LIGHTNING : GAMES 16 TO 20 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty

Another six-points for the Bolts.  Yes, it could have been better but I have a feeling everyone is pleased with how the five-game segment materialized.

Considering all that has happened to the organization in this time frame, it could have been a lot worse.  Read on and find out what had transpired in Games 16 to 20.  Enjoy.

GAME 16 – NEW YORK ISLANDERS (W 4-2)

Tampa Bay started out this segment with a win over the New York Islanders.  Yes, it was a victory and you never discount two points now matter how you procure them.

The big problem is the slow start by the Lightning continue to surface.  The Islanders Josh Bailey initiated the scoring early in the opening period and the Bolts found themselves down 1-0 at the intermission.

The second 20-minutes was all Tampa Bay.  F Mathieu Joseph (2) tied the score at 5:58 and F J.T. Miller (5) put the home team ahead at 11:12.  The Lightning would hold that lead heading into the third period.

New York knotted the score when Bailey lit the lamp again and it looked like the Isles were going to escape Amalie Arena with at least a point and possibly two.

But, as Lee Corse so emphatically states, “Not so fast, my friend” and that applied to Tampa Bay tonight.  F Tyler Johnson (6) found a way to get the puck past Islanders goalie Robin Lehner at 18:47.  F Steven Stamkos (6) deposited an empty-net marker 10 seconds before the horn.

G Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots and improved 9-2-1.  Also, the Lightning increased their division-leading point total to 25 to stay five points up on Toronto.

GAME 17 – OTTAWA SENATORS (L 6-4)

The loss to Ottawa was a microcosm of the season so far for the Bolts.  This time, the exception was the ending.

As usual, Tampa Bay dug an early hole for themselves with another slow start.  Ottawa scored two quick goals in the first 7:21 of the opening period to put the Lightning in catch-up mode.

The Bolts got one back when Joseph (3) put the biscuit in the basket at 8:49.  The Senators would head to the locker room with a 2-1 advantage.

True to form, the second period was all Tampa Bay. D Victor Hedmon (3) and D Braydon Coburn (3) along with Joseph (4) again all lit the lamp to give the Lightning what would normally be an insurmountable 4-2 lead going to the third period.

The surprise was that, normally, Tampa Bay is one of the best teams in the National Hockey League when it comes to protecting a lead in the final period.  Sadly, that would not be the case tonight.

Ottawa G Craig Anderson shut the Bolts out in the last 20-minutes.  Also, the Sens were able to get four pucks behind Vasilevskiy, two on power-play opportunities, and came away with a 6-4 triumph at Amalie Arena.

The loss drooped #88 to 9-3-1 on the campaign.  Little did anyone know that would be the last appearance for the Bolts net-minder for an extended period of time.

GAME 18 – BUFFALO SABRES (L 2-1)

The Lightning traveled to Buffalo to take on the improving Sabres.  In an up-and-down battle that saw more goals than penalties, the Sabres came away with a 2-1 victory.

Following an all-too-familiar script, the Bolts got behind again.  Buffalo scored late in the period and took a 1-0 advantage to the locker room at the first intermission.

Tampa Bay got down 2-0 early in the second period but bounced back with a C Anthony Cirelli (3)  breakaway marker at 5:58.  #71 wristed the puck over the glove of Sabres G Carter Hutton and both teams went off at the second intermission with Buffalo up 2-1.

There was no scoring in the period and that was due to some excellent goal-tending.  Hutton and Bolts G Louis Domingue were both exceptional in keeping the opposing team off the scoreboard.

#70 dropped to 3-2 on the season.  Nevertheless, Tampa Bay remained atop the Atlantic Division with 25 points.  That’s three points better than the trio of Boston and Toronto along with the Sabres.

GAME 19 – PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (W 4-3)

Now, the craziness begins.  Vasilevskiy sustained a major injury at practice before the Pittsburgh contest.  #88, according to the Bolts, will be out indefinitely.  That’s never a good thing.

So, Tampa Bay came into the Steel City and pilfered a couple of points from the Penguins with a 4-2 victory.  Also, they did it with their backup goaltender as well as the power-play but kept the same MO.

To no ones surprise, Pittsburgh went ahead in the opening frame with two power-play goals.  It was not looking real good for Tampa Bay until C Brayden Point (10) cut the lead in half with a power-play goal with just three seconds to go in the period.

That goal would be a precursor of what would transpire in the second period.  Point (11 & 12) would add two more power-play markers in the the first 90 seconds of the middle stanza.  That natural hat trick gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead until the Penguins tied it at 4:29 with the only non-power-play goal of the contest.

Tampa Bay W Yanni Gourde (8) gave the Bolts the lead again with, what else, a power-play goal.  That sent the teams to the second intermission with the Lightning leading 4-3.

Both Domingue and Pittsburgh G Matt Murray threw shutouts in the final period.  Both teams had a few excellent scoring chances but were stonewalled by both net-minders.

#70 had 29 saves in goal for the Bolts.  That’s not a bad performance considering he was suppose to caddy for #88 against the Pens.

Domingue improved to 4-2 with the help of four power-play goals.  The Lightning moved to 27 points and kept a three point lead on the Maple Leafs.

GAME 20 – PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (W 6-5 OT)

It wasn’t until the final tilt of the quintet of games where some strange things started to occur on the ice.  Tampa Bay was able to beat Philadelphia 6-5 in overtime but that doesn’t scratch the surface of what took place.

After a scoreless initial 20 minutes, the Lightning drew first blood.  W Adam Erne (2), with a power-play marker, along with W Cedric Paquette (3) gave the Bolts a 2-0 lead.

After the Flyers got on the scoreboard, Point (13) lit the lamp at 17:05.  That gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead at the end of the middle period.

Johnson (7) and Point ( 14) extended the advantage to 5-1 with just under 11 minutes left in the contest.  Then, the roof fell in for the Bolts.

Philly scored four goals, the first two on power-play opportunities, in the space of six minutes to tie the contest and send it into overtime.

Cirelli (4) scored at 1:47 of the extra period procure the victory for the Bolts.  A much-needed two points that Tampa Bay almost let slip away especially considering Domingue had to withstand a withering 45-shot barrage from the Flyers.

#70 improved to 5-2 on the campaign.  Also, it looks like Domingue is going to have to carry the load while #88 is on the shelf mending.

So, as we move to the next set of five games, the 800-pound elephant in the room is how long Vasilevskiy will be out of the lineup.  That, my fellow readers, is a query only the Bolts training staff will know and they’re not talking.  Do you blame them?