Lightning zap Penguins
Roloson improves to 6-0 in Game 7s
PITTSBURGH — Dwayne Roloson deflected the credit the same way he turned aside so many of Pittsburgh’s shots over the past two weeks.
But try as he might to diminish his role in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s comeback from down big in their first-round playoff series, history doesn’t lie. When it comes to coming up big in must-win scenarios in the postseason, there aren’t many who can match Roloson.
The 41-year-old goalie made 36 saves for his second NHL playoff shutout, Sean Bergenheim scored, and the Lightning beat the Penguins, 1-0, in Game 7 last night.
“It really didn’t have anything to do with me; it was all about our guys,’’ said Roloson, acquired from the Islanders Jan. 1. “They did everything humanly possible to prevent them from getting a quality [shot].’’
Maybe, but the Penguins — playing without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — still managed to throw plenty of rubber at Roloson, including 14 shots in the third period.
Roloson is one of two goalies to win as many as six elimination games without a loss. He allowed only four goals in winning the final three games as Tampa Bay erased a 3-1 series deficit. He also won three straight in 2003 when he led the Minnesota Wild to a comeback against the Vancouver Canucks in the second round.
“Obviously, [Roloson] was amazing once again,’’ Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos said. “He’s just defying the odds. He was our MVP for sure.’’
In the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the fifth-seeded Lightning will now face the top-seeded Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Penguins lost their second consecutive Game 7 and fell to 2-6 in such deciding games at home.
The loss of Crosby, who didn’t play after Jan. 5 because of a concussion, and Malkin’s season-ending knee injury proved to be too much for Pittsburgh to overcome. The Penguins had the second-most points in franchise history (106) in the regular season but failed to reach the second round for the first time since 2007.
“I think we can be proud of the way we did it,’’ Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We had these two guys out of the lineup for a long time and a lot of injuries throughout the season and we still battled and got some points and had a good season. But the playoff is where it matters and it is disappointing.’’
Bergenheim’s goal 5:41 into the second period was his third in the final four games of the series. Tampa Bay hadn’t advanced in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Despite a 36-23 edge in shots, the Penguins lost three consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010 — a span of 141 games.
Playing their first Game 7 on the road, the Lightning were the first this year to win a series after trailing, 3-1.
“Trailing, 3-1, we kind of knew that after [Game 4] we lost in overtime, we thought our team got a lot better and was a lot stronger mentally,’’ Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. “It showed in the games after that.’’
The Lightning killed a slashing penalty given to Nate Thompson with 1:33 left that gave the Penguins a six-on-four skating advantage after Fleury was pulled.
That was the fifth unsuccessful power play of the game for Pittsburgh, which was 1 for 35 for the series and had no power-play goals in 25 chances at home.
“Our penalty killing won us this series,’’ Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. “And Roli was our best penalty-killer.’’