The Tampa Bay Lightning have forced a Game 7, getting strong goaltending from 41 year old Dwayne Roloson and timely goals, en route to a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to tie the series at 3-3.
Steve Downie and Ryan Malone scored third period goals and Rolson outplayed Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury who gave up four goals in consecutive games.
Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim also scored for Tampa Bay. Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal each collected their first goals of the series for Pittsburgh.
The Lightning are now 2-2 in must-win situations as the Penguins failed to close out the series for a second straight game. The Penguins are now in a situation they wanted to avoid and that was coming back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7.
The Penguins demise in their past two losses has been a woeful power play and poor defensive play, most notably defensive breakdowns in front of the net. They have also not got the kind of spectacular goaltending they were going to need from Marc Andre Fleury to close out the series.
Fleury has yielded 8 goals on the last 31 shots he faced. Fleury’s play is concerning going into Game 7 but not to the extent of the power play and underachieving play from the Penguins defensively.
Pittsburgh was 0-for-5 on the power play and went 0-4 in the second period when they had a chance to break the game open.
They are now 1-for-30 in the series and for a team who went into the playoffs still trying to figure out things on the power play, know one should be surprise by the Penguins struggles.
They are now 7-for-96 in their last 29 games.
There appears to be no answers from the players or the coaching staff.
“I don’t have any answer. I don’t think anybody does, ” Defenseman Kris Letang told the Tribune-Review.
Dan Bylsma said he will look at possible changes but with one day to prep, there’s not going to be any drastic changes and none to the formation of the power play which is a major issue.
“We will certainly look at what we can do better and maybe making some personnel changes in different spots on the powerplay, ” Bylsma said.
The Lightning have a plus-7 advantage on special teams.
Defensively, the Penguins got caught following the puck and losing their man in front. Two perfect examples of that was on Bergenheim’s goal and Steve Downie’s game winner.
On Bergenheim’s goal, Mark Letestu lost Bergenheim behind the net and got caught floating around watching the puck and during that split second Dominic Moore found Bergenheim backdoor for a beautiful goal.
On Downie’s game winner he was able to get behind both Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek who got caught watching and Lecavalier found Downie for the score in front.
It was uncharacteristic from a defensively sound hockey club but these kind of breakdowns have been going on for two games now.
Tampa Bay has outscored Pittsburgh 21-14 in the series and 12-4 in the last two games.
The series now heads back to Pittsburgh where the Penguins are 2-4 in their last 6 post-season games and 2-5 All-Time in Game 7’s.
The Penguins are 8-1 all-time when they hold a 3-1 series lead. The last time they have not won a series after leading 3-1 was in 1975 against the New York Islanders.