When put up against a wall with something to take, the Lightning showed what they were made of and left the Penguins with the memory of a loss come playoff time. Steven Downie and Martin St. Louis scored in the first period, and that was all the Bolts would need to take a 2-1 decision over their likely 1st-round playoff opponent.
Both teams knew what this game was about: setting a tone for the playoffs. It showed with 13 penalties between the two teams and plenty of chippy play. The Bolts were out-shot 35-24, but Roloson was great in net and made both the hard and timely saves.
Tampa took the grind to Pitt tonight, out-hitting the Penguins 32-28 with Downie leading the way with 5. 12 different skaters registered at least one hit. They also had more takeaways and won more faceoffs, helping them win the possession battle all night. Pavel Kubina and Eric Brewer combined to block nine shots as the entire team committed to playing a more playoff-style of hockey.
This game was huge mentally. If the Bolts had lost, they would go into the post season losing the last three match-ups with Pitt. Knowing they can beat them in this kind of game is going to go a long way for their confidence.
It was also good to see that when it mattered, the Lightning could rise to the challange. They had been getting complacent lately, but that all left their play tonight. They did good, and are now only 3 points back (with a game in hand) of overcoming the Pens for home-ice advantage.
Oh yeah, and they officially clinched their first playoff berth since 2007. Not a bad night, boys.
1st: Dwayne Roloson
2nd: Martin St. Louis
3rd: Steve Downie
Highlights courtesy of NHL.com