TAMPA, FL - MAY 25: Teddy Purcell #16 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his first period goal with teammates in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete Times Forum on May 25, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning forced Game 7 with a come-from-behind win against the Boston Bruins in Game 6, but just like this entire series, it wasn't all that pretty.
When aspiring hockey players are growing up, between 4:30 a.m. alarms, countless gallons of coffee and still countless miles traveled, their parents and coaches tell them that if they want to make it to the NHL, they have to learn to play for 60 minutes.
Both Tampa Bay and Boston could use some of that advice.
After the first period of Game 2, the Lightning led 2-1. They lost, 6-5. After 20 minutes of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bruins led 3-0. They lost 5-3. After 20 minutes of Game 5, Tampa lead 1-0. They lost, 3-1.
And after 20 minutes of Game 6 Wednesday night in Tampa Bay, Boston led 2-1. And they lost, 5-4.
Those who were expected to excel in the series, did; David Krejci netted a hat trick for Boston, while Martin St. Louis had two goals and Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier had multi-point nights for Tampa Bay.
But it was once again Tampa's secondary scoring that won the Lightning the game. Teddy Purcell scored 36 seconds into the game to give the Bolts an early lead, and again at 13:35 of the second period to give the Lightning a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
It was not the hot start that won the game for Tampa, but rather their workmanlike second period, which saw them earn three power plays, both of which they converted on (the third penalty carried over into the third period, and they converted on that as well).
Heading into the series, Tampa was undefeated (7-0) in the playoffs when scoring first. They're now 9-2. The Bruins were 6-0. They're now 7-1. The rule? It doesn't matter what the score is after 20 minutes. What does matter, it seems, is what the scoreboard says before the third period begins.
When leading after two periods, neither Tampa nor Boston has lost a game this series - or this postseason, for that matter - and neither team has won when trailing after the second period, either.
It wasn't, to be sure, the type of game that either team's going to draw much from. Flukey goals and soft goaltending abound, and the on-ice product didn't look much different from that in Game 2, which, while exciting to the fans, was nothing for either team to be proud of.
But what should concern Boston is that their penalty kill - which had held the wicked talented Lightning power play to just two goals in five games over the course of the series - was a no-show, allowing Tampa to score on their first three power play chances.
The rhetoric from the visiting locker room will be no different. The Bruins, after all, are a very good team five-on-five, and if they can stay out of the penalty box, they can break Tampa down physically. And if they do that, they'll be able to get Tampa in the box, which is when Guy Boucher's team loses their flow, like they did in the first period Wednesday.
What should concern Tampa is just that -- Boucher's got to be out of cards to play in his regularly-scheduled press conference mind games. What should concern Tampa more is that Tim Thomas hasn't been one to have two bad games in a row these playoffs, and that the Bruins have only lost two in a row once since March 17th.
The Bruins respond to adversity. The Lightning - despite battling back from a three-games-to-one deficit to Pittsburgh in the conference quarterfinals - have seemed to whine a lot about it lately. At least they did, until Wednesday night, when they kept moving their legs until good things happened. Which makes sense, considering the nature of the series.
They will return to Boston shortly after their postgame responsibilities are completed. They will play one game Friday night. For one team, it will be their last game of the season. For another, it will provide them with a ticket to Vancouver and a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Just don't expect it to be the team that starts the game strong.
Read more on the Eastern Conference Final at our Lightning vs. Bruins series hub. Get local coverage on the Bruins at SB Nation Boston and Stanley Cup of Chowder. Get local coverage on the Lightning at Raw Charge and SB Nation Tampa Bay.