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The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from a rare double finals berth

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Are Malkin, Penguins guaranteeing Game 6 win? (3:02)

Scott Burnside and Joe McDonald evaluate the confidence Pittsburgh has heading to Tampa Bay for Game 6 down 3-2 and whether Marc-Andre Fleury is the right choice in net. (3:02)

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of joining exclusive NHL playoff company. All they have to do is not let their own history -- or the Pittsburgh Penguins -- get in the way.

In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday (8 p.m. ET), the Lightning have the opportunity to return to the Stanley Cup finals for the second straight year.

We know how hard it is for a team to repeat as Cup champions. No team has done it since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and '98 and, before that, the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and '92.

It is likewise extremely uncommon for a team to make it to back-to-back finals, regardless of how the team then fares. The Red Wings and Penguins accomplished the rare feat in 2008 and 2009, with the teams splitting the big prize and each winning a championship.

Before that, the New Jersey Devils went to the 2000 and 2001 Cup finals and won one and lost one, and the Dallas Stars went all the way in 1999 and 2000 and also split. Even so, it simply doesn't happen with any regularity, and the Lightning have a golden chance to join the club.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, shall we?

The Lightning are trying to not think too much about reaching the final plateau for a second straight year, even though it's in human nature to think about it a little.

"It's close," said Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman, who was also a member of the 2014 New York Rangers, and is one win away from going to three consecutive finals.

Stralman, like many of the Lightning, has spent much of the time since his team edged the Penguins 4-3 in overtime Sunday in Game 5 in Pittsburgh talking about wanting to learn from their experience a year ago.

In the 2015 conference finals, the Lightning went up 3-2 on the Rangers and, like they do now, had a chance to close the Rangers out on home ice but laid an egg and lost 7-3.

"We had the chance to close them out and had to go back to New York and really pull out probably our best game we ever played to get through to the finals," Stralman said.

Of course, being in the same situation as a year ago doesn't guarantee that you can fix it or alter what is going to happen. At the same time, being aware of what happened in the past and why it happened should be helpful. At least, the Lightning hope it's helpful.

"You can't sit here and dictate or guarantee what the result's going to be, but our mindset going into the game has got to be a heck of a lot different, and our group is well aware of that," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday.

The Penguins, who blew leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in losing back-to-back for the first time since mid-January, have proven to be as resilient a team as the Lightning this season.

Both have had serious injuries to overcome in getting to this point, with the Lightning still missing Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop and star center Steven Stamkos. The Penguins, meanwhile, played their first game since learning that top-four defenseman Trevor Daley will be lost for the season with a broken ankle.

The Penguins remained steadfast in their insistence that they too can get up off the mat, with star center Evgeni Malkin virtually guaranteeing a return to Pittsburgh for Game 7 on Thursday.

"What's he supposed to say?" Cooper asked. "'We're done? We're just going down [to Tampa] as a formality?' Of course they're going to say they're going to win, and they should. They're a good team. A good, confident group, but we feel the same way."

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan talked Monday about the opportunity this win-or-else situation presents for his team. They're a team that has found ways to address adversity throughout the season.

But the Lightning's learning curve while this close in spite of the loss of star players goes back further, to playoff losses two years ago, when the team was without Bishop and had lost Stamkos to a broken leg early in the season. Bishop also missed time during last year's Cup finals.

"I think with some of those situations that you go through and you deal with them then, when they happen again, they just don't seem to matter as much," Cooper said.

If it does matter, you're not going to last long, the coach added.

That hasn't been an issue for the Lightning this spring -- not so far, anyway.