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Lightning get big lift from third line

by Dave Lozo
PITTSBURGH -- All championship teams need contributions from players who aren't the stars. The difference between winning and losing most times is the performance of the third line.

The Tampa Bay Lightning think they may have found something special in the trio of Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Steve Downie.

Downie scored the winner against the Penguins in a do-or-die Game 6, and Bergenheim scored the only goal in the Lightning's 1-0 victory in Game 7 on Wednesday to send Tampa Bay to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

They had 5 goals and 10 assists in the seven-game victory, helping ease the burden of the team's top offensive threats -- Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos.

"They're three guys who work really hard, they're really good down low, and it's created a third line that's a threat for the opponent,” coach Guy Boucher said. “If you look at the last games, they had a tremendous effect on the team. Our top guys are being watched closely. They put their top Ds against them, their top forwards against them. They cancel themselves out, so it's up to the third line to step up and they did."

Downie has been with the Lightning since 2008-09, bringing a brand of physical hockey that sometimes leads to questionable hits that result in suspensions.

But under Boucher, he has found a happy medium in his game and has meshed well with Bergenheim and Moore. It resulted in a goal Wednesday off some hard work down low where Downie picked up his team-leading sixth assist of the series.

"They're guys who work hard down low, so they get a lot of opportunities down low," Boucher said. “These guys together, it's not the only thing they do well. They do everything well together."

The Lightning signed Bergenheim to a one-year deal in the offseason after he spent parts of four seasons with the New York Islanders. The former first-round pick posted career-highs in goals (14) and assists (15) in his first season in Tampa and has carried it over into his first postseason.

"We call him The Hustler," Boucher said. "He's one of those guys, his motor is revving every second. You don't think he's got that much speed you don't think he's got much hands and you don't think he's that big. He just basically does it all. It's a non-stop relentless that he's got. It's paying off."

Partnered with Moore, who Boucher got to know last season while coaching the Montreal Canadiens' AHL affiliate in Hamilton, they connected for huge goals the past two games. Moore was one of the few Lightning with Game 7 experience, coming through with a big goal during the Canadiens' 2-0 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of their conference quarterfinal series in 2010.

"Last year, I was lucky enough to see him play when he came to Montreal," Boucher said. "I thought in the playoffs he was one of their top players. I was really impressed then in his character and his ability to step it up in big moments and big games. That's what we saw now. He's that type of guy.

"During the year when our top guys weren't scoring in the shootout, he'd be on the bench looking at me with his big eyes saying, "You send me." He wants the pressure. He loves it. In big moments, he's one of those guys that doesn't want to back down. It's the opposite. "

If these three "no names" as Boucher called them following Game 6 continue to provide scoring punch, the Lightning could be making their first deep run in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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