they were going 100 miles per hour."
Will the Bruins make lineup changes for Game 5?
Claude Julien has admitted he did not get the best from some of his players in Game 4. Will he try to shake things up by making some roster moves Monday night? It appears unlikely -- because Julien is very loyal to his players -- but the coach did leave the door open Monday morning.
"We'll dress 23 for warmups and if there are changes, we'll make them after the warmups," Julien said.
That means defensemen Shane Hnidy and Steve Kampfer, declared ready for duty after rehabbing knee injury, and forward Shawn Thornton will all take the warmups and could be inserted into the lineup. One player who will not be replaced, though, is struggling defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Julien said Monday morning that Kaberle will be in the Game 5 lineup.
Who will be in goal for Tampa Bay?
Three times Boucher has been asked who will start in net for Game 5 and each time he hasn't really answered the question. Three times there has been a follow-up question that was more direct about Dwayne Roloson and still the coach declined to say who will be in the net.
Roloson said he's preparing to start, and Mike Smith has said he expects Roloson to get the nod, but Boucher's coyness has left it open that he could go with the hot hand -- Smith has stopped all 29 shots he's faced in two relief appearances. The smart money is probably on Roloson, but don't rule out a late surprise.
What about Steve Downie?
Downie skated Monday morning for about 15 minutes, and Boucher said he is feeling better after missing the third period of Game 4 because of a hit from Nathan Horton. Boucher said he needed to speak with his medical staff to see how Downie responded to the workout.
If Downie cannot play, Blair Jones will come back into the lineup and likely play on the fourth line. Adam Hall went up to the third unit next to Sean Bergenheim and Dominic Moore in Game 4. Dana Tyrell and Nate Thompson are other options. It did sound like Boucher is going to stick with 12 defensemen and six forwards, which has led to him sticking with his line combinations a little more than when he deployed 11 and 7 but by no means will the Lightning just roll four lines -- Boucher will still mix and match when he can.
Will any momentum carry over from the big comeback?
Guy Boucher has said he doesn't believe in momentum from game-to-game in the postseason, but he probably wouldn't mind if there is a little residual effect from Saturday after his team stormed back from a three-goal deficit and dominated the last 40 minutes of Game 4.
The Lightning could use a better start, something that has plagued them in each of the past three games. Tampa Bay scored 13 seconds into Game 2, but the Bruins dominated the rest of the first period and carried that into the second when they scored five unanswered goals. Boston has scored quickly in both Games 3 and 4 and forced Tampa Bay to chase -- it worked once but the Lightning can't expect comebacks like that often against the Bruins.