Kessel, Thomas lift Bruins over LightningDec 1, 2006 - 3:16 AM
Kessel scored the only shootout goal in the seventh round to lead the Bruins to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The fifth overall selection in the draft this past June, Kessel skated in and fired the puck over goaltender Marc Denis' glove for the deciding tally. The 19-year-old has scored just five goals in regulation in 23 games this season.
"It feels good to help our team win," Kessel said. "Whenever they call your name, you try to get out there to help the team win. I knew I was going to go to the left side, fake and go upstairs, and that's what I did. I was just watching the goalie and I figured out what I wanted to do."
"Most of the time when you bring it into a shootout, it's a roll of the dice," said Denis, who is 0-6-1 in his last seven starts. "When it gets down to the seventh shooter, that's what happens. It is a roll of the dice. That's what it comes down to."
Denis' unfamiliarity with Kessel did not help in the bonus format.
"There are guys who sometimes go back to old tendencies," Denis said. "Kessel, being a righthander, maybe I could have put that glove up sooner to try and take it away. You never know. I'm not going to question myself there."
Netminder Tim Thomas preserved the victory and improved to 8-2-0 in his last 10 starts by denying Ruslan Fedotenko on Tampa Bay's final attempt.
"It was definitely stressful going into the last shooter," said Thomas, a University of Vermont product. "I tried not to show it. I was watching Denis making some saves down the other end, and he looked really solid. I was thinking to myself that this was going to be a battle. This isn't going to be one where it's just given to us."
With the game tied at 2-2 in the third period, Vincent Lecavalier gave the Lightning the lead when he took Fedotenko's feed from behind the net and slid the puck past Thomas at 9:50.
But the Bruins pulled even just 65 seconds later as Glen Murray received a a pass in the slot from Marc Savard and drilled a shot between Denis' pads.
The Lightning were 0-for-6 on the power play, while the Bruins were denied on their two opportunities with the extra skater.
"I thought our team played hard," said Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella, whose club fell to 1-5-2 in their last eight meetings with the Bruins. "I thought we played well. I thought everybody contributed, but our power play has to stay consistent, and it's finally gotten to where we want to get it to, and then we just screw it up."
Former Vermont stars Eric Perrin and Martin St. Louis also scored and Denis finished with 22 saves for Tampa Bay, which fell to 2-1 in shootouts this season. St. Louis has five goals and five assists in his last six games.
Brad Boyes and P.J. Axelsson tallied and Thomas stopped 31 shots for the Bruins, who have won eight of their last 10 contests.
"We're climbing," Thomas said. "Nobody can take it easy because it's just as easy to go back to that (bad start) as it was hard to get out of it."
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