There were times during Game One when you wondered if the Tampa Bay Lightning would ever get a puck past Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.
Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer answered that question just 2:02 into the first period as Tampa Bay steam rolled the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 to even the best-of-seven series at one game a piece.
Brewer was absolutely sensational in this game. Solid and steady defensively, "Brew" not only got the Bolts off the snide but set up the Bolts' second goal with a terrific play at the Pittsburgh blue line to keep the puck in the attacking zone.
After it ping-ponged around, eventually Vinny Lecavalier tapped it home to make it 2-0. Brewer would add an assist at the 17:02 mark, getting the puck to Steve Downie on a two-on-one break. Downie's shot ricocheted off Fleury right on the stick of Nate Thompson who deposited it into a wide open net for a commanding 3-0 advantage.
The Lightning maintained complete control of the contest until a senior moment by 41-year-old goaltender Dwayne Roloson caused a turnover and allowed Craig Adams to get a cheapo goal. The score seemed to energize the Penguins, who came hard for the rest of the second period.
The mishap was the only blemish on Roloson, who was solid while making 35 saves.
Can Pittsburgh Recover From This Debacle?
While the shot total was high, Tampa Bay's defense did a solid job at keeping the Pittsburgh attackers on the peripheral of their goaltender—with clear sight lines to every shot.
Martin St. Louis had three broken teeth from the stick incident in Game One and two points in Game Two. Brewer would finish with three points, as would Simon Gagne who had three assists.
The Lightning continued their dominance on special teams, extending Pittsburgh to 0-for-13 on the power play in the series while scoring two power play goals of their own.
The second power play goal essentially ended any hope of a Penguins rally.
With 21 seconds remaining in the second period, Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik took a cross checking penalty. The Lightning would win the draw and the puck quickly cycled to St. Louis who took an odd angle shot that seemed to catch Fleury high and drop behind the Pittsburgh goaltender. Lecavalier slapped at it a few times for good measure but the damage was done and the Lightning headed into second intermission with a 4-1 lead, deflating the Penguin home crowd.
Fleury certainly wasn't the super human Tasmanian devil he was in the first matchup. It doesn't seem possible with a playoff veteran puck stopper like "The Flower" but he looked a bit shaky after Brewer's laser opened the scoring. There were few highlight reel saves for him this time around.
It wasn't just him, though.
Things were bad for Pittsburgh on the power play. Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma pulled Fleury for a 6-on-4 advantage with 3:37 left.
Still, the Penguins had no real threat on Roloson and ended up with zip. Mattias Ohlund, whose in his second season with Tampa Bay, scored his first goal as a member of the Lightning by firing into the empty net.
If you would have told me that Ohlund would get his first goal of the series before Steven Stamkos I would have said you were nuts.
So the Lightning accomplished what they set out to do: Steal home ice.
In the process they showed that not only can Fleury and the vaunted Pittsburgh defense be beaten but the Tampa Bay defense is something to be reckoned with, too.
The series is now essentially a five-game set, with three of the games played in Tampa Bay.