The 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning know what it's like to lose a Game 5 at home and go into a Game 6 on the road down 3-2 with a chance to be eliminated.
It happened in late April, in their first series this postseason. The Lightning had lost 4-0 to the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena. The Bolts did not look sharp in that Game 5 and then had to go to Detroit to stave off elimination.
But the Bolts showed their resiliency in Game 6, as they beat the Red Wings 5-2. When the series went back to Tampa for Game 7, goalie Ben Bishop shut out the Red Wings and the Bolts won 2-0 to wrap up the series.
The Lightning have not done things the easy way in their run to hoist Lord Stanley. After beating the Red Wings, they needed six games to take care of the Montreal Canadiens and a full seven games to beat the New York Rangers, with Game 7 at the legendary Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers had never lost a Game 7.
But the Rangers did lose 2-0 to Bishop and the Bolts on May 29. It's now a couple of weeks later, and the Lightning have another enormous obstacle to overcome.
Now they are down 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has won two Stanley Cups in five years. The Bolts have to play Game 6 on Monday night in Chicago, where the Hawks have not hoisted Lord Stanley in front of their fans since 1938.
The Lightning know that they themselves conquered a similar barrier earlier this postseason when they played Detroit. But that was the first series of the Stanley Cup playoffs, not the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bolts also know that their franchise faced a comparable situation in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning had lost Game 5 in Tampa to the Calgary Flames and were down 3-2.
Game 6 was at the boisterous Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary. In one of the best postseason games I have ever seen, the Bolts hung tough and beat the Flames in a dramatic 3-2 double-overtime victory, as Marty St. Louis scored the game-winning goal 33 seconds into the second overtime.
That victory meant that the Lightning would get a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup if they could beat the Flames in Game 7 at the St. Pete Times Forum. I was one of the fortunate 22,717 at the game.
Before the game, as I often do, I called 620 WDAE's Steve Duemig to talk about Game 7 as I was driving to the epic event. Duemig and I discussed the keys to the game, and that's when I had my Nostradamus moment. For some reason, I said Ruslan Fedotenko would have a big night.
Fedotenko did have a big night, as he scored the Bolts' only two goals in a 2-1 victory over the Flames. Moments after the victory, through the tumultuous noise, we saw veteran Dave Andreychuk receive the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman.
It was Andreychuk's first Stanley Cup after 22 years in the NHL. It was great to see Lord Stanley get passed from teammate to teammate as they joyously skated around the ice. The crowd erupted when head coach John Tortorella lifted the Cup.
That Lightning team had a great chemistry with players like Andreychuk, St. Louis, Fedotenko, Vinny Lecavalier, current Hawk Brad Richards, Dan Boyle, Fredrik Modin, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, Darryl Sydor, Tim Taylor, Pavel Kubina, Chris Dingman, Brad Lukowich and Cory Stillman.
Going into the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, the Bolts had four players who had hoisted the Cup before. They were Taylor (Detroit Red Wings in 1997), Sydor (Dallas Stars in 1999), Lukowich (Dallas Stars in 1999) and Dingman (Colorado Avalanche in 2001).
Richards ended up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, with 26 points and seven game-winners. It was well-deserved, but Khabibulin was incredible that postseason as well, with 16 wins, five shutouts and a 1.71 goals-allowed average.
Both Andreychuk and Dingman are close to this year's Bolts to add advice if needed, as they help with the team's television broadcasts. In addition, Andreychuk is the Lightning's Vice President of Corporate and Community Affairs.
The only current Bolt who has won a Stanley Cup is center Valtteri Filppula, who won one with the Red Wings in 2008.
That being said, the Bolts have a number of players who won the Calder Cup under Jon Cooper with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL in 2012. They are Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn and defenseman Mark Barberio.
Cooper has won at every level he has coached. Besides Norfolk in the AHL, Cooper also won league titles with the St. Louis Bandits (NAHL) and the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). He knows it will be a very tough road to win the Stanley Cup, even though his team is only two wins away from doing just that.
First, the Bolts are going against a very good team in the Blackhawks, who have won the Cup a couple of times. Also, the Bolts are very banged up.
Goalie Ben Bishop has being playing with an undisclosed injury almost the entire Stanley Cup Final, in which he missed one game and part of another.
The vaunted "Triplets" line has also been affected by injuries. Johnson has what looks to be an upper-body injury and has not been able to take faceoffs like he normally does. That's a big injury, as Johnson leads the NHL in goals (13) and points (23) this postseason.
Another member of the Triplets, Nikita Kucherov, is second in scoring in the postseason with 22 points, and he too is injured. Kucherov missed most of Game 5 after he slammed into the Chicago goal in the first period after stealing the puck from goalie Corey Crawford.
The status of Kucherov for Game 6 is yet to be determined, but in a press conference, Cooper said he's in "considerably better shape."
The Bolts are going to have to dig deep and find a way to beat the Hawks at the Madhouse, just like they did in Game 3. That was only the second loss for Chicago at home this postseason.
Forwards like Johnson, Kucherov (if available), Palat, Killorn, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown have to somehow get some biscuits in the basket. Defensemen like Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn have to continue to play stellar in the defensive zone and also help out the offense when they can.
Whoever is in goal, whether Bishop or rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, has to keep the goals by the Hawks down to a bare minimum or even post a shutout.
Bottom line: Do what it takes to get a win in Game 6. If you do, Game 7 awaits. At home.
This Stanley Cup Final has been fantastic. The Lightning and Blackhawks are almost mirror images of one another. The series has had five one-goal games in a row. The Hawks have 11 goals, while the Bolts have 10. Both teams have taken 136 shots.
With all the key injuries the Lightning have right now, it will take a valiant effort to win Game 6 on the road with elimination at stake versus the Blackhawks. But it can be done. The Bolts have proven that before. Both in this postseason and in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final with another Lightning team.
Yes, it's back to the future for the Bolts with Lord Stanley at stake.