Roloson nearly perfect
One mistake spoiled an outstanding effort
No matter what team he has played for, Dwayne Roloson always stood the tallest when the games meant the most.
Heading into last night, the 41-year-old graybeard was 7-0 in playoff elimination games, tied with Chico Resch for most all time. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Bruins, Roloson had a chance to claim that record for his own. He nearly did it.
But Nathan Horton proved the difference between Tampa Bay and Roloson getting anything but a ticket home.
Horton scored at 12:27 of the third period, redirecting a pass from David Krejci. Roloson was perfect the rest of the night, making 37 saves but the Lightning couldn’t generate any offense and lost, 1-0, at TD Garden.
“I think Boston was coming, coming hard,’’ said coach Guy Boucher. “We could feel our energy level going down. A lot of the guys have been drained from the previous series and Rollie really stood the fort there. He was outstanding tonight.
“It was a one-goal game, just one goal takes you to the Stanley Cup finals. So I don’t think he could’ve stopped that puck and I don’t think he could have done better than what he did tonight. I mean, 41 years old. Can’t do more that that. It’s impressive, it’s mental toughness. He had a little lull in some of the previous games and to come back that strong in the seventh game, it’s just a credit to the man.’’
Roloson said despite being disappointed, he had nothing but praise for his teammates.
“It’s always fun to play in Game 7s,’’ said Roloson.
“I give our guys a lot of credit. They battled through a lot of adversity ever since I’ve been here and they battled through a lot of adversity throughout the playoffs. Guys grew and came together as a team. We battled for one another and that’s a key thing, that’s what makes great teams and good teams, how well guys want to play for one another.’’
Roloson’s teammates said he gave them every opportunity to come away with a victory, they just couldn’t establish much in the Boston zone. Goalie Tim Thomas faced just 24 shots and not many were dangerous.
“Offensively we didn’t obviously generate enough traffic or enough opportunities to get that one we needed,’’ said forward Ryan Malone. “[Roloson] played unbelievable. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get him a goal or two. Without a doubt, since he came over from his trade, he’s been nothing but a calm influence on everybody with a calm confidence about him. It starts back there and it worked its way all the way up to everybody. Tonight he gave us a chance. It’s our job as forwards to put the puck in the net. It’s disappointing for myself and I’m sure the other forwards that we couldn’t get him a couple of goals.’’
There were no penalties called in the game, which probably hurt the Lightning more than the Bruins.
“Obviously, our special teams are phenomenal and have been phenomenal all playoffs,’’ said Roloson. “But it’s just the type of game that we play. We play a pretty disciplined style and so do they. Guys played hard and did everything they had to do to get in the game — hits, blocked shots — everyone did everything, their guys and our guys. Give the referees credit for not disrupting the flow of the game when there wasn’t anything out there.’’
When the disappointment subsides, the Lightning will view the positives going farther in the playoffs than many expected.
“Obviously, our goal wasn’t to stop here,’’ said Malone. “But if you look back at the beginning of the season, with all the new things that came into play, we’re proud of where we are today but that wasn’t the plan. We have to learn from it and get ready [for next year].’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.