by Jon Jordan on 04/26/11 at 02:17 AM ET
With a gritty 4-2 win in game six at home tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning have made a game seven date with the Pittsburgh Penguins, for a spot in the conference semifinals – or a spot on the first tee.
Fitting that this one’s going the distance, really.
Most of us had this pegged as a close series from the get-go and it has certainly been that. But it’s also had just about everything – almost precisely on a game-by-game basis, making game seven about as unpredictable as they come, despite the perceived momentum in Tampa Bay’s corner after staving off elimination twice in a row.
Game 1: Marc-Andre Fleury shuts out the Bolts, prompting questions (and some media-induced panic) about how to beat him.
Game 2: Tampa Bay is sparked by an early goal from defenseman Eric Brewer and break out offensively in a 5-1 win.
Game 3: The Bolts come out flying (perhaps a little too much) and the experienced Pens take advantage of mistakes to go up 2-0. The Lightning rally back to tie but Pittsburgh breaks their hearts just seconds later.
Game 4: Perhaps overadjusting from the previous game’s overaggression, Tampa looks awfully dead, especially for a playoff game, in the early-going. The Pens go up a deuce again but the Bolts rally back to force overtime. Two extra periods in, James Neal sneaks one past Dwayne Roloson and the series is 3-1 Penguins.
Game 5: Facing elimination, the Lightning buck some serious odds, not by winning so much, but by blowing the Pens out of their own barn, 8-2. Perhaps most importantly in this one, Steven Stamkos finally finds the back of the net for Tampa – twice.
Game 6: Tampa Bay lives to fight another day yet again, thanks this time to a bevy of role players contributing offensively and, namely, Steve Downie, who in my opinion had his best game as a professional.
At first glance, sure, the Lightning appear to have all the momentum in the world.
But that’s assuming such a thing exists in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And that’s forgetting every twist and turn that this series has already seen in games one through six.
So, how does this one shake out in the end? Your call carries as much weight as mine does, or anyone else’s, for that matter. That’s for sure.
But I’ll adjust my prediction (remember, I actually had Pittsburgh in six as the series began) once I sift through some more post-game six thoughts and have a deep breath or two and put myself on the line for a gut feeling game seven forecast before that one gets underway.
The only thing I, or anyone, can say for certain at this point is that these teams slugging it out in a game seven atmosphere has the makings of an instant classic written all over it.
Or it could be a dud…
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