The Tampa Bay Lightning followed Dwayne Roloson’s lead to remain alive in the NHL playoffs.
The 41-year-old goaltender, who said the key to thriving in the postseason is to have a short-term memory, stopped 27 shots last night in Tampa to outplay Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and beat the Penguins, 4-2, to force a Game 7 in their first-round Eastern Conference series.
The deciding game is tomorrow night in Pittsburgh, where fifth-seeded Tampa Bay has already won twice this postseason, including an 8-2 Game 5 blowout that began its comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the series.
“We just played two Game 7s because that is the position we are in,’’ Lightning coach Guy Boucher said after his team avoided elimination for the second time in three days. “That fifth game was a do-or-die for us, and the sixth was a do-or-die.’’
Steve Downie put the Lightning ahead for good, scoring just over a minute after Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal gave the fourth-seeded Penguins life with a goal that made it 2-2 early in the third. Teddy Purcell, Sean Bergenheim, and Ryan Malone also scored against Fleury, who faltered for the second straight game.
“It’s a seven-game series. They’re a good team,’’ Pittsburgh’s 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 like it had regained momentum.
The Pittsburgh goalie was spectacular in Game 1, delivering an acrobatic 32-save performance that produced his fifth career postseason shutout.
He has struggled 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.’’
Sharks 4, Kings 3 — Joe Thornton scored 2:22 into overtime to give visiting San Jose the victory and a first-round series win. Kyle Wellwood, Jason Demers, and Dany Heatley also scored for the Sharks, who wrapped up the all-California series in six games.
Justin Williams, Ryan Smyth, and rookie Trevor Lewis scored for the Kings, who lost in the opening round for the second straight year and have won just one playoff series since their run to the 1993 Stanley Cup finals with Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky attended the game, but even having their former superstar on hand couldn’t boost the Kings to a victory that would have forced a Game 7. Instead, they ended up losing all three home games in the series and all three overtime games.
Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks after being pulled in two of the last three games.