TAMPA, Fla. -- Through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning thrived in part because of their work on the power play, converting more than 27 percent of their opportunities.
Through the first five games of the Eastern Conference Finals, an outage on the power play was one of the biggest reasons the Lightning were facing elimination in Game 6. Tampa Bay found its magic with the extra man Wednesday night and will play for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final because of it.
"To be honest, our last couple games, we just haven't been there, not many scoring chances," Martin St. Louis said. "Sometimes it's not about scoring but it's about gaining momentum. Our second unit has done that the last few games. They played really well in the power play. It's kept us in some games momentum-wise. Last couple of games, I feel we squeezed our sticks a little bit [on the first unit]. Not enough poise -- I think tonight we just let go. We said just let's go play, nothing to lose here. Our backs are against the wall. Let's go play, and we got rewarded by putting the puck on net."
Added coach Guy Boucher: "First of all, more poise. The last two games, one of our power plays had a lot of poise and the other one didn't. And I think today both power plays had a lot more poise. We got the results out of the poise that we had with the puck, managing it a lot better."
Boston had the first three power plays of the game, but the Lightning's typically terrific penalty kill kept the Bruins at bay. When Tampa Bay began to earn chances with the man advantage, the Lightning converted.
St. Louis had the first one at 7:55 of the second period -- a classic postseason tally. There were bodies everywhere on the edge of the crease and Boston goalie Tim Thomas made a pair of saves, but St. Louis found the loose puck and put in the second rebound.
That goal tied the contest at two, and Teddy Purcell pushed Tampa Bay in front less than six minutes later. Steve Downie had the puck in the high slot and he fed Purcell for a one-timer in the left circle at 13:35.
Steven Stamkos made it a 4-2 lead 34 seconds into the third period. Stamkos ripped a one-timer from the left circle into the net -- where St. Louis was laying after he was knocked behind Thomas during a battle for position.
Three power-play goals on three consecutive opportunities in a span of less than 13 minutes -- and the Lightning had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
"They were shooting the puck more, getting around the net and getting to the bounces," Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "The one goal when I was in the box, the puck seemed to go in the corner and it came back in front of the net and St. Louis is there to put it more or less in an empty net. They were just doing a better job of getting to rebounds and out-battling us in front of the net."
Added Vincent Lecavalier: "We attacked the net a lot more. We were struggling a little bit in Game 5 and pretty much the whole series. We got it in their zone as much as we could and we set it up. That was a big thing -- we set it up in their zone and we got some shots off."
Tampa Bay was just 2 of 18 on the power play in the first five games, including no extra-man goals in the past three contests. The top unit -- Stamkos, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Eric Brewer looked much better, keeping the puck in the Boston zone and creating chances.
The Lightning's power play was the best among the eight teams that qualified for the second round coming into this series, but losses in Games 3 and 5 could at least partially (if not heavily) be attributed to failures by the power play to either score or create more momentum.
That happened in Game 6. Tampa Bay is now tied with Vancouver for the most power-play goals scored in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 17, and it will likely be a big key in Game 7 as well.
"Obviously it was a difference maker," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "They scored three goals on the power play and it took us a long time to get our first one, and that certainly dictated the game."