TAMPA, Fla. -- Simon Gagne knows a little something about finishing dramatic comebacks.
Gagne, who scored the winning goal that completed Philadelphia's rally from three games down and three goals down in Game 7 last season against Boston, helped the Tampa Bay Lightning erase a three-goal deficit Saturday afternoon at the St. Pete Times Forum, scoring the winner in a 5-3 victory to even the Eastern Conference Finals at two victories apiece.
Tampa Bay answered a three-goal first period by Boston with three of its own in the second. Gagne then put the Lightning in front at 6:54 of the third. Ryan Malone intercepted an outlet pass by Milan Lucic and carried it towards the right corner. He shoveled the puck toward the net, and it went off defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's skate right to Gagne, who beat Tim Thomas for his fourth goal of the postseason.
"It's a different year and a different team, but one thing that hasn't changed about him -- Gagne is a money player. He's a clutch player, and he's always been," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of the veteran forward, who came to Tampa Bay from Philadelphia in a trade last summer. "Whenever it's a big moment, you know he's there."
Tomas Kaberle had blocked a shot earlier in the shift and couldn't get to the bench because of Malone's interception. He was unable to get across the slot to reach Gagne before his shot, and also may have inhibited Thomas' ability to reach out to his right to make the save.
Gagne had a chance to add an empty-netter, but passed to Martin St. Louis instead for the clincher that sent the series back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday night all even.
"It's now best-of-three," Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone said. "We know nothing's really been accomplished, and they're going to be ready. It's going to be a battle to the end. We're expecting seven games."
After Boston dominated the first period, both physically and on the scoreboard, Tampa Bay responded with three goals in a span of 3:58 on a total of five shots to pull even.
Teddy Purcell made it 3-1 after Malone and Gagne sandwiched Zdeno Chara behind the Boston net and caused him to cough up the puck. It came to Purcell, who fumbled it at first, but settled it in the slot and zipped a backhander inside the far post at 6:55.
Purcell struck again 63 seconds later, this time with a nifty wrist shot from the right circle that beat Tim Thomas under the crossbar. Vinny Lecavalier tried a wraparound off the rush, but Thomas made a lunging right toe save. Lecavalier got it back and sent a pass to Mattias Ohlund, who forwarded it to Purcell for his fourth of the postseason.
Sean Bergenheim tied it with his League-leading ninth goal of the playoffs at 10:53. He and linemate Dominic Moore created chances with their forechecking on several shifts in the period; Bergenheim was able to knock Kaberle off the puck behind the Boston net and beat Thomas to knot the score at 3-3.
"We just lost our focus," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We played really well in the first period -- not because of what the score was, but we did the right things and we took that lead. The message was pretty clear; we had to continue playing the same way.
"Somehow, we started getting stretched out again. They started getting speed, they started getting momentum. After they scored a few goals, we almost looked like we were paralyzed out there. We weren't reacting, we weren't moving, and it snowballed from there."
The Bruins, coming off a 2-0 win in Game 3 on Thursday, appeared to be in complete control of the series after the opening 20 minutes on Saturday.
The first of Patrice Bergeron's goals came off a turnover behind the Lightning net. Victor Hedman tried to bank a backhanded pass off the end boards to partner Brett Clark, but he couldn't corral it and Bergeron was there to tuck it inside the left post and open the scoring at 11:47.
Michael Ryder made it a 2-0 lead at 16:34, thanks to a fortunate bounce. Ryder skated into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 after a neutral-zone turnover and tried to make a pass. Instead, the puck deflected off defenseman Mike Lundin's stick and into the net as Dwayne Roloson could not stop his momentum while sliding to his left.
Bergeron benefited from a pair of Tampa Bay gaffes to score a shorthanded goal at 17:58 for a 3-0 lead. The Lightning had a power play, but two bad passes -- one that was deflected out of the zone to Steven Stamkos and then one by him that Bergeron picked off -- led to a shorthanded chance. Bergeron beat Roloson between the legs with a shot from just outside the left circle.
That was the end of Roloson's afternoon, as he was pulled for the second time in three games after yielding three goals on nine shots. Mike Smith relieved him and stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first career playoff victory.
The Lightning became the third team in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs to rally from a deficit of three or more goals to win -- the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals each did it in the first round.
"We knew we could do it," Boucher said of the comeback. "We've been extremely resilient. We came back so many times this year, and everyone knows that in the third period we keep coming and coming."
The Bruins knew they let one get away.
"When you're up, you almost sit back a bit," forward Brad Marchand said. “You think that the game is over and that's what we did. We thought that we had them."
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