2011 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 - Tampa Bay 5, Boston 4 – Series tied, 3-3
Because two elite goal scorers are better than one, the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals will go the limit.
In a series that’s been all over the place in terms of the flow of action and the fleeting nature of momentum, it’s only fitting that the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins – who sported identical 46-25-11 records during the season – will carry equal 11-6 playoff records into a Game 7 on Friday night.
Yes, the Lightning got off the deck Wednesday night in Game 6. Playing at home inside the St. Pete Times Forum, the Bolts scored five goals for the fourth time in this series to earn one more plane flight to New England. Boston’s David Krejci might have produced a hat trick in a pressure-cooker situation, but the Lightning were able to trump that with a pair of two-goal outings from Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell. The Bolts amassed a 5-3 lead with 9:45 left in regulation and held on for a one-goal win, as this labyrinthine best-of-seven showdown wound its way to a one-game decider.
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The story of this game was not so much that St. Louis delivered a two-goal night for head coach Guy Boucher’s fifth-seeded team, which won its fourth elimination game of the playoffs in as many outings. It’s that Purcell, a much lesser name but a kid with an emerging knack for delivering the goods, was also able to put the puck in the net on two occasions. It was Purcell who answered the call last Saturday in Game 4, when the Lightning, trailing by three goals, mounted a furious comeback and snagged 5-3 win that kept them afloat in the series. Purcell’s shooting accuracy and feisty effort gave ballast to the Tampa team that’s trying to win its second Stanley Cup in the past seven seasons (the 2005 campaign being called off, of course, by the lockout). Teams need unexpected stars over the course of a big playoff run, and so it was that Purcell – who scored in the first minute of the game and then gave his team the lead for good on a goal at 13:35 of the second period – provided tipping-point moments for Tampa. Boston, down 4-2, pulled within a goal on two occasions in a wild third period, as Krejci twice lit the lamp to create added tension in the building. However, the Lightning, with goalie Dwayne Roloson back in net after being shelved in Game 5, were able to fend off the Bruins in the closing minutes, making five goals stand up as any good team should.
The thing to watch for in Game 7 is the early-game goal. When Purcell scored just 36 seconds into Game 6, it marked the fourth time this series that a team has scored in the first two minutes of a game. While it’s true that Tampa Bay has twice registered comeback wins in this series, an early deficit in a Game 7 is a very risky proposition. A wild set of six games might promise more mayhem this Friday, but the Lightning, like the Bruins, have to be on high alert in their own zone. The team that can apply defensive clamps while getting a rare good night from its goaltender is the team that will advance to meet the Vancouver Canucks in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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