TAMPA — There were some tense moments in Friday's third period, no doubt fingernail-biting time in the arena, after the Lightning's four-goal lead over the Penguins had shrunk to one with seven minutes to go.
"Sure, we elevated the heart rates of the 18,000 people in the building," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "Shame on anyone if they left early."
But wing Jonathan Drouin said there was no panic on the Tampa Bay bench, even as it held on for dear life.
"I don't think we lost control of the game," defenseman Victor Hedman said.
And, more important, the Lightning didn't let the Penguins take control of the Eastern Conference final, evening the best-of-seven series at two games each with a 4-3 win in Game 4 at Amalie Arena.
"(The Penguins) kind of ran our show in Game 3," center Brian Boyle said. "We responded. Now it's a series."
Said wing Ondrej Palat: "Anything can happen."
It seemed like anything and everything happened Friday. There was Tyler Johnson getting struck in the face by a puck in warmups, his bloody, puffy lips covered by a protective shield as he scored what ended up being the winning goal in the second period.
"Now the talk is somebody should shoot one in Johnny's mouth in warmups in Game 5," Cooper said, "because I thought he had a (great) game."
There was Ryan Callahan scoring the second-fastest goal to start a game in team playoff history, his redirection 27 seconds in and monster all-around game setting the tone. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy earned his first win in a playoff start with 35 saves. Hedman, who had two assists, got his first stitches thanks to a high stick.
"Hope they're the last," he quipped.
And there was a night of redemption for wing Jonathan Drouin, who made up for his costly turnover in a Game 3 loss with a goal-saving backcheck on an Eric Fehr shorthanded breakaway in the second period moments before he scored a power-play goal.
"You've got to trust your players, and Jo has earned trust," Cooper said. "That kid is mentally tough."
After getting dominated in a 4-2 loss in Game 3, Cooper said his team's mantra was "Let's make a stand" in an almost must-win Game 4. The Lightning did that, reclaiming its puck-possession game and peppering goalie Matt Murray with 37 shots in two periods after totaling 49 shots in the previous two games combined.
"I thought we upped our game all over the ice," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "Battle levels, everything, it was the response we wanted."
The Penguins responded in the third, when Marc-Andre Fleury took over for Murray. Stralman said the Lightning got a little tentative and Pittsburgh scored three times, Chris Kunitz's power-play tally with seven minutes left cutting the Lightning's lead to 4-3.
But Cooper said he never believed his team was in trouble. And it was the Penguins who were left limping out, including key defenseman Trevor Daley (left leg) walking out on crutches.
"At the end of the day," Stralman said, "we found a way."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Callahan 2 (Hedman, Brown), :27. 2, Tampa Bay, Sustr 1 (Kucherov, Killorn), 14:28. Penalties—Hagelin, Pit (tripping), 1:10; Pittsburgh bench, served by Kessel (too many men), 7:59; Kunitz, Pit (roughing), 18:00; Brown, TB (roughing), 18:00.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Drouin 4 (Palat, Hedman), 14:38 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Johnson 6 (Kucherov, Hedman), 17:48. Penalties—Kucherov, TB (boarding), 2:11; Drouin, TB (holding), 5:59; Cullen, Pit (holding), 11:38; Boyle, TB (roughing), 11:38; Letang, Pit, double minor (roughing, cross-checking), 11:38; Killorn, TB (tripping), 15:17.
Third Period—5, Pittsburgh, Kessel 8 (Bonino, Dumoulin), 1:18. 6, Pittsburgh, Malkin 4 (Cole), 11:13. 7, Pittsburgh, Kunitz 3 (Schultz, Sheary), 13:08 (pp). Penalty—Killorn, TB (tripping), 11:26. Shots on Goal—Pittsburgh 12-10-16—38. Tampa Bay 18-12-7—37. Power-play opportunities—Pittsburgh 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Pittsburgh, Murray 9-4 (37 shots-33 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 2-2 (38-35).