Tim Thomas rebounded from two tough games, making 31 saves for his first playoff shutout this season and second overall as visiting Boston beat Tampa Bay, 2-0, last night.

Andrew Ference and David Krejci scored to help the Bruins 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 tomorrow in Tampa.

Patrice Bergeron returned to Boston's lineup after missing two games because of a concussion sustained when he was hit by the Flyers' 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.

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.

"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."

Noteworthy

* Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair an adductor tendon and a sports hernia. The injury had nagged Samuelsson all season.

* The Detroit Red Wings announced that assistant coach Brad McCrimmon won't return next season. McCrimmon's contract expired last week.