TORONTO – Dwayne Roloson managed to turn back the clock for at least one more night.
The 42-year-old veteran netminder put in a solid performance Thursday in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Roloson was rolling through 57 minutes, having allowed just one goal. But an goal that went in off youngster Brett Connolly tied the game at 2-2 with less than three minutes to play in regulation before Dion Phaneuf won it for the Maple Leafs in overtime.
Roloson ended up with 28 saves.
Fans and media are calling 2011-12 the final season for Roloson, but his teammates haven’t stopped believing in has the Simcoe, Ont., native.
“We all still believe in him and he still believes in himself,” said Steven Stamkos, who scored his league-leading 59th goal in the game. “It was a tough year for him at the beginning, but he’s shown that he’s a winner, that he’s a competitor. Not once has he complained this year, not once has he looked lazy in practice, not wanted to be on the ice or around the guys.
“He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever played with in my career. He’s still got a lot of hockey left and he’s proven he can still play next year. If he keeps playing like this, I’d like to see him come back.”
For his part, Roloson said still wants to play another year.
“I’m interested, obviously,” he said. “But it takes two people to dance, so right now we’re just focusing on our last game and then we’ll make some decisions.
“I’d love to play again and if not, I’d love to stay in the game of hockey. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Roloson was solid last season, posting a 2.59 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. And he was even better in 17 playoff games in the Lightning’s unlikely run to the Eastern Conference final, with a 2.51 average and .924 percentage.
“I never thought I wasn’t (an elite goalie),” said Roloson whose numbers have dropped to a 3.71 average and .885 percentage this season. “I just got to focus on what I need to do to keep playing and give our guys an opportunity to win.”
Whether the grizzled goalie hangs on for another year or not will be decided in the off-season with Tampa Bay missing the playoffs. But despite his hard-luck loss against the Leafs, he’ll play at least one more game in the NHL.
“He’s going to be playing in Winnipeg,” said head coach Guy Boucher, referring to Tampa Bay’s last game against the Jets on Saturday night. “I’m sure he feels like it’s the end of a long road, but he still wants to play next year, or he still wants to be in hockey.
“When you get to the end, whether this year’s the end or next year’s the end, you want to leave on a positive note and tonight he left a positive note.”