The Lightning's road map for staying alive Wednesday looked a little awry and appeared to stray off course.
But at the end of the night, the destination remained in sight.
Tampa Bay kept its season alive for the fourth time this postseason with a 5-4 victory against Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to tie the series at 3.
Game 7 is Friday in Boston, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup finals to face the Vancouver Canucks, with Game 1 of that series to begin Wednesday at Rogers Centre in Vancouver.
Tampa Bay is 3-0 all-time in Game 7s, including one this season, while the Bruins are 10-10 lifetime, 10-6 on home ice.
After being quiet for most of the series, Tampa Bay's top three offensive stars stepped up as Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier combined for eight points. Teddy Purcell chipped in with a pair of goals, while Steve Downie picked up two key assists as the Lightning scored five goals for the fourth time in six games in this series.
The Lightning's power play, which was silent for most of the series, coming in 2-for-18 with the man advantage, scored three times to fuel the offense and help overcome a hat trick by Boston's David Krejci.
"The last two games, one of our power plays had a lot of poise and the other one didn't,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "And I think today both power plays had a lot more poise. And we got the results out of the poise that we had with the puck, managing it a lot better.''
Goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who sat out the Game 5 loss in Boston to gain some additional rest, finished with 16 saves and improved to 7-0 all-time in playoff elimination games, even if his game was far from perfect.
"I don't care if we win 21-20, as long as we win,'' said Roloson, who joined Chico Resch as the only goaltenders in NHL history to win their first seven playoff elimination games. "I felt rested, I felt strong and besides Game 1 (of this series) this is the best I've felt all series. I'm sure it will get more intense, but that's playoff hockey.''
At times, Wednesday's contest looked like anything but playoff hockey as both teams looked ragged and out-of-sorts at times. With the exception of the first period, things looked downright helter-skelter.
It wasn't that way to start, as Purcell put the Lightning ahead just 36 seconds into the game on a play set up by Lecavalier. After Krejci was kicked out of the faceoff circle, Lecavalier shifted Purcell from the side to the top of the circle.
After Lecavalier beat Chris Kelly clean on the draw, Purcell wristed a quick shot past Tim Thomas to mark the third time in this series Tampa Bay scored in the opening 70 seconds of the game.
But just as the two previous times, Boston did not seem fazed as Milan Lucic scored his first of the series with a wrist shot over the glove of Roloson at 7:09, and Krejci scored his first of the night with 3:30 left to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Boston's defense, meanwhile, clamped down, holding Tampa Bay without a shot for the final 12:31 of the first.
"We played in so many tight games all year that we know how to react,'' Stamkos said. "We stayed collected on the bench. We realized what we had to do.''
In the second, Tampa Bay regrouped and looked more alive. St. Louis got things running again, finding a loose puck above the crease for a power-play goal at 7:05 and Purcell made it 3-2 with another power-play marker at 13:55 to regain the lead.
With more power-play time carrying over to the third, Stamkos fired in a one-timer from the left circle while a scramble took place in front of the net that found St. Louis actually in the net for a 4-2 lead just 34 seconds into the final period.
Boston cut the lead to a goal on a Krejci power-play tally at 9:46 — the Bruins' first shot of the period — but St. Louis answered just 29 seconds later by finishing a 2-on-1 with Downie.
Though Krejci finished off his hat trick with 6:32 left to cut Boston's deficit to a goal, the Lightning managed to hold on and extend the series to a final game.
"It's one game now. We have to play 60 minutes, 120 minutes or 420, or however long it takes to win the game,'' Roloson said.
Tribune's 3 Stars
1. Lightning RW Marty St. Louis — Scored two goals, including the eventual game winner, and had one assist in a big bounce-back effort.
2. Bruins C David Krejci — Consistently kept the Bruins’ hopes alive by recording a hat trick and taking the NHL lead in playoff goals.
3. Lightning RW Teddy Purcell — Got the night going for the Lightning with an early goal and scored a go-ahead goal in the second period.