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Lightning face another elimination game

by Corey Masisak /
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the second time in three rounds the Tampa Bay Lightning will face a win-or-go-home contest at St. Pete Times Forum.

Guy Boucher is hoping a rested Dwayne Roloson will be just what the Lightning need to begin another comeback. Boucher said Tuesday that Roloson, replaced for Game 5 by backup Mike Smith, will be in net for Tampa Bay on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins, who own a 3-2 lead in the series.

"He was the guy that took us here and that's how I felt before last game; but like I said, I felt like it was time to give him a little breather," Boucher said. "At the same time I felt that [Smith] played really well. So it's a perfect situation to put [Smith] in. If something were to go wrong in the previous game, put a new goaltender in for a do-or-die, I don't think it would have been a good moment for anybody. So this is a perfect situation. He's going to be the only rested guy in the two teams."

Roloson won three straight elimination games against the Pittsburgh Penguins to help the Lighting storm back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games. He stopped 94 of 98 shots in those three games, including all 36 he faced in Game 7, to lead Tampa Bay to the second round.

Excellence in the face of elimination is nothing new for Roloson. He’s now 6-0 in his postseason career in elimination games. The 41-year-old also won three straight elimination games for Minnesota in the second round in 2003 against Vancouver.

Smith has stopped 46 of 48 shots in three appearances in this series, but Roloson has been the No. 1 goaltender since he arrived on Jan. 1 in a trade with the Islanders, and his track record in these circumstances speaks for itself.

"He's had tremendous stretches with us, I remember there was one time where it wasn't going so well. We gave him two days off and he came back and he was outstanding after," Boucher said. "So he's like everybody else. He's one of the hardest working guys on our team. He puts in a lot of hours and a lot of time. And he's like everybody else, at some point or another (he) just needs to breathe a little bit.

"He needed a little break like everybody else. Whether you're a goaltender, defenseman or forward, I know players on both sides are getting more tired as the series are evolving. And it's normal. Everybody's expecting that. Your most important player is your goaltender, so he'll be rested."

For the Lightning to force a Game 7 in Boston on Friday night, they will need a strong game from Roloson but also from their other top players. While depth and contributions from everywhere has been a hallmark for Tampa Bay, the Lighting could use some production from their version of the Big Three -- Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

Lecavalier has just one assist in the past three games. Stamkos has the same, while St. Louis has one empty-net goal. Those three combined for 18 goals and 41 points in the first 13 games of the postseason.

"Obviously we’ve got to be there," St. Louis said. "We’re trying to do the best we can, but sometimes the best we can is not enough. We’ve got to do more."
Boucher wasn’t blaming his big guns.

"It falls on everybody. I hate to point guys out and say it's you've got to be the guy and you've got to be the guy," he said. "Everybody's been the guy with us at one moment or another. So tomorrow, it's a team thing. It can't be one guy taking all this pressure on his shoulders. It's everybody has got to lift a load together, and we'll see who is going to come out big tomorrow, but somebody will."

One of those role players who might not be able to help out is Sean Bergenheim. He left Game 5 late in the first period and did not return.

Bergenheim led the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 9 goals after Monday’s game and has formed a potent third line with Dominic Moore and Steve Downie. Boucher said he hasn’t decided on potential lineup changes if Bergenheim can’t play.

"If it was today, right now he wouldn't be playing," Boucher said. "So we'll see tomorrow. I'll go to church, I think."

Added Moore: "[Bergenheim] has been great. It's the kind of thing that for our team, all the pieces fit together. The way we've played all season long, it's been everyone on the same page and whether the lines change, you know, we all play the same way. So things should work."

The biggest problem for the Lightning has been an outage on the power play. Tampa Bay began this series with the top-rated power play and penalty kill of all the teams that reached the second round of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay’s PK has held up its half of the special teams’ dominance, allowing an extra-man goal in only one of the five games and thwarting 17 of 19 chances in the series. The Lightning have not been as good with the man advantage. They are 2 of 18 on the power play, and have not scored with the extra man since Game 2.

"Just a little more poise -- I think its poise and shots to the net," St. Louis said. "I think they come hand in hand. If we get a little poise it will open up more shots but we’ve got to take those shots. We can’t always be looking for another play."
"It falls on everybody. I hate to point guys out and say it's you've got to be the guy and you've got to be the guy.  Everybody's been the guy with us at one moment or another. So tomorrow, it's a team thing. It can't be one guy taking all this pressure on his shoulders. -- Martin St. Louis
The Lightning have the experience from the Pittsburgh series to draw upon. They know Montreal defeated Boston in Game 6 to force a seventh game in the first round as well. Given the way the series has gone, it is hard to believe either team will carry much momentum, positively or negatively, from Monday night in Boston.

"That's why I say, people like to hear that things carry on to the next game but they don't," Boucher said. "It's a new story tomorrow. So we feel that we lost [Game 5] and played well, and we can play even better. And whether it's just or unjust, the reality is it starts at zero tomorrow, and we have an opportunity and that's great."

Added St. Louis: "The good thing is it is first to four games, not first to three. We’ll come back tomorrow and play a good game and give ourselves a chance for a seventh."
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