TAMPA, Fla. -- How many times had Ryan Malone tried to score on Marc-Andre Fleury during practice in their years with the Penguins, their pride at stake? Had to be thousands.
When Malone, now with Tampa Bay, found himself on a breakaway in a one-goal game in the third period Monday and just about everything on the line, the left winger had nanoseconds to develop a strategy.
"He usually stops me every time, so I just figured I'd close my eyes and shoot and just try and get a bounce," Malone, grinning widely, said of a rising shot that sailed over Fleury's left shoulder for an important insurance goal to help the Lightning avoid elimination from this first-round playoff series for the second time in as many tries.
Such little minidramas have played out in an ebb-and-flow series that now advances to Game 7 Wednesday at Consol Energy Center after Tampa Bay's 4-2 victory Monday.
Malone's goal, at 9:34 of the third period, and Lightning winger Steve Downie's first playoff goal, the winner at 4:55 of the third period, helped Tampa Bay buck several trends.
Before Game 6, the team that scored first was 5-0, but Tampa Bay won despite the Penguins scoring first.
The road team had won four of the first five games, but the Lightning -- which spent Sunday night in a hotel to simulate an away game -- won for the first time in three tries at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"It's not easy to do; otherwise, we would have done it earlier," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "But we don't really have a choice at this point. The guys just bore down and found a way to win instead of find a way to lose as we did in the other games."
Trends, after all, are made to be broken.
"You can't focus on the stats," Downie said. "We've got to stay focused and determined."
Downie's goal, after two earlier assists, came on his own rebound.
"Vinny [Lecavalier] made a great pass," Downie said. "I was all alone. I missed the first one, but then I found the back of the net. I was pretty relieved. Lucky goal."
This was not a night for the Lightning's biggest offensive stars to score. Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne combined for zero of them.
Instead, it was Malone, Downie and wingers Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim.
"It just happened to be me tonight," Downie said of his three-point night and winning goal.
One statistical trend that previously seemed baffling now finally seems to be working in the Lightning's favor. It has killed 29 of the Penguins' 30 power plays, including all five Monday.
Brewer pointed squarely to one reason -- goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
"He's been awesome," Brewer said. "He's given us places to stand and the look that he wants. He's just been that good."
Well, there was a lapse in the first period that led to what previously had been the all-important opening goal.
Roloson's tap behind his net intended for a teammate went right to Penguins center Max Talbot, who passed the puck out to Pascal Dupuis past the left goal post. Dupuis, despite being covered by St. Louis and Pavel Kubina, swept the puck past Roloson at 8:23 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Roloson was not awarded an assist, no matter how tempting that might have been for the stats officials.
Brewer defended Roloson.
"Our goaltender's been fantastic, so he should just keep doing what he's doing," he said. "We're there to help him."
Tampa Bay will be looking for more help Wednesday as it tries to come back from a 3-1 series deficit, win its third game in a row and advance to the second round.
"It's going to come down to one game," Malone said. "It's going to be fun. What else can you say? That's what playoffs are all about."
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721. First Published April 26, 2011 4:00 AM