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Tampa Bay Lightning hoping for boost at home in playoff series vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — On one hand, Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, the advantage playoff teams gain on home ice is overstated.

Look, he said, how little home ice meant to the Penguins in Friday's 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal at a rockin' Consol Energy Center.

But that didn't stop Boucher from calling on Lightning fans to show up in full voice for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I can't wait for our fans to welcome us," Boucher said. "I'm hoping they have all the energy and enthusiasm in the world, because it does give you energy. It does give you hope."

Tampa Bay has plenty of that after splitting two games in Pittsburgh. It also has home-ice advantage in what is now a best-of-five series, with three games at the Times Forum, where it tied the team mark of 25 home wins.

The Lightning had a league-best 137 goals at home, and its 55 home points, with a 25-11-5 record, were second in the East and tied for fourth in the league.

If that weren't enough, the first 10,000 fans Monday will get a rally drum, which sounds as if it will be louder than the ThunderStix planned for Game 4.

"Your fans keep you in the game," Lightning defenseman Brett Clark said. "You can get extra energy from them."

"There is nothing," wing Marty St. Louis said, "like being at home."

Even so, facing the Penguins, who this season tied the team record for road wins (24), brings an interesting consequence. As defenseman Paul Martin noted, "Pittsburgh fans travel well."

It is not as bad as when the Red Wings are in town, but Penguins fans flock to the Times Forum to see their team, so it will be interesting to see how the stands are split. "But once the puck drops, it's a game between two teams," Martin said, "so it shouldn't be that big of an issue."

The Lightning, as home team, gets the last line change, giving it a better chance of getting the matchups it wants.

More important will be continuing to clog the neutral zone to slow Pittsburgh's speedier players and transition, continuing to get bodies to the net and better calming the overwhelming surges the Penguins mounted in the first two games.

A few more shots wouldn't hurt, either. Pittsburgh had a 76-53 advantage in the first two games, though goalie Dwayne Roloson was up to the challenge with a 1.33 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

The challenge for the Penguins: "We have to gather ourselves and go in there and understand how important it is to play our very best game and get a win in Tampa Bay," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Change of venue and those emotions are important to manage. They have to do the same."

"Every time you get a body check and you hear the crowd, your body check gets stronger," Boucher said. "It uplifts you. At the same time, we don't want to get caught up too much with emotions and all of a sudden you're out of whack. We want a full barn of people screaming, and we want to give them the best show possible."

AHL playoffs: Dustin Tokarski had 27 saves and Norfolk beat Penguins affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2-0 on Saturday to take a 2-0 lead in their East semifinal.

Tampa Bay Lightning hoping for boost at home in playoff series vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 04/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 11:59pm]

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