2011 NHL Playoffs: Why the Pens Will Finish off the Bolts in Tampa

J FCorrespondent IApril 25, 2011

2011 NHL Playoffs: Why the Pens Will Finish off the Bolts in Tampa

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    There were many empty seats in the Consol Energy Center on Saturday after the Tampa Bay Lightning had shocked the hometown fans by extending their lead to 7-0.

    Those viewing the game on television had probably switched to the NBA playoffs or even soap operas by the first intermission.

    The Lightning dealt the Pens the most humiliating defeat of the playoffs so far, making sure there was no need for two overtimes. But no matter how many goals Steven Stamkos and company could produce, the Penguins still hold a 3-2 lead in the series as they travel back to Tampa.

    The Pens must win only one of the next two games to advance, but here are five reasons they won't bring the series back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7.

Fleury Will Bounce Back

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    The injury-depleted Penguins have had to rely on their team MVP, Marc-Andre Fleury, to keep playing at a high level this season.

    He may have his off nights, but he always returns to form in the following game.

    Overall, he's had a solid series against the Bolts—besides the two losses where he gave up four goals. He shut them out in Game 1 and only allowed two pucks to find the back of the net in the other two victories, including the double OT battle.

    Fleury won't let the Pens down two games in a row, and Brent Johnson won't see the ice until the next round.

Road Ice Advantage

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    Home ice is supposed to be an advantage; however in this year's edition of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the road teams are stealing the show.

    This trend has been exceptionally showcased in the Penguins-Lightning series as the away team has won four consecutive contests.

    After winning Game 1 at the Consol Energy Center, the Pens lost one at home and then traveled to Tampa where they took two on hostile ice.

    It would only be fitting if they seal the series in front of their opponent's crowd on Monday.

Things Will Go Their Way, or at Least Not Against Them

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    Dwayne Roloson has 180 saves so far in the series. He's been tremendous for Tampa for the most part, but the Penguins haven't exactly been great at putting the puck in the net lately.

    There were times during the route that the Penguins had their chances, including a shot off the crossbar, but just couldn't bury the shots. On the other hand, every rebound seemed to bounce to the Lightning in prime position to put it right back on goal.

    Pittsburgh's penalty kill was the best in the NHL during the regular season but allowed four goals in the blowout. Also, with seven chances with a man advantage, the Penguins came up with nothing.

    I'm not saying the Lightning were lucky—these mishaps were all the results of poor play by the Pens—but they are things that can be fixed in time for Game 6.

They Will Be Motivated

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    Losing a hockey game by six goals is undeniably embarrassing, especially at home. There is no doubt the Pens took a beating and are not happy about it.

    Not that they needed any more motivation to close out the series, but now they will be even more determined for revenge, perhaps even to humiliate the Lightning in front of their fans.

    The team with the advantage in the series never wants a Game 7. Only the underdogs and media crave such a decisive opportunity.

    The Pens have won their fare share of such contests, including their win over the Red Wings for the 2009 Stanley Cup, but last year the Canadiens upset them in the final game of the series.

    Coach Dan Bylsma and the Penguins know there is no time for messing around or they could quickly find themselves in the offseason. They will come out with purposeful intensity, and they'll need to because the Lightning will want this one just as bad.