Bad bounce spoils Conner's chance to be hero

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:15 AM ET

Chris Conner learned about the pressure of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs the hard way Monday and now the Penguins are off to Game 7.

The Pittsburgh winger had a golden opportunity to be a playoff hero in Game 6 at the St. Pete Times Forum after being awarded a penalty shot midway through the second when he was hauled down on a breakaway.

Heading in with a golden opportunity to tie the game 2-2, Conner, 27, who was playing in only his eighth NHL playoff game, saw the puck slide off his stick as he was heading towards Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson all alone.

“The poor kid just loses the puck before he looks down,” said CBC analyst Greg Millen. “You have to feel for him. Look at those eyes (with the camera flashing towards the bench) and the disappointment in them.”

It appeared Conner was the victim of a bad bounce or bad ice. Either way, he missed a chance to help the Penguins end this series.

OFF THE GLASS

Joe Thornton, who has taken plenty of criticism for his playoff performance, started to shake off those demons by scoring the OT winner for Sharks Monday night. That sent the Los Angeles Kings packing after San Jose killed off a five-minute power play. “They gave us everything. It was a very tough series,” Thornton told TSN’s Ray Ferraro ... Not many goalies in the playoffs have been better than Tampa’s Dwayne Roloson. He has allowed 13 goals on 220 shots against Pittsburgh. Roloson has a .941 save-percentage and a 2.05 GAA and recovered after a bad goal. “It’s one thing to make the big saves, it’s another to make the timely saves and that’s what he’s doing,” said CBC analyst Kelly Hrudey. Roloson’s best: Back-to-back stops on Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis ... You have to wonder about San Jose’s Antti Niemi. The poster boy for inconsistency.

AROUND THE BOARDS

If the Bruins are going to knock off the Habs, they need to get more out of Milan Lucic. CBC analyst Mike Milbury didn’t hold back. “He’s maturing as a player, 30 goals is great, but there were times during the season he wasn’t bringing to the table what he needed to bring to the table,” said Milbury. “That’s muscle. He’s trying to finesse things. Just play and play hard. Don’t think about being a mature, finesse-type player.” ... Nice to see Wayne Gretzky in the building for Game 6 of the Kings/Sharks series. He told TSN the Kings don’t need a star to be successful. “Winning makes a team successful,” said Gretzky ... You have to wonder what San Jose’s Jamie McGinn was thinking by going after Brad Richardson with 3:27 left in the game that resulted in a five-minute major that extended into OT. “It was absolutely the right call and a courageous call,” said former NHL referee Kerry Fraser on TSN .... Everybody -- Craig MacTavish, Colby Armstrong and Bob McKenzie -- on the TSN panel was in agreement that Roberto Luongo is facing the biggest game of his career. “He’s going to have to look the demons in the eye and conquer them himself,” said MacTavish.

THIS N’ THAT

Pittsburgh D Zybnek Michalek scored the “own goal” by knocking a loose puck on a shot from Tampa’s Steve Downie by Marc-Andre Fleury in the third to give the Bolts a 3-2 lead ... The numbers don’t look good for the Sabres: They are 1-5 lifetime in Game 7. The only victory Buffalo has recorded in a deciding game situation is April 29, 1997 when Derek Plante scored the winner in OT against the Senators ... CBC play-by-play man Dean Brown had a good line to start the game: “(Steve) Stamkos throws it to open an area. In fact it was so open, no one was there.” ... Nobody will argue with the acquistion of D Eric Brewer at the deadline in Tampa. He played 25:51 of ice time in Game 6 and has looked good.

THE TWEET DECK

- “Well my wife and sister in law said we were going to lunch and now somehow I’m in Beverly Hills shopping and hating every minute.” -- Isles F Matt Moulson

- “No need to mess with tornadoes ... Will play it safe and try tomorrow.” -- Stars C Brad Richards, who was trying to fry from Dallas to Tampa Monday night.

- “Fans are like trained seals when the anthems are sung.” -- QMI Agency’s Steve Buffery.

- “Great dump by Chris Conner. Never a bad play. 4th Line 4 Life.” -- Phoenix winger Paul Bissonnette.

THE LAST WORD

The decision by Vancouver GM Mike Gillis to call a news conference to dump on the officiating isn’t going to have a lot of traction. He’s trying to get the pressure off a team that is trying to avoid what would be a monumental choke. This won’t take any heat off ... What a contrast? The Tampa dressing room quiet and business-like, players preparing to get ready. Down the hall, the Pittsburgh players had the music blaring as they got ready. We know what worked.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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