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AFTER THIS, HE MUST BE RESILIENT AGAIN

The streak is over, and once again, the cynics will speak of his age.

A game has been lost, and once more, the critics will discuss his resilience.

The series has been tied, and as much as ever, the Lightning is in the hands of Dwayne Roloson.

For once, he was not amazing, and for a change, he was not historic. On Tuesday night, against a desperate, relentless Bruins team, Roloson dared to be ordinary. For that matter, so did the defense in front of him.

It is a dangerous thing for Roloson to be, ordinary. By now, it has been well-established that the Lightning expects Roloson to fit in somewhere between magical and magnificent or trouble occurs. In particular, a 6-5 defeat happens, and the first Lightning loss in nine games happens, and a 1-1 tie in the Eastern Conference final happens.

And now, we will see how Roloson bounces back.

Again.

After eight memorable games, games that had the statisticians reaching for the record books, this was a forgettable night for Roloson, 41. He gave up six goals in two periods, including four of them (in 13 shots) in five-on-five situations. He gave up five goals in the second period on nine shots. Even with a porous defense, that's too many.

It was a stunning enough sight - especially compared to the way Roloson had been playing - that coach Guy Boucher pulled him from for the final period in favor of Mike Smith.

No, most of it was not Roloson's fault. His defense left him out to dry too many times. On most of the goals he surrendered, it would have taken an incredible play to stop the puck.

Still, incredible is what we have seen from Roloson. Incredible is what we expect. An extra ounce or two of incredible, and the Lightning could have won this game.

"There was a time out there I was thinking, 'We're leaving him all alone back there,'" teammate Sean Bergenheim said. "It wasn't his fault. Roli is the mentally toughest player I know. He'll be fine."

Again, you can look at this two ways. One, Roloson gave up too many goals. Two, his teammates let him down worse than he let them down.

Take that five-on-three in the first period. For a while, it looked as if Roloson had walked into a skeet shoot and someone had yelled "pull!" There was the swarm: The Bruins were all over him from the first period on. There was the speed: There is something about Tyler Seguin on the open ice that seems to make Lightning defenders fall over sideways at the sight. There was the squatter: The Lightning allowed Boston's Michael Ryder to camp unruffled in front of the net.

"We aren't worried about Roli," Steven Stamkos said. "We're worried about ourselves. This wasn't Roli's fault. He gave up six goals, but I don't think any of them were soft."

What happened? Perhaps Roloson had this kind of night coming. Perhaps the Lightning did, too. Perhaps the Lightning took too many penalties and gave up too much momentum early, as Stamkos suggested. This is the NHL playoffs, and this is a feisty Bruins team. No one should expect Boston to surrender.

What happens next? That's the bigger question, isn't it? The last time Roloson lost a game, way back on April 20, the Lightning won eight straight afterward, and Roloson averaged surrendering two goals per game.

During the regular season, he was the same. Four times this year, Roloson gave up five or more goals in the regular season. Every time, he won the next time out. In January, after giving up five to Carolina, he won five straight.

In other words, Roloson has been resilient all season. There is no reason to doubt Boucher when he says he believes Roloson will be good again Thursday night in Game 3. If the Lightning is to succeed, he had better be.

"I've forgotten already," Roloson said. "That's part of being a goaltender. This game was just one of those things. We just had a total breakdown of structure, from myself to the D-men to the forwards."

As for being resilient?

"That's what goaltenders do."

The best goaltenders are a forgetful lot, after all. Scorch them, burn them, chase them from the game, and they turn loose of it in about an hour. Roloson has lasted so long in this league because he has the ability to bounce back.

"That's exactly what he is," Boucher said. "He's a resilient guy. He's somebody who has tremendous concentration. And you know he always bounces back. We're not expecting anything less than what he's given us throughout the year. I'm not worried.

"I'm not looking for news to give some tools for our goaltender to rebound. He knows how to do it. He's done it. We're not going to mess with it."

At this point, the Lightning has no choice. It can bounce back, but only if Roloson does. It can restore order, but only if Roloson does. It can begin another winning streak, but only if Roloson does.

The guess here? Roloson will be very good Thursday. If his defense allows it, he will be good enough.

-gshelton@sptimes.com

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