Things are definitely starting to wind down in the conference quarterfinals. But the closer we get, the more exciting the games are. Last night’s games featured a series clincher, and another team fighting to see a game seven.
Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh – The Penguins jumped out to an early lead in this one after capitalizing on a Lightning turnover. Pascal Dupuis was the goal scorer with the assist coming from Max Talbot. After failing to capitalize on two power-play chances, the Lightning finally tied things up at even strength late in the first. Teddy Purcell banged home the puck for Tampa Bay after the initial shot on goal by Ryan Malone. We were all knotted up at one after the first period.
The lone goal in the second period came from Sean Bergenheim and was his second of the series. He collected a nice pass from behind the net by Dominic Moore and had all day to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh had a great opportunity to tie things up in the second as Chris Conner was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway. The pressure was too much for Conner, however, as he overskated the puck before even getting a shot off. He was able to regroup and take a half-hearted slapshot, but the damage had already been done. It was a fortunate break for the Lightning. Tampa Bay held on to a 2-1 lead despite being outshot 9-7 in the second.
Early in the third, Pittsburgh jumped right back into the game as Jordan Staal buried a wrist shot from the slot at 3:48. A Lightning response was only a minute away when Steve Downie snuck one past Fluery to regain the lead, 3-2. Five minutes later it was Ryan Malone who sealed the deal for Tampa Bay with a breakaway slapshot goal. The top shelf tally was Malone’s first of the post-season, and guaranteed his team would see a game seven.
Dwayne Roloson played absolutely incredible in this game, making several clutch saves. This included a barrage of shots he stopped early in the third, just after Jordan Staal’s goal. Roloson has turned out to be a great pickup for the Lightning, and if they survive to see round two, he will be a huge reason why.
Los Angeles vs. San Jose – We had a tight first period which was held scoreless, so let’s jump right to the second. Kyle Wellwood gave the Sharks a big 1-0 lead early in the second after a great feed from Joe Thornton. Los Angeles would answer back at 13:27 of the second with a power-play goal from Justin Williams. Williams was able to capitalize on a huge rebound after the initial shot by Jack Johnson. San Jose didn’t need much time to take control again, however, as Jason Demers buried a wrister from the right circle three minutes later. L.A. headed to the intermission trailing by one and on the verge of elimination.
The message must have been clear in the locker room because the Kings came out quick. Eighteen seconds into the third, Ryan Smyth tied the game at two. Dany Heatley would give his guys a 3-2 lead later in the third with a beautiful snipe. The Kings would not back down, and certainly would not give up, because three minutes later it was Trevor Lewis tying things up 3-3. It remained all tied up through the end of regulation, and headed to sudden death.
It didn’t take long in the extra session for the Kings season to officially end. Only 2:22 in, it was Joe Thornton smacking home the rebound for the game and series winner. Thornton had a good series finishing with two goals and three assists. His OT celebration was a bit awkward, but he’s moving on and the Kings are headed home. You have to think, if Anze Kopitar could have been healthy, things might not have ended nicely for the Sharks. I think we’ll see a great Kings team again next season though, and with a healthy squad, they could have the depth to make a good run.