Going into the quarterfinal series the spotlight was on Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He had, after all won a Stanley Cup and kept the Penguins title hopes alive despite the injuries to superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But, as it turned out, a 41 year old journeyman goalie stole the show. Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson stopped 36 shots to earn his second career playoff shutout and send the Tampa Bay Lightning into the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
In an epic game seven, defensive struggle between two grinding teams, the Bolts prevailed 1-0. Roloson is now 6-0 in elimination games in his career, second only to Chico Resch who was 7-0. The Bolts netminder ended the series with a league leading .941 save percentage and 1.77 goals against average, second only to the Capitals Michal Neuvirth.
The Lightning won its third consecutive game and third road game while becoming the 24th team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a series.
For the first time in the entire series, the Bolts and Pittsburgh Penguins played a scoreless first period. The Lightning’s penalty kill remained near perfect stopping the Penguins twice with the man advantage.
Pittsburgh’s power play was 1 for 32 after the period. Tampa Bay was outshot 15-7 and the Penguins won 14 of 22 faceoffs. Pittsburgh controlled the play for much of the period, but Roloson stood tall. The Bolts best scoring opportunity occurred with 45 seconds left when Simon Gagne redirected a Nate Thompson shot toward the net. Marc-Andre Fleury made his best save of the night to keep the game scoreless.
Tampa Bay must have felt pretty good going to the locker room with the score tied. They had weathered the Penguins initial emotional storm.
The only goal of the game was scored by the Bolts Sean Bergenheim at 5:41 of the second period off a no look, backhand pass from Dominic Moore. For Bergenheim, it was his third goal in four games. Moore’s assist was his fourth point of the series. Steve Downie, the game six hero also assisted on the goal for his seventh point in the series.
Dwayne Roloson had to make only seven saves in the period as the defense tightened up very nicely.
Tampa Bay outshot the Penguins in the second period for the first time in the series, 11 to 7, but the superior goaltending of Fleury kept the Bolts from opening up a two goal margin. He made a brilliant, acrobatic glove save on defenseman Pavel Kubina’s power play shot.
Dwayne Roloson stopped all 14 shots the Penguins threw at him in the third period. The Lightning went into a defensive shell and held on to beat the Penguins. The contributions of Mattias Ohlund, Eric Brewer, Mike Lundin, Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark and Victor Hedman cannot be overlooked. Although Pittsburgh held the play in the Lightning zone for most of the period, the Bolts blueliners were magnificent.
The Lightning defensive corps was outstanding throughout the series, giving up less than two goals per game despite the team being outshot 257 to m180.
In a class move, the Penguins presented the Lightning with a game puck to commemorate their first series win since 2004. The Bolts will give the puck to assistant coach Wayne Fleming who is battling brain cancer. Fleming is the Bolts penalty kill coach, an area that the Lightning were near perfect in the series, giving up only one power play goal in 35 Penguins chances with the man advantage.
Tampa Bay will face a familiar foe, the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals starting on Friday in the Verizon Center in Washington.
Eastern Conference Semi-Final Schedule
No. 1 Washington Capitals vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Game 1: Friday, April 29 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. (VERSUS, TSN only)
Game 2: Sunday, May 1 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. (VERSUS, CBC only)
Game 3: Tuesday, May 3 at Tampa Bay, TBD (Sun Sports, VERSUS, TSN)
Game 4: Wednesday, May 4 at Tampa Bay, 7:00 p.m. (Sun Sports, TSN)
*Game 5: Saturday, May 7 at Washington, 12:30 p.m. (NBC, TSN only)
*Game 6: Monday, May 9 at Tampa Bay, TBD (Sun Sports, VERSUS, TSN)
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 11 at Washington, TBD (Sun Sports, VERSUS, TSN)
About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?