The Tampa Bay Lightning will be heading to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, securing their spot in the postseason with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the St Petersburg Times Forum. The Bolts jumped out to a 2 goal first period lead and were able to hang on despite a furious Penguins rally in what was most likely a preview of the first round playoff match-up.
Forward Steve Downie scored the first points of the contest, pushing a backhand past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just 5 minutes into the first period. Five minutes later, Martin St. Louis would net his 30th of the year on a quick wrist shot set up by a big physical hit by team captain Vincent Lecavalier. The two first period goals would prove to be enough as goal-tender Dwayne Roloson was sensational, stopping 36 shots as the Bolts were out-shot 37-24 by a inspired Penguins team.
Having lost Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin to injury, the Penguins have had to rely on strong goal-tending and scoring from some of their secondary and role players. Fleury was steady, but the Penguins were unable to get more than one puck past Roloson as Michael Rupp tallied the only goal for Pittsburgh on a lazy wrist shot that appeared to be tipping in by Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin's shoulder.
The Bolts have now won three games in a row, relying on a high energy level in each, and have turned momentum in their favor heading into the playoffs. They have also given themself a shot at catching Pittsburgh in the standings, which could mean home-ice for the first round match-up. Pittsburgh will remain at 98 points while the Lightning move closer at 95, just 3 points behind the 4th place Pens.
Up next for the Bolts is a three game road trip to Minnesota and Chicago over the weekend, and finishing in Buffalo on Tuesday. Thursday will mark the final regular season home game of the season as the Bolts host the Florida Panthers.