A History of Nailbiters: Lightning Game Sevens
So the Lightning and the Bruins will lock up for Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday night in Boston. This will mark the fourth time in Lightning history that a playoff series is decided in a winner-take-all game.
You may be aware that the Lightning are a clean 3-0 in their previous game seven matches.
Did you also know that all three previous sevens were decided by a single goal?
And that in two of them, the Lightning were short-handed in the final seconds?
How much more exciting can a series get?
Below the jump, we'll do a quick recap of the Lightning's past visits to the hallowed "Loser Leaves Town" match.
The First Seven: May 22, 2004 vs. the Philidelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference Final)
The Lightning, on the strength of their star-studded forward depth and with All-World goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in the crease, absolutely smoked their first and second round opponents, needing only nine games combined to dispatch both the Canadiens and the Islanders. They got their first real test of the playoffs against the veteran Flyers squad, led by hulking center Keith Primeau.
The two teams alternated wins all through the series, with Tampa Bay taking games 1, 3, and 5, and the Flyers taking games 2 and 4 before gutting out a tough overtime win in game 6 to force the decider at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Flyers carried the play through much of the first period but came away empty-handed, including going 0-2 on the power play. With 3:14 remaining in the first, the Lightning struck on the man advantage when Brad Richards' slapper bounced off Martin St. Louis, off Ruslan Fedotenko's stick, and past Flyers keeper Robert Esche. The goal was credited to Fedotenko, who was kind of like 2004's version of Sean Bergenheim (seventeen goals in the regular season, and then twelve in the playoffs).
Freddie Modin padded the lead for the Bolts in the second. That goal stood up as the winner after Kim Johnsson got the Flyers on the board later in the second. The game went down to the final seconds, but Khabibulin prevented the Flyers from evening the score, and the Lightning advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Second Seven: June 7, 2004 vs. the Calgary Flames (Stanley Cup Final)
The Lightning squared off against the Flames, who made the Stanley Cup Final the way all Western Conference teams do: by beating the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. The Flames seemed to have the upper hand in the Final series, going up three games to two before the Lightning won game six in Calgary to force the big finale on home ice.
The game was a defensive battle. The Flames, unable to force the play, managed only seven shots through the first two periods, while Fedotenko again played the hero, sinking goals off feeds from Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier.
The Flames came to life in the third, when they directed ten shots on Khabibulin. Craig Conroy broke the Bulin Wall's shutout bid midway through the final period, setting up a frantic finish as the Flames desperately tried to tie it up. The tension reached sphinctor-clenching levels when Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk took a tripping penalty in the final minutes, allowing the Flames to finish the game on the power play. But the Lightning held on, and hoisted the Cup for the first time in franchise history.
The Third Seven: April 27, 2011 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (Eastern Conference Quarter Final)
This one seemed like a game that never should have happened. The Penguins, despite missing star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injury and forward/assassin Matt Cooke to suspension, had a 3-1 series lead through the first four games, forcing the Lightning to face elimination in three consecutive games. The Bolts steam-rolled the bewildered Pens 8-2 in game 5, and then won 4-2 at home to force a seventh game back in Pittsburgh.
Game Seven opened with the Pens outshooting the Bolts 15-7 in the first period, but Sean Bergenheim opened the scoring in the second on a no-look behind the net feed from Dominic Moore. The goal would be the only one Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would allow, but it was enough, as Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, himself undefeated in his career in elimination games, would not allow a goal.
The game again featured a hair-puller ending, as Lightning forward Nate Thompson was sent off with 1:33 remaining on a slashing call. The Pens pulled Fleury for a six-on-four advantage, but their power play, which went a brutal 1-35 in the series, couldn't convert, and the Lightning advanced, sending the Penguins to ponder their inadequecies on the golf course.
(Nolan Whyte blogs about the Lightning at Raw Charge and at Frozen Sheets Hockey. Follow him @nolanwhyte. This article was written with notes from espn.go.com and lightning.nhl.com)