In a game that straddled the line between “wildly entertaining” and “disturbingly sloppy,” the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins 5-4 in Game 6. This exciting win pushes the Eastern Conference finals to a Game 7 in Boston on Friday.
Each teams’ top line came up big in this contest, but Dwayne Roloson pushed his record in elimination games to 7-0 because his team was just a little bit better.
Tampa Bay 5, Boston 4; Series tied 3-3
It seemed like special teams would be the story of this game going into a wacky third period. The Lightning scored on their first three power play opportunities while the Bruins carried an 0-for-25 road PP mark into the final frame before David Krejci finally broke that slump with his second goal of the game.
Ultimately, the Lightning survived a poor performance by Roloson (four goals allowed on 20 shots), a hat trick by Krejci* and various plot twists to win Game 6.
Big games from big names and unsung heroes
Tampa Bay’s biggest names combined for eight points: Martin St. Louis produced two goals and one assist, Steven Stamkos scored a goal and added two helpers and Vincent Lecavalier had two assists of his own. Yet the Bolts were also powered by great performances by lesser known threats.
Steve Downie continues to be Tampa Bay’s version of Alex Burrows, providing a great mix of power and skill that compliments his talented linemates nicely. He finished with two assists, including a great pass that foiled an overly aggressive Tim Thomas and allowed St. Louis to score what would be the game-winning 2-on-1 goal.
Teddy Purcell showed that he might be an even bigger unsung hero than Sean Bergenheim, who missed tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury. Purcell scored two goals tonight, including a nice shot from a Lecavalier faceoff win that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead just 36 seconds into the game. Purcell now has 17 points, matching Joe Thornton for fifth place in the 2011 playoffs.
This time around, the Lightning were able to protect an early lead against Boston. They rebounded from allowing the Bruins to take a 2-1 lead into the second period by out-playing them for the rest of the contest. Tampa Bay scored the game’s next three goals to take a 4-2 lead, but the Bruins were pesky in the closing minutes. Krejci scored that PP goal to make it 4-3 and then St. Louis fired back about 30 seconds later to make it 5-3. Krejci capped off his great performance by scoring a hat trick goal 13:28 into the third, but the Lightning managed to hang on anyway.
Not a banner night for defense or goaltending
Every time this series seems like it will sink back to the tight-checking, defense-first style most were expecting, the two teams put together the type of contest that would fit in well in the wide-open 1980’s. The Bruins won a wacky 6-5 Game 2 by winning the second period and doing just enough to hang on in the final frame; the Lightning flipped that script tonight.
Even though both defenses hung their goalies out to dry, Roloson and Thomas cannot be happy with their performances.
It seems unfair for the Bruins to place so much of a burden on their Vezina Trophy candidate, but it almost feels like they need Thomas to stand on his head to win most of these games. He’s done that quite often, but the Bolts have too many talented forwards to bottle them up every night.
Roloson won yet another elimination game, but he struggled against the Bruins yet again. It’s unlikely that the Lightning would turn to Mike Smith in Game 7, but they need steadier play from their 41-year-old netminder on Friday. We’ll cover all the angles for that contest, which will air on Versus at 8 p.m. ET.
* Krejci scored the Bruins’ first playoff hat trick since Cam Neely accomplished that feat in 1991.