LIGHTNING : GAMES 21-25 : RECAP
By Leo Haggerty

I know, this is going to sound like a broken record but another six-point sequence for the Lightning.  In fact, the mantra for the Bolts should be get me at least “six every five” and that will get you to the post-season with a pretty good seed.

Could it have been better?  Sure but, keep in mind, the guys in the other color jerseys are getting paid to.  Plus, there are going to be nights when the guy between the pipes “stands on his head” at the opposite end of the ice.

So here’s how the fifth set of five-game blocks transpired.  Enjoy.

GAME 21 – NASHVILLE PREDATORS (L 3-2)

The series did not start on the “good foot” for Tampa Bay with a 3-2 loss in Nashville.  Also, as you’ll see below, the outcome was not a surprise.

Predators G Pekka Rinne has flat-out owned the Bolts.  Over his career, #35 has a 9-0-1 log that includes this contest.

The Lightning started out well with D Victor Hedman (4) lighting the lamp at 5:10 of the opening period.  Nashville answered with a goal of their own to knot the score at 1 going to the first intermission. 

The second period was what buried the Bolts.  The Preds slid two pucks by Tampa Bay G Louis Domingue to take a 3-1 lead after two periods.

The Bolts fought back when F Nikita Kucherov (8) put the biscuit in the basket 3:25 into the final period.  Sadly, that would be all the scoring as Rinne shut the door for the rest of the way on the Lightning.

#70 stopped 31 shots in the loss for Tampa Bay dropping him to 5-3.  Rinne made 29 saves in the victory as the Predators continued their mastery over the Lightning. 

GAME 22 – FLORIDA PANTHERS (W 7-3)

Tampa Bay returned to the friendly confines of Amalie Arena and dispatched Florida 7-3.  Also, for one of the few times so far this season, the Bolts scored first two games in a row and did it early against the Panthers.

At one second short of the minute into the contest, rookie F Mathieu Joseph (5) opened the scoring for the Bolts.  Florida promptly tied it at 2:19 but Tampa Bay retook the lead with a Kucherov (9) marker at 9:22.  That finished the first period scoring with  both teams going to the locker room with the Lightning up 2-1.

The second period brought the same amount of goals at the initial stanza.  Scores by Forwards Yanni Gourde (9) at 2:37 and Adam Erne (3) pushed the Bolts advantage to 4-1 until Florida pushed one past G Domingue with 1:35 left in the period.  

Starting the third period with a 4-2 advantage, Tampa Bay quickly put the game on ice.  F Steven Stamkos (7) scored at 1:30 and D Ryan McDonagh (2) did the same at 3:21 extended the lead to 6-2.  That led to an early exit for Florida G Roberto Luongo.  The Bolts added another goal at 14:25 when D Dan Girardi (1) notched his first score of the campaign.  Florida scored late in the game to make the final arithmetic 7-3.

G Domingue stopped 40 of the 42 shots in the win to move to 6-3.  G Luango made 22 saves before being replaced by G James Reimer who turned away 4 of the 5 shots he faced in limited duty.

GAME 23 – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (W 4-2)

The Bolts continued their winning ways with a 4-2 triumph over their old nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks, by a count of 4-2.  To be perfectly honest, the outcome of this game was sealed in the first 15 minutes when the Lightning exploded with four goals in the opening period.  

F Tyler Johnson (8) started the onslaught just 29 ticks into the tilt.  Johnson (9) lit the lamp again at the 7:15 mark and was followed by F Brayden Point (15) just after the midway point of the first period.  Just over a minute later, Chicago answered with a goal of their own but that momentum was snuffed out at 14:52 when F Ryan Callahan (3) got the puck behind Blackhawks G Corey Crawford to give Tampa Bay a 4-1 advantage at the end of the first period.

The Hawks Jonathan Toews score late in the second period to get Chicago within 4-2.  That was as close as the Windy City guys would get but not for a lack of effort.

The Blackhawks peppered Lightning G Domingue, who raised his record to 7-3, with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes.  #70 turned them all away to preserve the victory with a 31 save performance  G Crawford, who faced 19 shots in the opening period barrage, shut the Bolts out for the last 40 minutes but the damage had already been done.

One quick stat.  The Bolts, in their last 16 regular season games against the Blackhawks, are 14-0-2.  That 

GAME 24 – NEW JERSEY DEVILS (W 5-2)

In a contest that was different from the normal start for the Lightning, Tampa Bay exploded for four goals in the opening twenty minutes.  From there, the Bolts cruised to a 5-2 win against the Devils at Amalie Arena.

F Alex Killorn started the scoring at 3:19 and with a power play marker and was followed by successive goals from Point (16)  at 7:21 and Johnson (10) at 9:15.  New Jersey slid one past Domingue at 9:39 but the Lightning answered less than two minutes later when F Cedric Paquette (4) lit the lamp sending Tampa Bay to the first break with a 4-1 advantage.

The Bolts extended the lead to 5-1 when Point (17) lit the lamp again at 8:30.  The Devils answered at 5:21 to cut the lead to 5-2 at the second intermission.  

There was no scoring in the third period.  Bolts G Domingue made 33 saves to notch the win and improve to 8-3.  Devils G Cory Schneider had 30 saves in a losing effort.

GAME 25 – ANAHEIM DUCKS (L 3-1)

The finale of the five-game segment did not go too well for the Bolts.  Tampa Bay dropped a 3-1 decision to their old nemesis the Anaheim Ducks.

After a scoreless opening session, the Ducks pushed one past Domingue midway through the second period.  The Bolts tied it just before intermission when Point (18) managed to get the biscuit behind Ducks G Ryan Miller.  

The third period was the Lightning’s undoing.  Anaheim put two more markers up on the scoreboard and Miller stonewalled Tampa Bay for the final twenty minutes.

Ducks G Miller was spectacular between the pipes in recording 34 saves.  G Domingue fell to 8-4 on the season while making 19 saves.  So far, has filled in admirably for Vasilevskiy.  

So, after 25 games, Tampa Bay is 17-7-1 for 35 points.  That puts the Lightning one point behind the Atlantic Division, and NHL leading, Toronto Maple Leafs.

Not a bad start at all.  Look for the next installment in about two or three weeks after Game 30.