Bolts inspired by Bourque's example
CALGARY, Alberta -- The rules say you have to be on the team to get your name on the Stanley Cup.
That's too bad for Ray Bourque.
The soon-to-be Hall of Fame defenseman, a veteran of 22 National Hockey League seasons, is being credited with a major assist in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 3-2 overtime win against the Calgary Flames in Game 6 on Saturday. The win evened the series and forced a Game 7 of what could be a Stanley Cup finals for the ages Monday in Tampa.
Think of it as long-distance deja vu.
Bourque, the Hall of Fame defenseman who played with Lightning center Tim Taylor for two seasons in Boston, rang Taylor's cell phone prior to Game 6 and left a message telling his old teammate that the Lightning were just like the 2001 Colorado Avalanche.
"He said we shouldn't lose faith," Taylor said. "He told me it was just like 2001, when they lost Game 5 at home and then went into New Jersey and won Game 6 and then the Cup. He said he thought his dream was over after that [Game 5] loss and that it all worked out. He said we were a good team with a lot of skill and we could still win."
Bourque was that season's version of Dave Andreychuk, a long-time veteran with a sterling career but no Stanley Cup. Taylor saved the message and played it for his teammates prior to the game. It wasn't the singular reason the Lightning won, but it had a role in the fact they never stopped trying.
"I played if for the guys," Taylor said. "To hear Ray Bourque telling us to go out there and seize the moment, it was very, very inspirational. I mean it's a Hockey Hall of Fame player who's won the Cup and for him to call ..."
It might sound contrived to a non-hockey person, but this is the stuff that legends -- and Stanley Cup championships -- are made of.
Players revere the Cup. They know the name of nearly every contemporary player whose name is engraved on it. They know who the legends are and what some of them had to endure to win it.
At a point in the season where inspiration and desire count every bit as much as physical ability, any small thing can make a big difference. Something as simple as a phone call can sometimes be enough to tip a team toward a win.
"He cared about our team," Taylor said. "I hadn't talked with him for awhile and had kind of lost touch, but he went through the effort to track down my cell phone number and he got the message to us to just go out and win. I'll always be grateful that he did that."
Taylor certainly took that message and went with it.
With the second overtime just underway, Taylor hopped onto the ice after the Lightning had pushed the puck deep into the Calgary end. The Flames seemed to be in control, but Martin St. Louis harassed Flames defenseman Jordan Leopold into a turnover. After some scrambled play, Jassen Cullimore sent the puck out to Taylor on the point, the center one-timed it back in on goal and St. Louis popped it in from the short side.
"I just wanted to get it on net and Marty made a great play," Taylor said. "We talked all day about just getting shots through, get them to the net and something can happen. That's what I tried to do."
In the quiet of the Saddledome, Tampa Bay's elation fell on the Flames like a wet blanket.
"I was just trying to put it on net." St. Louis said of the play. "At that point in time it's not the pretty goal that's going to win; it's just trying to put as many pucks on the net. I saw Tails [Taylor] at the blue line shooting the puck, so I knew Rich [Brad Richards] was there trying to chip it.
"I was waiting to see if the rebound would come. It wasn't a good angle shot, but I just thought 'throw it on the net,' you never know."
In hockey, the prettiest plays don't always result in a goal and the smartest players don't always make the perfect play.
In winning this game the Lightning had to not just play to the best of their ability, they had to find a way to play the game like the Flames play it. They had to come hard, drive to the net, show a little grit, use a lot of muscle and do the ugly things that sometimes produce ugly goals. And even though ugly isn't the hallmark of their game, they found a way to win.
There's no underestimating the impact that will have on this series. In Calgary, the Stanley Cup was in the building, the champagne was on ice, the hats were ready to be broken out of the boxes and the parade planning was already underway.
Now the Flames have to go back to Tampa, the odds still in their favor.
Only one team in the last 33 years has come back from a 3-2 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup.
The 2001 Colorado Avalanche.
One can't help but wonder if Bourque won't be calling Andreychuk next.
Jim Kelley is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.