Penguins put Lightning on the ropes
Pittsburgh forward James Neal scored his first NHL playoff goal on a floater early in the second overtime on Wednesday night for a 3-2 victory that brought the Penguins to within one game of eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Neal fired a shot from the half-board at 3:38 that eluded Dwayne Roloson, who was otherwise sensational for the Lightning.
"Given the situation ... it was a big one. And definitely a fun way to get one," Neal said, adding that he's often watched overtime playoff games on television and dreamed of scoring a winner.
"You think about it in between periods and watching those late ones go deep into the night, and here you're thinking I wish I could be out there … "
Arron Asham scored his third goal of the series for the Penguins, while Tyler Kennedy scored for the second straight game. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside just 29 shots in over four periods of play.
Asham had just six goals and five assists in 44 regular season games.
The Penguins took both games this week in Tampa Bay's building, and can now close out the best-of-seven series at home.
Martin St. Louis scored late in the second and Sean Bergenheim late in the third as Tampa Bay fought back from a 2-0 deficit. Roloson finished with 50 saves.
Game 5 will take place Saturday at 12 p.m. ET (CBC, CBCSports.ca).
Lightning coach Guy Boucher said his team will head to Pittsburgh with intentions of bringing the series back to Tampa for Game 6 on Monday.
"I'm one of those guys who believes it's possible until there is absolutely no time left," Boucher said. "I've seen it done before, done it before. ... Series are never about momentum. They're about desperation."
Bergenheim scored his first career playoff goal with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, but the Lightning failed to take advantage of a power-play opportunity in the first overtime, and got off only one shot in the second extra period before Neal ended it.
Each team played without a player suspended one game by the NHL because of hits during Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory in Game 3 on Monday night.
Tampa Bay's Steve Downie was banned for leaving his feet and launching himself to level Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy, and Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz was disciplined for elbowing Lightning forward Simon Gagne in the head.
Pittsburgh was 0-for-15 on power-play opportunities — and just 6 for 81 in its previous 26 games overall — before Kennedy's shot from the left circle got past Roloson for a 1-0 lead.
Asham made it 2-0 less than three minutes into the second period.
The Lightning played much of the night without the desperation of a team about to drop consecutive games at home and move to the brink of elimination from the postseason. The sellout crowd of 20,326 -- with the exception of a generous number of Penguins fans -- had little to cheer until Vincent Lecavalier led St. Louis with a pass that the Tampa Bay star turned into a momentum-changing goal.
St. Louis raced up the right wing, cut in front of Lovejoy just as the defenceman dove to try to get his stick on the puck and beat Fleury to the far post to give the Lightning a chance.
Until Bergenheim tied it, St. Louis had scored all of Tampa Bay's goals in Games 3 and 4. Meanwhile, teammate Stephen Stamkos is still without a goal in the playoffs after scoring 45 during the regular season, the second most in the NHL.
"We're fighting for this team's life. We came back again," Boucher said. "These guys are fighting. They're up against a goaltender who is playing great and against a team who is playing great. It's tough to get through. We are out there pushing and grinding it out."
The Penguins outshot the Lightning 40-22 in regulation and also held Tampa Bay to 0-for-3 on the power play.
With files from CBCSports.ca