|FINAL 2nd OT||1||2||3||2nd OT||T|
Resiliency has been a trademark of the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, and it was on full display Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For the second straight game, Tampa Bay found itself mired in a two-goal hole before Martin St. Louis cut the deficit to one with a goal to spark a late rally, as the Bolts battled through nearly an extra 24 minutes of hockey before falling 3-2 in double overtime to the Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The loss made for an emotionally deflated locker room following the game, but with the Lightning having faced adversity before, most notably in the final weeks of the regular season, head coach Guy Boucher was hesitant to even entertain the idea that his club’s season was soon to end.
“I’m one of those guys who believes it’s possible until there’s absolutely no time left,” Boucher said. “I’ve seen it before and I’ve done it before. These series are never about momentum, they’re about desperation.”
James Neal notched the game-winner 3:38 into the extra session as Pittsburgh now holds a 3-1 advantage in the first-round bout of the series, which shifts to the CONSOL Energy Center for Game 5 Saturday afternoon.
Neal’s shot from the right boards beat Lightning net minder Dwayne Roloson, who helped his team rally back from a 2-0 deficit with a 50-save performance. The goal was just Neal's second as a Penguin and first since Mar. 8, but more importantly, negated a Lightning comeback after getting the game into the extra session despite being down by a pair of goals.
“As long as you keep shooting, one is going to find its way into the back of the net,” Neal said. “I didn’t have the angle, but it managed to find its way in. I was lucky to get one there.”
Tyler Kennedy and Arron Asham also had goals for the Penguins, who improved to 22-16 in playoff overtime games. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves.
With his team trailing 2-0 and being outplayed, St. Louis got the Lightning and the sellout crowd at their home arena back into the game at 17:14 of the second period when he scored on a nifty individual effort. He cut the deficit in half at 17:14 to go in the middle frame after skating down the right boards and drifting the puck to himself under the stick of Pittsburgh defenseman Ben Lovejoy to beat Fleury with a wrist shot to the far post.
The task then fell on Sean Bergenheim, who couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first career postseason goal.
As the electric atmosphere was beginning to dwindle in the final minutes of the third, a mad scramble out in front of the Pittsburgh net resulted in Bergenheim’s game-tying goal at 16:43. With St. Louis and Dominic Moore in front, Bergenheim lifted a backhand over Fleury, rolled over on his back, to even the contest with just over three minutes to go and liven the crowd as it the game headed into overtime.
“It was a huge goal,” Bergenheim said. “I got a good shot from the point and was in front of the net, so it was a big goal, but a typical playoff goal. I’ve seen a lot like that.”
It seemed as if for the second consecutive game, Pittsburgh set the tone early on, getting a pair of goals to jump out in front and quickly put their opponents in an unfavorable position.
Kennedy first opened the scoring with the man advantage at 8:14. With Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier sent off for a holding penalty, Kennedy tucked a hard wrist shot between Roloson’s arm and the near post to make it 1-0.
The goal, if not a boost of momentum, at least served as a sigh of relief for a team that had gone a combined 0-for-15 on the power play through the series’ first three games.
Asham’s rebound through the legs of Roloson then put Pittsburgh up by two early on in the second. Roloson first stopped an initial slap shot from the slot, but the rebound kicked out directly onto the stick of the Pittsburgh wing, who buried it home at 2:39. After notching just five goals throughout the regular season, Asham has three in his first four games of the first-round series.
“It’s tough when you’re down two goals and nothing is working in the first period and in the early part of the second,” defenseman Pavel Kubina said. “I know there are a lot of emotions flying up and down, but we have to better to start the game. Last game and tonight, our first period was not good.”
Pittsburgh controlled play in the first period and resumed its up-tempo style in the second, getting a quick reward on Asham’s harmless-looking wrist shot from the right circle. The Penguins’ penalty-killing unit did just as good of a job in support of their goaltender, not only denying the Lightning on four power-play chances throughout the night, but limiting them to only three shots during an advantage late in the first overtime session. Tampa Bay had scored four power-play goals in the first three games, but was held without one Wednesday night.
“We just have to move forward,” Lecavalier said. “We knew coming into this series that it was going to be an emotional roller coaster. We’ve just got to handle it the right way now and make sure we’re ready to go to go get a win in their building.”
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.