Odds stacked against Tampa
When James Neal’s wide-angle shot eluded Dwayne Roloson late Wednesday, instant barriers were put in front of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Moving past them won’t be easy, as they trail the Penguins, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series entering today’s Game 5.
Of 240 teams in NHL history that have trailed 3-1 in a series, only 23 have rallied to win it — a success rate of 9.6 percent. That seemingly allows little chance that the Lightning will advance to the second round for just the third time in franchise history.
Tampa Bay, though, has two experienced players who know what it takes to overcome long odds.
Lightning forward Simon Gagne helped Philadelphia last playoff season become just the third team in league history to overcome a 3-0 series hole, rallying to beat Boston in the conference final and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Goaltender Dwayne Roloson was with Minnesota when the Wild twice rallied from being down 3-1 during the 2003 playoffs, knocking off Colorado and then Vancouver to reach the Western Conference final.
“This is not over,” Gagne said. “They still need that fourth (win), and that fourth one is the toughest one to win. … We have nothing to lose now, we just have to go out there and play our game, go out there and try to win the next one and then after that try to force another one.”
Forgive and forget
Roloson tends to cite amnesia when it comes to putting games behind him.
That’s what he’ll have to have today in the wake of Wednesday’s double-overtime loss.
The loss, however, won’t waver the team’s confidence in Roloson, who entered Friday ranked second in save percentage (.943) among goaltenders who have started a playoff game.
“The way he has performed, he can pull a few rabbits out of his hat, that’s for sure. Obviously, we hope (today) that the rabbit is pretty big,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
Shoot from any and all angles.
That will be the Lightning’s thought process, as Tampa Bay has been outshot, on average, by 12 shots per game. That number is a bit skewed after Wednesday’s double-overtime game, in which Pittsburgh outshot the Lightning, 53-31, but it’s hardly where the Lightning wanted to be through the first four games of the series.
In the regular season, Tampa Bay was tied for seventh in the league averaging 31.8 shots per game. Against Pittsburgh, that average is down four per game to 27.8.
For the first time in this series, Boucher will shuffle the lineup for a reason other than a suspension.
Right wing Steve Downie, who sat out Wednesday’s game while serving a one-game suspension for a hit to defenseman Ben Lovejoy, will be back in the lineup, and Boucher said he anticipates dressing seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron is expected to make his Lightning playoff debut. Bergeron, who has 43 games of playoff experience, had two goals and eight points in 23 games during the regular season.
Boucher did not say who would come out of the lineup, but right wing Dana Tyrell likely would be the candidate.
Nuts and Bolts
Pittsburgh is 0-4 in potential series-clinching games on home ice under coach Dan Bylsma. … Tampa Bay is 3-4 all-time in elimination games.