with Wendy Eckhardt
Tampa, Fl. (RSEN)
SERIES TURNING POINT?As Lightning GM Steve Yzerman walked toward the Lightning dressing room after game four Saturday afternoon I couldn’t help but notice the look on his face. It was a look of serious determination. This win could be a huge turning point in this Eastern Conference Final Series. For Yzerman’s right hand man, Guy Boucher and the Tampa Bay Lightning just pulled off an amazing hockey comeback.
Why I say it was amazing was not because only the fact that the Bolts were down 3-0 after the first twenty minutes. It was that the three tallies under Boston on the scoreboard were all Christmas gifts in May. If this was a football game the Lightning put themselves in a hole by throwing three interceptions for touchdowns.
To add insult to injury, at the 20:00 mark, a melee broke out behind the Boston goal. End result, co-incidental fighting majors to Tampa’s Marc-Andre Bergeron and Boston’s Rich Peverly, but the big blow a 10 minute misconduct and a 2 minute roughing minor for Steve Downie. The Lightning would start the second period short-handed.
I couldn’t imagine how anyone could turn those twenty minutes into positives. If you could of asked anyone in attendance or watching on NBC; could this game be possibly turned around? The answers really did not matter; because there were 20 guys beneath the stands that were convinced by Coach Guy Boucher and his staff it could be.
Guy Boucher said after the game, “I don’t want to take any credit for the players doing well on the ice, they do it. Obviously as part of a staff I got to say and act a certain way but I think everybody knows we’ve been extremely resilient this year whether it starts from me or anybody on our staff. And our leaders they are ones that do it I just think that we came back so many times this year and everybody knows the third period we just keep coming and keep coming and keep coming.” Boucher humbly said later, “I don’t do anything, I don’t do anything the players do everything. We can direct them as a staff, as a group…they do everything, they’re the ones who deserve everything, they pay the price on the ice, they’re the ones that get dressed, they’re the one ones that get hurt to make plays happen and they get all the credit.”
THE GIVE AWAY – FIRST PERIOD
At times Victor Hedman looks like just looks plain aweful. Boston’s star center Patrice Bergeron lit the light for the Bruins at 11:47 of the first, unassisted. Hedman banked a poor pass off the end board handcuffing defense-mate Brett Clark. Hedman, who has struggled all series just simply gift wrapped the puck for Bergeron (without a bow) who easily beat Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson five hole. 1-0 boys from Bean-town. Hedman would rebound and tighten up his game finishing with 24:11 of ice time, a plus 2 and 1 assist.
On the second Boston goal Marc Andre Bergeron just coughed up the puck in the neutral zone to Bruins right winger Michael Ryder, who skated in by Mike Lundin like he was standing still. This came at the 16:34 mark with Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle getting the helpers.
The third Boston goal at 17:58, Patrice Bergeron nets his second one, unassisted, from the tape of Steven Stamkos. It was shorthanded while Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was serving a two minute sentence for holding the stick. Vinny Lecavalier won the offensive zone draw cleanly back to Eric Brewer who was on the left point; Brewer slid the puck across out of the zone which was corralled by Stamkos. Stamkos then attempted a pass back to Brewer that was easily picked by Bergeron. Oh no! The air just left the venue formerly known as the Ice Palace. The Boston fans grew louder and the Lightning fans collectively were hit in the gut and you could practically hear the air leave their bodies.
Dwayne Roloson would be relieved by Mike Smith.
At the first intermission and the score 3-0 Boston, the arrogance and obnoxiousness of the Bruins fans began.
THE COME BACK – SECOND PERIOD
The period started out the only positive way it could for the Lightning. Killing off the Downie roughing call, and a goal early.With almost seven minutes gone in the period, Tampa’s Ryan Malone, who ended up being the number star, delivered a solid hit on Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara behind and the Boston goal which turned into the Lightning’s first goal. Simon Gagne collected the loose rubber and delivered a pass to Teddy Purcell who patiently maneuvered a backhand past Thomas at 6:55.
Malone made the last forty minutes miserable for the Bruins in front of their goalie Tim Thomas.
Just 1:08 later Teddy Purcell was at it again. The Lightning showed great offensive poise and puck movement. Purcell took a pass from Mattias Ohlund, skated left and drilled a wrist shot top shelf over the left shoulder of Tim Thomas. Vinny Lecavalier picked up the secondary assist as he gave Ohlund a good pass to the left point. The Bolts now trailed by just one and you could feel the Lightning fans get some wind back.
After the game Teddy Purcell said, “I was coming off a change on the first one and Gags (Simon Gagne) and Bugsy (Ryan Malone) did a real good job on causing pressure and taking the man and Gags made a real nice play and I just kind of faked the shot, the d committed to me and just put on net and Thomas was a little out of position. The second one was the same shift we came down and put pressure on them and Mattais Ohlund made a good pass across ice we had guys on net and the numbers there and I don’t think Thomas saw it and I put it on net and luckily it went in so it was a good shift for me one I will always remember that’s for sure!”
As RSEN deems the “Thor Line” strikes at 10:53 raising the roof off; a new game in Tampa Bay. Sean Bergenheim from Dominic Moore and the scoreboard all of sudden read 3-3. Bergenheim working hard, as always, battles two Bruins for possession behind the goal, carries the biscuit in front and buries past Thomas.
This dream period would not go without some bad news for the Lightning. At 17:25 of the period Boston right winger Nathan Horton was called for roughing as he ran Steve Downie’s head into the glass behind the Lightning goal. Downie would leave the game (not turn return) obviously shaken bad and Adam Hall would have to serve Downie’s diving penalty. Yes I just said that, diving penalty! Diving penalty??? Coach Boucher said afterwards of Downie, “He’s day-to-day, starting today.”
Mike Smith stood tall in relief with 13 saves in the period. Forty minutes booked, with Bostonians in disbelief, it’s tied at three.
WANTING IT MORE AND CLOSING THE DEAL
A tight contested third period the first few minutes had me wondering, I hope there’s enough coffee in the press box for overtime…
And just then:
Simon Gagne gave the Bolts their first lead of the game at the 6:54 mark bringing the building even louder. Ryan Malone sped into the zone beating the defense to the right then dropping a perfect pass to Gagne who did not waste it. 4-3 Bolts. Coach Boucher said of Gagne after the game, “But there’s one thing that never changed and that’s Gagne is a money player, he’s clutch player, he’s always been and I guess when he’s not is because he’s retired….. whenever it’s a big moment, you know he’s there. And again tonight.”
Again and again the Lightning was one step ahead of Boston in the third. The defense was hustling, hitting and taking care of the puck.
Mike Smith kept turning away Boston shots and on one close call, recovering from a giveaway of his own. The defense seemed to say, Smitty-you’re our back-up and we’re behind you to back you up. I noticed on a few good Boston looks the cavalry in front of Smith gave him good lanes to see the puck well. Smith would finish the contest with 42:02 time on ice, no goals allowed stopping 21 Boston shots. The relief performance was enough to earn Smith the third star.
As every second melted off the clock, it was apparent the Bolts were going to leave all on the ice not and not let this monumental comeback slip away. Marty St. Louis closed the deal with an empty netter at 19:23 when he and Simon Gagne skated in two on one. Gagne feed St. Louis and done! 5-3 final.
On a side note: As the team Vinny Lecavalier captains executed forty minutes of intestinal fortitude on this comeback his friend, Indy car driver Alex Tagliani became the first Canadian to capture the pole of the Indianapolis 500.