“It just takes one…and there it is!”
Bob Errey could have been talking about the requirements to end an overtime game. But on this occasion, the former Pens winger was referring to current Pittsburgh wing-man James Neal and his goal-scoring drought. His own harshest critic, the pressure to score weighed heavily on Neal despite the team’s success during his tenure.
Neal, who had scored just once in regulation since his acquisition, notched the biggest goal of his career when he whipped a wrister from the hashmarks past Dwayne Roloson 3:38 into the second overtime that propelled the Penguins to a heart-pounding 3-2 victory.
Roloson made 51 saves on a night when the visiting Pens looked primed to take the commanding 3-1 lead in the series. Despite having their backs to the wall, Tampa Bay was outshot 30-14 in the first two periods. In that time, Tyler Kennedy and Aaron Asham snuck shots under the 41-year-old netminder to secure a two-goal lead.
Just when it looked like the Penguins might be putting their opponents to sleep, the man with perhaps the NHL’s biggest heart, Martin St. Louis, capped a fantastic individual effort with his crossover goal that snatched momentum just before the end of the second.
Pittsburgh was able to fend off the Lightning for most of the third but Sean Bergenheim tied it 2-2 with his chip-in goal with 3:17 remaining. It would be the last puck to get behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 29 saves in victory.
After a scoreless extra session in which the Pens had the majority of chances, Neal beat Roloson high glove-side and finished an improbable two-game sweep for the visitors in Tampa.
As for the much-maligned special teams, the Pens scored their first power play goal of the series when Kennedy opened the night with his second tally of the series and the penalty kill was much better, stopping all four Tampa Bay power plays.
The series heads back North for game five at high-Noon on Saturday.