There were more than a few anxious moments along the way, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals after holding off the Boston Bruins 5-4 on Wednesday night to tie the best-of-seven series at three games apiece. Teddy Purcell scored twice, and Martin St. Louis’ second goal of the game turned out to be the game-winner.
Up 3-2 to begin the third period and on a carryover power play from the end of the second period, Steven Stamkos blasted a one-timer from his sweet spot near the left faceoff circle to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to two at the 0:36 mark. (The puck barely missed hitting St. Louis, who slid all the way into the net after being knocked down from behind by Chris Kelly.) But the Bruins responded near the halfway point in the third with their first road power-play goal of the playoffs. Nathan Horton held the puck along the left wing and waited for David Krejci to pop open, then put a quick centering pass onto Krejci’s stick for a tap-in goal before Mattias Ohlund or Dwayne Roloson could break up the play or make the save.
That goal pulled the Bruins to within 4-3, but the Lightning got their two-goal lead back just 29 seconds later. Stamkos got to a loose puck in his own end and lofted it up and out to center. St. Louis caught up to it and took off on a 2-on-1 break with Steve Downie. St. Louis passed to Downie, who waited for Tim Thomas to commit to him before sliding a pass back to St. Louis to bury into a wide-open net.
Krejci completed a hat trick by scoring a soft goal off a rebound at 13:28, and the Bruins brought heavy pressure over the last few minutes of the game as they tried to send the contest to overtime. But the Lightning were able to keep them at bay.
Neither goalie played particularly well. Roloson only stopped 16 of 20 shots, but still got the win because Thomas allowed five goals on 26 shots. Despite his relatively poor performance, Roloson improved to 7-0 in his playoff career when his team is facing elimination. If he can run that record to 8-0 on Friday, the Lightning will join the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.