Lightning (46-25-11, 103 Points, 5th East) at Bruins (46-25-11, 103 Points, 3rd East)
Eastern Conference Final: Series tied 3-3.
Regular Season Series: Despite entering the Eastern Conference Finals with identical records and a matching point total, the Bruins took three of four games from the Lightning during the regular campaign. None of those victories, however, were earned against goaltender Dwayne Roloson, as two of them occurred prior to his arrival in Tampa Bay, while the other came against Mike Smith. Prior to losing three straight to the Bruins, the Lightning took the first contest of the regular season series on Nov. 22.
The Big Story: For the fourth time this postseason, the Lightning staved off elimination to force a decisive seventh game following a 5-4 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum Wednesday night. Tampa Bay will play in its fourth Game 7 in franchise postseason history tonight, with the odds in its favor as it enters this evening’s decisive game with an all-time Game 7 record of 3-0-0. With Wednesday’s win, Dwayne Roloson also extended his record to 7-0-0 in postseason elimination games, a mark that he hopes to extend once more tonight en route to sending the Bolts to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2004 and just the second time in club history.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will play at the TD Garden tonight in its second Game 7 of the 2011 postseason. The Lightning are bidding to earn a trip the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2004, when it defeated the Calgary Flames, also in seven games. With their backs against the wall, the Bolts stars delivered in Wednesday’s Game 6 contest, as Martin St. Louis scored twice and Steven Stamkos also added a goal in the 5-4 victory. Teddy Purcell scored two goals for the second time in his past three contests. Together, St. Louis, Stamkos and captain Vincent Lecavalier combined for three goals and eight points in the victory. Tampa Bay’s special teams proved to be the key, as the Lightning converted on three of four power-play opportunities while also killing off three of four Bruins chances with the man advantage. After being pulled early twice in three games, Dwayne Roloson turned in a 16-save effort, as the Bruins were held to just 20 shots on goal, a series low, for the second straight game.
BRUINS – The Bruins are attempting to avoid a Game 7 loss for the third consecutive year tonight, as they also attempt to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990. Boston must do it at home tonight after it failed to clinch Wednesday night following a 5-4 loss to the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum. David Krejci notched three goals in the game, accounting for the first-ever hat trick recorded against the Lightning in the club’s playoff history, but for the fourth time in six games throughout the series, goaltender Tim Thomas allowed five goals, including two to Teddy Purcell to start the match which set the tone for the remainder of regulation. Boston, to its credit, did not go quietly. It came back from a two-goal deficit twice, but got into trouble as it allowed three power-play goals to Tampa Bay, while converting just one power-play goal in its own end.
Who’s Hot: The Lightning’s Simon Gagne has scored a goal in two of the past three games, Teddy Purcell has recorded a multi-goal game in two of his past three contests as well and Martin St. Louis has three goals and four points in his last three for the Bolts. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron has three points in as many games since returning from injury. Nathan Horton also has collected three points in his past two games for the Bruins. David Krejci also has six points in his past five outings.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Pavel Kubina (upper body, day-to-day) and Sean Bergenheim (day-to-day). BRUINS – None.
Notable Quotable: “It's one of the toughest, if not the toughest, to win. There's so much you have to battle and go through. The fourth game is always the hardest to win.” – Steven Stamkos, on the challenges of playing in a Game 7.