2011 NHL Playoffs: Tampa Bay Lightning's Shocking Comeback Evens Series

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIMay 21, 2011

Lightning's Sean Bergenheim celebrates the tying goal with teammates
Lightning's Sean Bergenheim celebrates the tying goal with teammates

After one period of play, the Tampa Bay Lightning were staring at their playoff mortality. Horrible defensive lapses had gifted a 3-0 lead to the Boston Bruins and for the second time in three games, Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson was yanked.

Head coach Guy Boucher had every right to curse, scream and chew out the backsides of his hockey team. They were 40 minutes away of going down 3-1 in the series, after all.

Instead, Boucher calmly reminded his club of previous comebacks from three-goal deficits during the regular season and that the goals they surrendered were there mistakes, not Boston's domination.

They hadn't played poorly, actually out-shooting the Bruins in the first period, 10-9. Just extremely sloppy in their own end.

Teddy Purcell ended Boston goaltender Tim Thomas' mastery of the Bolts, firing a laser past the netminder at the 6:55 mark of the second period and stopping Thomas' streak at 93 minutes, 40 seconds.

A minute later, still on the same shift, Purcell cut it to one with his second goal of the game.

Sean Bergenheim would bring the Bolts all the way back with a beautiful steal behind the Boston net and wrap around.

From there it was anyone's game and Tampa Bay seemed to want it more, out-shooting the Bruins 9-1 in the first seven minutes of the third period and dominating most of the play.

Simon Gagne, who finished with a goal and two assists on the night fired in the game-winner at the 6:54 mark of the third period.

Mike Smith, who relieved Roloson, was strong again for Tampa Bay making 21 saves including some close-in chances late in the third period.

Roloson seems to have run out of gas for the Lightning, giving up 11 goals in his last six periods of play after being one of the best netminders in the playoffs through the first two rounds. Smith, on the other hand, has yet to surrender a goal in the 61 minutes he's played in this series.

Should the Lightning considering benching Roloson? Boucher said at his post-game press conference that Roloson is his number one goalie and it's true. The Bolts netminder is a big reason why the Lightning are where they are—its difficult to imagine him getting pulled now.

"We have our No. 1 goaltender," Boucher told the Associated Press. "He's taken us to this place right now, and that's the reason why we're here. Smitty has been terrific. So whenever it's time for him to help the team and try to change the momentum around, I don't hesitate. It was the same in Boston. We put him in. I don't remember the last bad game he's played."

As the series is now a best-of-three, there's little margin for error for either hockey club.

It should be interesting to see how Boston bounces back from this collapse. They had the game in their hands and in a matter of moments let it slip away.

Its a credit to the Bolts for not quitting, but its also an indictment of the Bruins for not playing the full 60 minutes.

"We stopped battling," Patrice Bergeron, who scored two goals for the Bruins, told the Associated Press. "The second, we sat back and they've got too much speed. We weren't executing at all. We were on our heels. It's frustrating. We've got to be a lot better."

While the Lightning are fretting about their own netminder, Boston has to be wondering about their goaltender as well. Tim Thomas has given up four or more goals in three of the four contests thus far.

Without a doubt, Game 5 should give us a good idea of which way this series may turn.