TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The Tampa Bay Lightning had the playoffs in mind when they acquired Dwayne Roloson, and the 41-year-old goaltender hasn't disappointed them.
Avoiding elimination for the second time in three days, the Lightning beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 Monday night to force a Game 7 in their first-round Eastern Conference series.
Roloson led the way with 27 saves, three of them from point-blank range to begin a sequence that led to Tampa Bay's Steve Downie snapping a third-period tie at the other end of the ice.
``Goalies have to be outstanding in the playoffs. ... That was a key moment. It was an uplift for the team,' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
That's exactly what Tampa Bay had in mind when it acquired Roloson from the New York Islanders on New Year's Day. He went 18-12-4 in 34 games following the trade, helping the Lightning make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Roloson gave up a soft overtime goal in Game 4 before bouncing back to help Tampa Bay stay alive. He made 31 saves on the road in Game 5 and came up big again Monday when he rejected Maxime Talbot twice and Pascal Dupuis once before Downie gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead.
``Rollie's been doing that all year. He's been making save after save for us since he's been here,' Downie said. ``We expect that from him, and he expects that from himself.'
Game 7 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, where the fifth-seeded Lightning already have won twice this postseason, including an 8-2 Game 5 blowout that began their comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the series.
``We just played two Game 7s because that is the position we are in,' Boucher said. ``That fifth game was a do or die for us, and the sixth was a do or die.'
Downie scored just over a minute after Jordan Staal gave the fourth-seeded Penguins life with a goal that made it 2-2. Teddy Purcell, Sean Bergenheim and Ryan Malone also scored against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who faltered for the second straight game.
The Lightning killed off four penalties in the second period, when Pittsburgh also failed to score on Chris Conner's penalty shot that could have tied it.
``It's a seven-game series. They're a good team,' Penguins forward James Neal said. ``We've played them hard all series long. It comes down to one now. Lay it out on the line ... do what we can, and come out with the win.'
Pulled after yielding four goals on 14 shots in Game 5, Fleury couldn't protect an early lead and struggled again when Pittsburgh looked as if it had regained momentum.
The Penguins goalie was spectacular in Game 1, delivering an acrobatic 32-save performance that produced his fifth career postseason shutout. He's been shaky in the Penguins' three losses and allowed the Lightning to rally from two-goal deficits in two games Pittsburgh went on to win.
Still, Fleury expects the Penguins to regroup and win Game 7.
``We know we can play,' Fleury said. ``I'm still positive and think we can do it.'
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma also expects his team to benefit from having more playoff experience than Tampa Bay, which features nine players who are appearing in their first NHL postseason series.
``I think there is something to be drawn from the emotion and experience of playing Game 7. Do or die for both teams,' Bylsma said.
``I think we'll lean on some of those experiences, but we also have to play the game,' Bylsma added. ``We have to go out and play the game and not just talk about what we've learned in the past. It's a different team. It's a different year. We'll have to be ready and refocused to play that game.'
NOTES: The Penguins continued to struggle on the power play, going 0 for 5 to drop to 1 for 30 in the series. ... For the first time in the series, the team that scored first failed to win.
The Associated Press News Service
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