Lightning holds on for 5-4 win, forces a Game 7 with Boston
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Teddy Purcell (16) celebrates with teammates Nate Thompson (44) and Martin St. Louis after scoring against the Boston Bruins during Game 6 of the NHL Eastern Conference final in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday. Purcell scored twice as the Lightning won 5-4 to force a Game 7 in the series. That deciding contest will be played Friday in Boston. — Photo by The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell each scored twice, resilient goalie Dwayne Roloson weathered a hat trick by Boston’s David Krejci, and the Tampa Bay Lightning stayed alive in the Eastern Conference finals with a 5-4 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
Game 7 is Friday night in Boston. The Bruins are seeking their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 21 years, and the Lightning will try to clinch their first appearance on hockey’s biggest stage since they won their only NHL championship in 2004.
“We knew it was going to be a long series,” St. Louis said. “This is a good team. Comes down to one game. Luckily and fortunately, all our team has been through a Game 7. Some of us have played more but we’ve had that experience. So we know what to expect.
“The fourth win is always the toughest one to get and we know both teams will battle hard to get it.”
The Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks await the winner in the finals.
St. Louis delivered inspiring pre-game words in the locker-room,
He’s the heart and soul of our team,” young star Steven Stamkos said of St. Louis, a six-time all-star who is one of three players remaining on the roster from Tampa Bay’s only Stanley Cup championship team from seven years ago.
“He’s the first guy to step up and get the guys going. He’s obviously been through every type of experience and every single type of championship you could win, he’s been there. He’s won individual awards. He’s won the Stanley Cup and he’s always been a big part. He knows what to do and how to react in those situations.
“He stepped up before the game and said a few words, and just the respect he has from every single guy on the team, we take it to heart. ... He’s been our go-to guy, and he was again.”
St. Louis also assisted on a third-period goal that put the Lightning up 4-2. His second goal — and NHL-leading 10th of the playoffs — restored Tampa Bay’s two-goal lead after Boston pulled within 4-3 on one of two goals Krejci scored to keep the Bruins within striking distance in the closing minutes.
Roloson, who didn’t play in Game 5 after being pulled from two of the previous three games because of ineffectiveness, also gave up a pair of first-period goals and finished with 16 saves.
Boston’s Tim Thomas gave up another early goal, then struggled after Krejci and Milan Lucic scored to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead through one period.
“We knew it was going to be a long series. This is a good team. Comes down to one game. Luckily and fortunately, all our team has been through a Game 7. Some of us have played more but we’ve had that experience. So we know what to expect. Martin St. Louis
“I guess we solved (Thomas) for tonight,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. “But every game is an opportunity for them and for us. And I’m sure he’s going to come up big. He said they were going to win for sure. So I’m sure he’s going to come up big in the next game. So we’re expecting that.”
The Lightning took control when St. Louis, Purcell and Stamkos scored power-play goals within a 12-minute span of the second and third periods.
“Obviously (special teams) was a difference maker,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They scored three goals on the power play and it took us a long time to get our first one, and that certainly dictated the game. And what was more disappointing is probably the fact that, you know, I don’t know if I agree with those calls.”
Roloson improved to 7-0 in elimination games during his career, including 4-0 this post-season. The Lightning rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Pittsburgh in the first round, with their 41-year-old goalie shutting out the Penguins in Game 7 on the road.
Boucher gave backup goalie Mike Smith his first career playoff start Monday night, saying he felt Roloson — whose mid-season acquisition was one of the keys to Tampa Bay emerging as a contender — needed a “breather” after starting the Lightning’s first 15 post-season games.
Smith stopped 17 of 19 shots in the Game 5 loss, however Boucher didn’t hesitate to go back to Roloson with the Lightning facing elimination.
Thomas made 21 saves in after a superb performance in Game 5.
“The fourth win, they don’t give it to you, as we learned once again. Not that we were looking for them to give it to us. It’s just more proof that’s the way it goes,” said Thomas.
The Bruins hope to make the most of home-ice advantage Friday.
“We’ve been able to bounce back, but it’s going to be our toughest challenge. We need to put together a full 60 minutes and that’s going to be important going into the next game,” Lucic said.
“You have a chance to close it out and you don’t do it, being up 3-2 you get another chance,”