The Lightning huddled together at the end of practice on Friday, April 22 as they readied to face the Penguins in a do-or-die game five on Saturday
One of the many qualities this special Tampa Bay Lightning team has shown consistently this season is their ability to rebound from a tough stretch with a streak.
Now, they need it more than ever.
The Lightning face a three games to one hole in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as they travel to the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh for Game 5 Saturday at noon.
“This is a long way from over,” Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson said. “We came back from 3-1 down twice when I was in Minnesota. We’ve got the character in this room to do it. We need to play our game for 60 minutes or however many minutes it’s going to take to win.”
It has happened all season. When faced with adversity, the Lightning have gotten off the ground and showed their best selves.
- After a stunning 7-2-1 start, injuries and a tough road trip contributed to a 1-5-1 run that had the Lightning almost back to the .500 mark. They responded with a five-game win streak, begun by three on the road. In those three, two were won by a goal and the other by two with a late empty-netter.
- The Lightning struggled a bit at the end of a stretch of 15 out of 21 on the road, going 2-3-2, but started a 9-1-1 run with a victory at Vancouver on the second night of a back to back. Vancouver went on to compile 10 more points than any team in the league.
- They went 2-5 in January, including two losses to New Jersey and an 8-1 defeat at Pittsburgh. The Bolts came back with a six-game win streak.
- It was a struggle in March, which started 2-6-4 downward spiral. The Lightning won the next four games and finished the season with seven victories in eight games.
Every time it seemed to be slipping away, the Lightning got back to their game, found the battle level needed. The Lightning came back from two goals down in the third and fourth game of this series as well.
“We’re fighting for this team’s life,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “We came back again [Wednesday]. These guys are fighting hard. They’re up against a goaltender who is playing great and a team that has played great defensive hockey all year long. We are out there pushing and grinding it out, but it takes everything we’ve got.”
Boucher said it has to be one game at a time. It’s not about momentum. It’s about desperation. The Lightning has been prepared for the highs that seem higher and the lows that seem lowest of the playoffs.
“There’s nothing we can do now,” Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. “It’s 3-1 and we’re going back to their building. We just have to make sure we’re ready to go.”
The Penguins have scored 10 goals in the series. The Bolts have scored nine, led by Marty St. Louis’ four. It has to start with one big effort, shift by shift, period by period, Saturday to get one win and reward the Lightning fans with another home game in the series Monday.
This Lightning team has never lost confidence, always gone back to work when times have been bad or key players were injured. Why not again?
“Everything is possible,” Lightning defenseman Brett Clark said. “We have to go in and play our game plan. We’re in a battle. Our backs are to the wall. We have to be ready to push right from the start.”