It is here that you find the heart of a team. It is here that you find its soul.
Oh, fans will talk of Game Sevens, of the ultimate showdown in the final reel, of winning trophies and dancing on the ice.
The truth of it is this: This Tampa Bay Lightning team has made a lot of its history during Game Six. Keep that in mind as the Bolts prepare for their face-off against the Montreal Canadiens in tonight’s NHL Playoff.
You want to talk about coach John Cooper? About captain Steven Stamkos? About goaltender Ben Bishop? It is Game Six would make that worthwhile. It is Game Six that has defined the Lightning.
Start, if you will, in that absurdly early 1995-96 season, only the fourth one of the existence of Tampa Bay.
In that Game Six, the Lightning were hammered 6-1 by Philadelphia, and the Flyers won the last three games of that series by outscoring Tampa Bay 14-3. But as coach Terry Crisp made his way across the ice – coaches had to walk across the surface in those days – a noise began from the upper deck, and it spilled across the area, and it turned into a rousing cheer of appreciation. To Crisp, a man who had been booed in victory while in Calgary, it was astonishing.
And maybe it was a forebearer of the things to come.
Go, if you will, across eight desolate seasons, and you will find the Lightning of John Tortorella on the verge of being something special. Game Six against the Caps in the opening round that year remains one of the team’s finest moments, a rousing 2-1 game in three overtimes as the Bolts won the first playoff series in their history. The winning goal was scored by – who else – Marty St. Louis. Nikolai Khabibulin had an astonishing 60 saves in that game.
Then there was 2004. A lot of people will tell you about the night when the Bolts won Game Seven, a victory that brought home the Cup. But a far more dramatic win came in Game Six, a double overtime affair ended by – you guessed it – St. Louis in double overtime. In that one, Calgary had a goal disallowed that would have won it – later, replays showed it did not go in.
Want one more? How about 2011? The last moment of triumph for Guy Bouchard’s team came in Tampa that year. The Bolts were behind 3-2 in the series, but they pulled out a 5-4 win. Steven Stamkos scored the final goal for the Bolts that night, on a pass from St. Louis. Just in keeping with his moments, though, St. Louis had a goal in that Game Six, too.
So here we are/ Can Tampa Bay, on a two-game slide, finally find a way to restore its magic.
If you are a Lightning fan, you should hope so. This time, the prospect of a Game Seven doesn’t sound so good.