PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – AUGUST 6
By Leo Haggerty

LIGHTNING STRIKES

The Tampa Bay Lightning started their Eastern Conference round robin mini-tournament with back-to-back victories.  Interestingly enough, not only were the scores identical but the outcome of each contest were extremely similar.

In the opener, the Bolts bested the Washington Capitals 3-2 in a shootout.  Two days later, Tampa Bay was victorious over the Boston Bruins by the same count.

Against the Caps, Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 lead.  F Nikita Kucherov (1) gave the Bolts a 1-0 lead at 12:53 of the opening period.  F Mitchell Stephens (1) lit the lamp at 7:48 of the middle period extended the Lightning lead to 2-0.

Washington answered with their first goal at 17:24 when F Richard Panik (1) tapped a rebound behind Bolts G Andrei Vasilevskiy to cut the lead to 2-1.  The Capitals tied the score just over two minutes later when F Evgeny Kuznetsov (1) found the back of the net with a power play marker with just 28 second left in the second period.

Both teams went scoreless in the final period as well as in the overtime.  In the shootout, the Caps took the lead when F T.J. Oshie scored.  The Lightning answered when F Brayden Point put the biscuit in the basket to tie the score.  Kucherov got the game winner behind Capitals G Braden Holtby and Vasilevskiy turned away F Nicklas Backstrom to secure the victory.

Washington’s game plan was to rough up the Bolts on every occasion possible.  When Tampa Bay F Pat Maroon was asked about the Washington game plan of physicality, he responded, “I thought we did a very good job.  We pushed for 35 minutes.  Late in the second period, we lost our cool and they came back on us during that last 5 minute push but we responded well”.

The second contest was another 3-2 Bolts victory over the Boston Bruins.  This time in regulation, and not overtime like the initial contest, but the similarities were unmistakable.

Tampa Bay started the scoring at 7:33 of the opening stanza when Point (2) chipped a rebound past Bruins goal Tuukka Rask.  The Bolts took a 2-0 lead (starting to sound vaguely familiar) at 10:32 of the first period when F Alex Killorn (1) converted a power play opportunity.

Following the same script, Boston scored the next two goals to tie the game.  D Charlie McAvoy (1) lit the lamp at 16:43 of the middle period.  The Bruins F Chris Wagner (1) knotted the score at 2-all just 1:47 into the final 20 minutes.

Now, here’s where the differentiation occurs.  Instead of waiting until extra time, Lightning F Tyler Johnson (1) scored the game-winner at 18:33 of the last period making the results the same as the first round robin tilt.

The Bruins had the same game plan as the Capitals when it came to defeating the Lightning. It was a simple one and one that had been successful when playing Tampa Bay in the past.

Bang the Bolts as hard and as often as possible especially Kucherov.  The Bolts are built for speed and the quickest way to slow down fast skaters is to hit them every chance you get.

This time, at least for the last two games, that strategy was unsuccessful.  Let’s see what tactics the Philadelphia Flyers, AKA The Broad Street Bullies, had on their drawing board to slow down and defeat the Bolts on Saturday.  See you around the TV, eh.