2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 7 - Tampa Bay 1, Pittsburgh 0 – Lightning win series, 4-3
Talk about a Bolt from the blue. Just when it seemed that the Tampa Bay Lightning were about to fade away and go gently into that good night, they sprang from the canvas and landed two big punches to a seasoned, veteran team that won the Stanley Cup just two years ago. Sure, the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing without two superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the sons of the Steel City still figured to advance to round two after building a 3-1 series lead and coming home for Game 5.
My, how things changed. After landing the two big blows mentioned above in Games 5 and 6, Tampa Bay didn’t really floor or flatten the Pens in Game 7 on Wednesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Bolts stole this deciding duel thanks to an elite performance from one of the steadiest netminders around.
Dwayne Roloson made 36 saves for the Lightning and earned his second NHL playoff shutout. Sean Bergenheim scored the only goal of the game, as the Lightning completed a big series comeback and eliminated the Penguins with a steely performance in a hostile environment. Pittsburgh learned the old sports cliché the hard way: When you have an opponent on the ropes, you have to finish it off.
Playing their first Game 7 on the road in franchise history, the Lightning became the first team this year to win a series after trailing 3-1 after four games.
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Neither team scored in the first period. Despite being heavily outshot in the first period and five minutes into the second period; Bergenheim scored on a familiar play set up by beautiful backhand pass by Dominic Moore at 5:41 of the second period. Bergenheim's was his third in the final four games of the series. Moore skated behind the net toward the left-wing side and got the puck to Bergenheim, who was standing alone below the right circle and slid the rubber past Marc-André Fleury.
The reason why this sight was familiar for Pittsburgh fans was because Moore set up Bergenheim for a nearly identical goal in Tampa Bay's 4-2 win in Game 6. The Penguins lost their second consecutive Game 7 and fell to 2-6 in deciding games in Pittsburgh. It’s a crushing end for a team that lost hold of last year’s second-round series against Montreal and figured to advance in this series.
The Lightning, the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, will now face the top-seeded Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If Roloson continues to play at a high level, there’s no telling how far the Bolts can go.
Game 1 will be Friday night in the nation’s capital.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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