TAMPA, Fla. -- Before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, the fans at St. Pete Times Forum were shown a video, the screen at one point simply saying, "Never count us out."
It would be wise to heed that advice.
|Dwayne Roloson is quick to congratulate relief goalie Mike Smith on his first playoff win. (Getty Images)|
But more often than not, it ends up being about what you do right. After that first period from hell -- it is the day of the Rapture, after all -- the game flipped as fast as lightning strikes. That's what happens when you do things right.
The Lightning outhit the Bruins. They dominated at the faceoff dot. They outshot the Bruins. The best scoring chances belonged to the home team, too. And after the first, they cut the crap.
"They took over, they outplayed us," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "They started getting scoring chances and we stopped getting scoring chances."
In short, Tampa Bay dominated the final 40 minutes ... all the way to that final buzzer for a series-tying 5-3 victory.
"We just came back so many times this year," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "And everybody knows in the third period we're just going to keep coming, and keep coming. We knew we could do it."
But there was a point when this game, and possibly this series, was escaping Tampa Bay's grasp. There were turnovers galore by the Lightning. In the neutral zone, behind the net ... basically anywhere they felt they could be charitable. The result was three first-period goals by the Bruins -- two from Patrice Bergeron, including one seven seconds into a Tampa Bay power play. That's how sloppy it was.
"We just gave them -- again, just like the previous game in the first period, we gave them three gifts, three turnovers," Boucher said.
In a flash, the Lightning were down and goaltender Dwayne Roloson was benched. He wasn't much better than the skaters turning the puck over, getting beat five-hole twice. Enter Mike Smith, who was perfect in relief, making his most spectacular saves in the final period when the Bolts were trying to hold onto their lead. A very hard-earned lead.
|Game 4: Bruins-Lightning|
Boston got a little turnover-happy itself, but the Lightning did a great job of forcing the issue. They began throwing the puck on net at will, something Boucher implored them to do after being shut out in Game 3.
"After they scored a few goals, we almost looked like we were paralyzed out there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We weren't reacting, weren't moving, and it just snowballed from there."
The hits were coming, most notably a big hit from Malone behind the net on Zdeno Chara to help set up Teddy Purcell's first goal. On that same shift, Purcell netted a second goal, and just like that the Lightning were rolling.
"It was a good shift for me and it was one I will always remember, for sure," Purcell said.
From there, the ice was tilted so heavily in one direction; it just seemed the comeback was inevitable. And it was. Especially when Sean Bergenheim -- yes, him again -- grabbed the puck on the goal line and finished for his league-leading ninth goal this postseason.
The fait accompli came when the Lightning took advantage of a poor decision by Boston to play the puck up the middle exiting the defensive zone, and from there Simon Gagne knew what to do.
"Money player. He's a clutch player," Boucher said of his forward. "He's always been. And I guess when he's not, it's because he's retired. Whenever it's a big moment, you know he's there."
And it was a money game for the Lightning. They couldn't afford to go down 3-1 heading back to Boston. They climbed out of that hole once this postseason. Asking for it to happen again would be a tall task.
"We knew that game was a must-win," Gagne said.
And the Lightning knew all along they were never out of it.