LIGHTNING RECAP – JANUARY 26
By Leo Haggerty

GAMES 1 THROUGH 4

Before you think that we have forgot about the Tampa Bay Lightning beginning their defense of the Stanley Cup, nothing could be farther from the truth.  There just been so much happening at other sporting venues that have taken up a majority of our time and attention in a good way.

To be honest, our prime focus has been on the Buccaneers ever since they went on this end of the season seven game victory tour that’s taken the Bucs to Super Bowl LV.  Plus, to add to the chaos, the game is being played in “our backyard” at Raymond James Stadium so all of our staff has Game Week credentials.

Also, the pandemic has still forced the Bolts to play their games with no fans along with an extremely limited media contingent in attendance.  Until the coronavirus vaccine has taken effect, we decided here at It’s Sports! Magazine, when it comes to covering the Tampa Bay Hockey Club, that the best course of action was to provide a recap every four games.

So, without further adieu, here’s our BOLTS RECAP for Games 1 to 4 with the home team is listed last.  Also, a couple of quotes from D Jan Rutta and D Luke Schenn to add to your enjoyment.

GAME 1 – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 1 & TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 5
In a game where the 2019-20 Stanley Cup banner was revealed, the Bolts started the 2020-21 campaign with a 5-1 victory over the Blackhawks.  Also, don’t be worried if you missed the banner ceremony.  That’s because it will be hoisted to the Amelie Arena rafters once fans are permitted to attend.

Tampa Bay jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead.  F Ondrej Palat (1) opened the scoring at 10:39.  That goal was followed by F Mathieu Joseph (1) lighting the lamp at at 16:18.  F Anthony Cirelli (1) finished the opening period scoring at 17:57.

The Lightning increased their lead in the second period on their patented power play.  F Steven Stamkos (1) blistered a one timer by Chicago G Malcolm Subban (28 saves on 33 shots) for the only marker of the middle stanza.

The Bolts made it 5-0 at 6:45 of the final period with F Brayden Point (1) doing the honors.  The Blackhawks avoided the shutout when F Dylan Strome (1) slid the puck by Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy (22 saves on 23 shots) on a power play opportunity at 16:36 of the final 20 minutes.

GAME 2 – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 2 & TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 5
Tampa Bay swept the two game series with Chicago by a 5-2 count.  The Lightning moved to 2-0 on the season and the Blackhawks fell to 0-2 on the campaign.

I know the score is very similar to the opening contest but that didn’t indicate how the game played out.  Trust me when I tell you, this game was much closer than the final count indicates.

After a scoreless first 20 minutes, the Bolts explored for three quick goals before the midway point of the second period.  Just like the previous game, Palat (2) started the scoring at 2:25.  F Alex Killorn (1) made it 2-zip at 4:43 and a marker by F Blake Coleman (1) at 8:11 stretched the lead to 3-0.

The major difference from the first game was that Chicago posted two goals of their own before the end of the second stanza.  F Alex DeBrincat (1) notched a power play marker at 14:20 and F Patrick Kane (1) cut the Tampa Bay lead to 3-2 at 16:11.

F Yanni Gourde (1) provided an insurance marker at 13:32 to give the Bolts some breathing room.  Stamkos (2) made it 5-2 when he put the biscuit in the basket behind Blackhawks G Collin Delia (32 saves on 37 shots).  Also, during the final 20 minutes of regulation, Lightning G Vasilevskiy (35 saves on 37 shots) pitched a shutout.

GAME 3 – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3 & COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS 2 OT

The Lightning made it three in a row with a 3-2 overtime road victory against the Blue Jackets.  Tampa Bay advanced to 3-0 on the young season and Columbus fell to 1-2-2.

The home team dented the scoreboard just 21 seconds into the tilt.  F Oliver Bjorkstrand (2) managed to get the puck past Vasilevskiy (23 saves on 25 shots) to give the Blue Jackets and early 1-0 advantage.

The Bolts took the lead with two late second period scores.  Coleman (2) tied the score at 16:33 and Joseph (2) put the Lightning up 2-1 at 17:56.

It took Columbus only 47 ticks into the third period to knot the score.  F Nick Foligno (2) found the back of the net and both goalies stonewalled the opposition the rest of the way in regulation to send the game to extra time.

The Lightning secured the win at 1:56 of overtime.  Point (2) redirected a perfect pass from D Victor Hedman across the crease behind Blue Jacket G Joonas Korpisalo (34 saves on 37 shots).

GAME 4 – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 2 & COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS 5

The Blue Jackets came back in the second game to give the Lightning their first loss of the season by a count of 5-2.  Columbus, with the home win, advanced to 2-2-2 in 2020-21 while Tampa Bay dropped to 3-1 on the campaign.

Both teams combined for 5 goals in the opening 20 minutes in an offensive barrage.  The Bolts opened the scoring at 4:10 when Hedman (1) found the back of the net.  The Blue Jackets answered with three consecutive goals.  Foligno (3) tied the score at 4:27 and F Mikhail Grigorenko put Columbus up 2-1 at 10:03.  The home team scored an insurance goal just 59 seconds before the first intermission when D Vladislav Gavrikov (1) deposited the rubber disk behind Lightning G Vasilevskiy (23 saves on 27 shots). Tampa Bay closed to within a goal when Palat (3) netted a power play score with just 14 ticks left on the  game clock that eluded Blue Jackets G Elvis Merzlinkins.

The netminders stepped it up a notch in the middle period.  Both teams had good scoring opportunities but were denied with some great goalie play at both ends.

Columbus extended its lead to 4-2 at 6:34 of the final period with D Zach Werenski (1) putting the biscuit in the basket.  The Blue Jackets closed out the scoring at 18:12 when Eric Robinson (1) converted an empty net opportunity.

LH : Last year, you spent the whole time in the bubble.  Do you think that’s helping you and your teammates now with all the changes that’s going on with scheduling?

JR : Yeah, I mean, this is the first road trip and it already feels a bit similar.  We’re just learning that you can’t plan too far ahead.  I mean the schedule is changing very much every day.  You just have to be ready and stay cautious.  We are healthy and together as a group and, hopefully, we play a stretch of games here.,

LH : We know the league had to change the scheduling just to play this year.  Still, there’s a good chance you may not play a Canadian team all year.  That almost sounds sacrilegious.  Does that resonating with you a little bit?

LS : Oh, I mean, I just came from British Columbia before the season started and, there’s no question, that’s pretty much the talk of Canada right now, that Canadian division.  I mean, that’s all that people are talking about.  Everyone is pumped up and there’s a lot of Must See TV there, for sure.  There’s a lot of superstars across Canada on the Canadian teams. I mean, yeah, of course, it’s different for sure not to go across the border this year but, I mean, what isn’t different this year.  It comes with the territory of what we’re dealing with but, from that perspective, it’s fun to watch.

With the schedule changing daily, I won’t try to tell you when the next installment of BOLTS RECAP will be.  I can just assure you that it will occur after Game 8 of the campaign and your guess is as good as mine as to when that will take place.

Until then, STAY SAFE.