There was plenty to like about the Tampa Bay Lightning's assertive performance on Saturday afternoon.
But the biggest positive for the Lightning was that sniper Steven Stamkos checked in with the first two Stanley Cup playoff goals of his career in his team's 8-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins to close the Penguins lead to 3-2 in the Eastern Conference quarter-final.
There were concerns about the play of the 21-year-old Stamkos. He finished the regular season with 45 goals, but scored only four times in his final 22 games. He then traversed through his first four playoff games registering only an assist.
But personable Lightning head coach Guy Boucher was not about to apply added pressure. He didn't scold Stamkos for his lack of production nor did he call out his young stud.
"If you have a flower and you want it to grow you can't pull on it," Boucher said.
The Lightning bench boss remarked that Stamkos played much better in the Game 4 overtime loss to the Penguins on Wednesday, and believed it was just a matter of time before the talented youngster broke out. Stamkos felt the same way.
"I wanted to be part of this team's success in the playoffs," he said. "I felt that each game I was getting better and better."
So the Lightning strike back in the opening-round series with another win away from Tampa Bay. Road teams now have won 22 of the first 36 games in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Boucher was asked why road teams have had so much success this spring.
The Lightning coach stated he had a few theories as to why this has been the case, but the only reason he shared was that a home team feels too much pressure to take advantage of games played in its own building.
Another possibility in the case of Saturday afternoon at the Consol Energy Center could be the Penguins simply struggled to close out a desperate hockey club. Just ask the Vancouver Canucks what they have been going through the past five days with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Penguins did play well right off the bat in Game 5. But 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson answered the challenge. He bounced back from the soft goal he allowed in overtime to Penguins forward James Neal in Game 4 and kept his teammates in early in their elimination match.
Eventually, key Lightning performers like Simon Gagne, Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier started to bury their chances. All of a sudden, Tampa Bay had a 2-0 lead late in the first period and 4-0 before the second period was six minutes old.
Four goals on 14 shots chased usually reliable Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. But his backup Brent Johnson didn't fare any better and before the Penguins knew it they were down 7-0 early in the third period.
The extra day off likely helped the Lightning regroup and stemmed some of the Penguins good feelings from their two wins in Tampa Bay.
"That's a good point," said Lightning centre Dominic Moore, who scored his team's eighth goal. "It gave us a chance regroup, go back to basics and have a fresh attitude.
"We still have a long ways to go, though. But we needed a game like this."