Even with an arsenal of high-profile goal scorers, the Tampa Bay Lightning has been leaning on its supporting cast in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The likes of Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim, for instance, weren’t exactly regulars on the scoring ledger during the regular season, but in Friday night’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against top-seeded Washington, those players were at it again, confirming there’s nothing aberrant about their recent ascent.
Normally playing in the shadow of teammates such as Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, Downie and Bergenheim scored the first two goals for Tampa Bay, which didn’t appear at all wobbly from a seven-game first-round series that ended two days ago. Stamkos did score the go-ahead goal late in the second period, but without the contributions of its third liners, Tampa Bay certainly wouldn’t have been in position to steal a victory at Verizon Center.
Dominic Moore, the center on the line with Downie and Bergenheim, scored into an open net with 40 seconds to play to secure the 4-2 win that had more to do with gumption than grace.
“I just think that, and I’ve always believed that, and I’ve lived it as player and as a coach that every playoffs, if you want to win, it’s because guys like that are stepping it up,” Lightning Coach Guy Boucher said. “You never expect those guys to step it up that much, and that’s what makes a difference.”
The trio of Downie, Bergenheim and Moore has combined for eight goals in these playoffs, including several in the most grave of circumstances. Downie scored what would be the winner in Game 6 against Pittsburgh to avoid elimination in the first round, and Bergenheim tallied the only goal in a Game 7 victory on the road.
None of those players had more than 18 goals during the regular season. Bergenheim had 14, but his four goals in the playoffs are tied for first on the team with St. Louis.
Bergenheim got the Lightning started right away on Friday with a goal 2 minutes 12 seconds into the first period. Downie initially had carried the puck into the crease, and there was a fracas in front of Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth. Bergenheim eventually swiped at the puck across the line.
“It’s good to play with Downie and Moore,” Bergenheim said. “I think we have a lot of energy, and I made that play [with the first-period goal], but they made a lot of plays before that. We had something good going that shift, and I got rewarded, so good energy, and we put the puck and went to the net.”
Then, after Eric Fehr had given the Capitals a 2-1 lead early in the second period, Downie benefited from a fortunate bounce. While in Tampa Bay’s offensive zone, Downie flipped the puck behind him backhanded, but it caromed off the stick of Hannan and into the goal with 3:43 to play.
“I certainly don’t want to bring down their abilities because I think they can bring a lot,” Boucher said of Downie, Bergenheim and Moore. “But to be doing it consistently like that, whether you’re a first liner, second, fourth or third, I’ve been impressed by them.”