The Tampa Bay Lightning went into today’s nationally televised game against the Boston Bruins with the entire hockey world believing that their successful run was coming to a close. This was especially true after Boston took back home-ice advantage by winning the last two games to take a 2-1 series lead.
Well that adversity even got a little deeper for the Lightning, as they fell behind 3-0 after one period in this afternoon’s game.
Then something happened along the way. Head Coach Guy Boucher and the leaders on this team did something they have done countless times this year, banding together as a group and demonstrating that they are here for the long haul in this series, and perhaps even further. They came back from a three goal deficit to win the game 5-3 in what was an electric atmosphere at the St. Pete Times Forum.
During the improbable run the Lightning are on in these Stanley Cup playoffs, they have used a lot of unsung heroes along with the way to help them to their success. Saturday was no different, as they received contributions from guys like Teddy Purcell, who scored two goals, and team superhero Sean Bergenheim, who scored the game tying goal tonight. And of course, there was also backup goalie Mike Smith, who relieved a shell-shocked Dwayne Roloson and stopped all 21 shots he faced in the last two-plus periods of action.
The game did not start off well for the Lightning, with an early mistake by the defense pair of Brett Clark and Victor Hedman proving costly. The duo fumbled the puck right onto the stick of Patrice Bergeron, who was able to bang it through Roloson’s five-hole to give the Bruins an early 1-0 lead at 11:47 of the first period.
The uncharacteristic mistakes by the Lightning continued, as Marc-Andre Bergeron and Steven Stamkos turned pucks over at the blue line which directly led to unassisted goals by Michael Ryder and Bergeron — his second — to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead. All three goals scored in a 6:11 timeframe which chased Roloson from the game and gave way to Smith (with 2:02 left in the first period).
The Lightning went in between periods and settled down, Boucher talked about doing nothing more than just staying calm with the team telling them they had to just relax and play their game. First things first, they had to kill off a penalty at the start of the period, and then the team came out flying.
It was that pressure by Tampa that gave you a feeling in the building that Thomas was losing control of his emotions a little bit and it gave the Lightning some life. Purcell scored two goals in about three minutes in the second period to cut the deficit to 3-2.
The first goal by Purcell was a direct reflection of the “Man of the Match,” Ryan Malone. It was his physical play and more importantly it was his presence in front of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas that maybe was the turning point in this series, should Tampa come back to win.
The Tampa forwards knew before the game that they had to make Tim Thomas uncomfortable in his crease and they did just that tonight. The team took notice to the press conference in which Thomas said that it was an easy night when he put together a 31-shot shutout on Thursday. Well, tonight all that changed, as Tampa got in Thomas’s head and in his kitchen as they bumped and whacked him It seemed to emotionally take Thomas off his game and cause him to lose concentration.
Malone talked about what Thomas said after the game.
“We heard he said that it was an easy night in the last game and we were determined not to let that happen again,” he said. “So we made sure we bumped and whacked his when we could.”
The Lightning came all of the way back in the second period as Sean Bergenheim blew the roof off the St Pete Times Forum. He won a one-on-one battle with Tomas Kaberle of the Bruins, walked in front of Thomas’s net, and scored to tie the game at three.
The comeback was then completed as Malone grabbed an errant pass by Lucic and dished the puck to Simon Gagne in the slot. Gagne buried his wrist shot for the 4-3 lead.
It was just relentless pressure from the Lightning as they continued to come in waves and Thomas finally broke under the barrage.
Martin St. Louis brought the crowd to dance in the aisles as they sang “Louie Louie” as the Bolts ready to go back to Boston with all the momentum on the back of this epic comeback.
“The team just lost focus in the second period, and they stopped winning the battles or the races which are things they do for success,” Bruins coac Claude Julien felt after the game.
Boucher answered the biggest question after the game about his goaltending as he said that the team was coming back with Roloson for game five and rightly so as he played lights out for most of the playoffs.
“We have our No. 1 goaltender,” Boucher stated, “and he has taken us to these places so for this year.”
If you have followed this team all year long his decision to come right back to Roloson in Game 5 is no surprise, now the national media members still seem to be set on making it into a story during the off day. Now it should be safe to say that Boucher will probably have a very short leash for Roloson with the idea that he will have no problem turning to Smith to change momentum at any point in the playoffs going forward.
So the demons in the minds of Bruins players, management, and fans will be front in center as they have blown another three goal lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs in two straight years.
Last year it was in Game 7 of the series against Philadelphia. Will Boston be able to bounce back, or will the Bolts step on their throats in Game 5 Monday night?