The Lightning finally gave the home fans something to cheer about...at home.
In what has been a bizarre trend throughout this year's NHL's playoffs, home ice has been anything but an advantage, with road teams winning 24 of 42 games (.571) going into Monday night. Tampa Bay bucked that trend by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in front of a crowd of 20,309 at the St. Pete Times Forum to force a series-deciding Game 7.
Bucking trends was the theme of the night for the Lightning, as they overcame an early 1-0 deficit, becoming the first team to win after surrendering the opening tally. When Sean Bergenheim scored at 5:44 in the second period, it was the first time the Lightning had held a lead at home. Not to be outdone, Teddy Purcell (who scored the early equalizer), Steve Downie and Ryan Malone all scored their first goals of the series.
Dwayne Roloson was solid in net, in spite of an early puckhandling mishap that led to the Penguins scoring their first goal, stopping 27 of 29 shots, including a penalty shot from Chris Conner midway through the second that would have tied the game at two.
That seemed to swing the momentum solidly behind Tampa Bay and they outplayed the Penguins in several facets over the rest of the game. They blocked twice as many shots (26 to 13), won 35 of 58 faceoffs and held a 29 to 22 edge in hits.
When it was all over, the Lightning had dug themselves out of the 3-1 series deficit they were in to force the deciding Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. One trend the Lightning hope to continue is their undefeated record in Game 7s. This will be the third one in the history of the Lightning, having successfully gone the distance twice in 2004 (conference finals vs Philadelphia and Stanley Cup finals vs Calgary). Although, as far as coach Guy Boucher is concerned, you don't have to go that far back:
"We just played two Game 7s because that is the position we are in. That fifth game was a do or die for us and that sixth game was a do or die. The seventh game for us is a do or die. We just played two."