Lightning (46-25-11, 103 Points, 5th East) at Penguins (49-25-8, 106 Points, 4th East)
Eastern Conference Quarterfinal:Pittsburgh leads 3-1.
Regular Season Series: The two clubs split the four-game series during the regular season, with the home team winning each contest. Tampa Bay took the first and last meetings, both at the St. Pete Times Forum, while Pittsburgh won each of the two games in between at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Big Story: The Lightning find themselves in a must-win situation this afternoon as it faces elimination in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Tampa Bay is trying to avoid a first-round exit from the postseason, which it hasn’t done since the team won four consecutive playoff series on its way to capturing the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 2003-04. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is attempting to advance past the opening round for the fourth consecutive year.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will fight for its playoff lives tonight as the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. If necessary, the team will return home for Game 6, which will be played Monday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. For the second straight game, the Bolts battled back from a two-goal deficit and wooed the sellout crowd of 20,326 late in the third period as Sean Bergenheim tied the game at two to send the contest into overtime. Martin St. Louis also scored his fourth goal in three games to cut the deficit in half towards the end of the second period. Dwayne Roloson made some spectacular saves among the 53 shots faced, but lost sight of James Neal’s game-winner from the right boards early on in the second overtime period. Despite a deflated atmosphere in the locker room following the game, the team – including Roloson, Vincent Lecavalier and head coach Guy Boucher – expressed optimism by stating that with one game left to play in Pittsburgh, the series was far from over.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh returns to its home arena tonight to try and wrap up the first-round bout with the Lightning. The Penguins have proved they can compete just fine without their two biggest stars, as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Kennedy and Arron Asham have carried the team to two consecutive victories after it dropped Game 2 by an alarming 5-1 score. Asham and Kennedy had goals in Game 4 for the second straight contest and James Neal notched the game-winner in double overtime to give his team a favorable series lead heading home. Pittsburgh also broke its power play drought in Game 4, as Kennedy put its long overdue goal with the man advantage on the board to open the scoring in the first. The Penguins had gone a combined 0-for-15 with the extra attacker entering Wednesday’s game.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis has scored goals in three straight games and in all but one match of the series. Captain Vincent Lecavalier also has a goal and two assists in the first four games of the playoffs. Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham continues to find the back of the net for the Penguins, as he has scored goals for Pittsburgh in three of the four games, but has at least a point in each game of the first-round series. Tyler Kennedy has contributed a goal in each of the last two contests for Pittsburgh as well.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – None. PENGUINS – Sidney Crosby (concussion, questionable), Evgeni Malkin (knee, out for season), Dustin Jeffrey (knee, out for season) and Matt Cooke (suspension).
Notable Quotable: “You know, that’s been the focus of a lot of our meetings. Guys are teeing it up, trying to aim all the time. A lot of times we’re waiting for a perfect opportunity, and you can’t do that against this goalie. You have to grind it out and get a lot of shots on net. That’s how they won the overtime. It’s a shot, they don’t look where they’re shooting and it goes in. That’s what the playoffs are about. That’s why their forwards are doing so well. It’s not a secret.” – Guy Boucher, on how the different styles of both teams are determining the outcomes of games.