In what might have been one of the best non-overtime games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning held on to beat the Boston Bruins 5-4 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning force a Game 7 in Boston at TD Garden on Friday night.
Things started well again for the Lightning. Rich Peverly was knocked out of a faceoff with Vincent Lecavalier, and replaced with Chris Kelly. Lecavalier, in turn, won the draw cleanly, and got it to Teddy Purcelly, who ripped a shot to the top corner that Tim Thomas never even saw through the screen of players. It was Purcell's fifth of the post-season, on Lecavalier's 12th assist, at just 36 seconds to make it 1-0. It was the fourth time in this series a goal had been scored within the first 70 seconds of a game, and the third time the Lightning did it.
However, some poor goaltending and turnovers killed the Lightning from there on in. Nathan Horton made a solid pass to Milan Lucic into the Tampa Bay zone. Lucic used Viktor Hedman as a screen and rifled a shot past Roloson. Despite the screen, the shot was arguably stoppable from the Tampa Bay netminder. Was it perhaps a mistake for head coach Guy Boucher to sit him in Game 5 for Mike Smith? Regardless, Lucic had his third of the playoffs at 7:09.
Boston got another goal that could be seen as a little off later in the period. Daniel Paille stole a puck from Steven Stamkos and got it to David Krejci, and he just sniped one to the top of the shelf to make it 2-1 Boston. It was at least the second time in the series that a Boston player has pick-pocketed Stamkos to get a goal, and another shot that Roloson might kick himself for not getting. It was Krejci's eighth of the post-season at 16:30, and Boston left the period with a 2-1 lead.
Denis Seidenberg went off for cross-checking at 7:39 of the second period, leading to the goal that tied the game for Tampa Bay. A scramble in front saw Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis get cracks at Tim Thomas. It was finally St. Louis who found the puck in front of the net and backhanded it behind Thomas to make it 3-2 Lightning. It was St. Louis' ninth of the post-season, and yet another multi-assist game for Lecavalier.
Later in the period, the Lightning went on the power play again, as Rich Peverly went off for interference at 11:52. Steve Downie got a pass along to Teddy Purcell, who ripped a shot short side as Thomas was unable to scamper across the netmouth to stop it. It was Purcell's second of the game, fifth of the series and sixth of the post-season. The last two times Tampa Bay has played at home, he has had two-goal games. The goal came at 13:35 to make it 3-2 Tampa, a lead they'd hold to end the second.
In the third, the Lightning immediately struck to give themselves a two-goal lead. Eric Brewer, who's been having a real bad luck game so far, made a great pass across to Steven Stamkos, who ripped a one-timer past Tim Thomas with Martin St. Louis lodged in the net from crashing it. It was Stamkos' sixth of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 34 seconds of the period to make it 4-2.
Boston got back within one mid-way through the second period, and for the first time in the playoffs, it was on a road power play. Nathan Horton made a great cross-ice pass within Zdeno Chara in front causing mis-direction. Dwayne Roloson went down, thinking the pass would go to Chara. However, hiding behind him was David Krejci, who was there to put it home, making it 4-3. It was Krejci's second of the game and ninth of the post-season at 9:46.
The Lightning got their two-goal lead returned to them in short order on one of the most exciting plays you'll see in the post-season. Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie went on a two-on-one, give-and-go that lead it to St. Louis depositing it easily behind Thomas. A brilliant little two-on-one with some great passing by St. Louis and Downie, who got his 12th assist of the playoffs. It was St. Louis' second of the game and 10th of the postseason, giving him the league lead ... for a few minutes.
Three minutes and 13 seconds later, Milan Lucic found David Krejci at the side of the net. He tried to jam the puck in, but it went off of a defender in front, and then Roloson knocked it in himself, in one of the stranger goals of the post-season. Krejci got himself a playoff hat trick, and his 10th of the playoffs, tying him with St. Louis for the league lead at 13:28. It wasn't enough though, as the Bruins pulled Tim Thomas with a little more than a minute to go, and couldn't get anything substantial set up on Roloson. There will be a seventh game on Friday night in Tampa Bay, for the right to play in Vancouver for Game 1 a week from tonight. Remember everyone who said this would be a boring, low-scoring series?