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Lightning has a good history in playing in NHL Game Sevens

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Game Seven is hockey’s answer to a loser-leave town match.

Game Seven is a walk across the tightrope juggling chainsaws.

Game Seven is the final scene in Star Wars, with one shot to blow up the Death Star.

And here come the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing Game Seven Thursday night for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. Think of it like Final Jeopardy, only the answers are in a foreign language.

Does the Lightning consider coming back with Ben Bishop, who walked through Amalie Arena without a limp on Tuesday night. Probably not. Coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday that Bishop is likely out.

Do they tweak their lines? Do they adjust a defense that the Penguins seem to have figured out? Can they figure out the power play?

If anything, history is on the Lightning’s side. The Bolts have played in six Game Sevens in their history, and they are 5-1. They have never surrendered more than one goal in a Game Seven. Against Pittsburgh, they are 1-0 in a Game Seven, winning 2-1 in 2011 on their way to the Eastern Conference Final.

For the Bolts, those Game Sevens include Nikolai Khabubilin and Bishop, the team’s best goaltenders. If it’s Vasilevskiy on Thursday, he has to have his best game.

“We’re a confident bunch,” said forward Ryan Callahan. “We know what it takes.”

If not, the Lightning needs only to remember a year ago. Then, too, the Lightning botched Game Six. Then, too, the Bolts had to fly to play on the road. And then, Tampa Bay beat the Rangers 2-0.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it will go the same way this year. The Pens have scored at least three goals in all six of the previous games, and they’re coming off a five-goal game. They are averaging more than 38 shots a game.

That means the defensemen of the Lightning have to do a better job. Vasilevskiy can stand up to 24-25 shots a game. Have him face nearly 40, and he’s swimming with the sharks.

If Tampa Bay is going to continue its Game Seven dominance, it starts by stopping the puck. And then by silencing the fans.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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