LIGHTNING RECAP – APRIL 2
By Leo Haggerty

GAMES 33 THROUGH 36

In this set of games, the Lightning experienced their first three game losing streak.  Granted, it came at the end of a grueling nine games in 15 day stretch where the Bolts didn’t even have a practice in that time span.  Sadly, that’s the new normal in the National Hockey League right now.

So, Tampa Bay posted a 1-3 log and that was only good for two point.  Below is how it played out.  Enjoy.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3  DALLAS STARS 4
Dallas pushed across a late third period goal to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 at the American Airlines Center.  The win propelled the Stars to 11-11-8 and the loss sunk the Lightning to 24-7-2.

The defeat also ended the 12 game winning streak of Bolts G Andrei Vasilevskiy. Still, #88 didn’t make it easy for the Big D Guys.

After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Lightning took a 2-0 advantage early in the middle period.  F Yanni Gourde (13), who has been on fire lately, broke the ice at 2:46 and F Alex Killorn (10) put the puck past Dallas G Jake Oettinger (24 saves on 27 shots) at 5:58.

The Stars roared back with three unanswered markers of their own before the end of the second period to take a 3-2 lead.  D Miro Heiskanen (4) started the comeback at 10:54. Then, in the space of 64 seconds, Dallas evened the score and took the lead when F Joe Pavelski (15) converted a power play opportunity to knot the score at 18:40.  F Jason Robertson (5) gave the Stars their first lead of the evening with just 16 seconds left before intermission.

F Ondrej Palat(12) got the Bolts even at 15:10 of the final period and it looked like the Lightning would be able to garner at least one point but that was not to be the case.  With just 1:21 left in regulation, F Roope Hintz took advantage of a lucky bounce and slid the puck past Vasilevskiy (37 saves on 41 shots) on a breakaway for the game winner and a much needed two points for the Stars.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 3  CAROLINA HURRICANES 4
As Yogi Berra would say, it was “deja vu again” for the Bolts as the Hurricanes also deposited a late game marker for a 4-3 triumph in Raleigh at the PNC Arena.  The victory moved Carolina to 23-7-3 on the campaign and the defeat dropped Tampa Bay to 24-8-2 in 2020-21.

As in their last contest, the Bolts moved out to an early lead.  F Blake Coleman (7) lit the lamp at 3:12 of the first first period and that was followed at 5:41 of the opening 20 minutes by F Pat Maroon (4) who maneuvered the puck past G James Reimer (19 saves on 22 shots) for a 2-0 advantage.

Just like the previous game, the opposition score three middle period goals.  If began at 2:24 when former Lightning F Cedric Paquette (4) cut the Tampa Bay lead in half.  Just 1:04 later, F Sabastian Aho (15) slipped the puck past Vasilevskiy (36 saves on 40 shots) to pull Carolina even.  F Martin Necas (8) gave the Hurricanes their first lead of the tilt at 15:44 with a power play marker.

Again, just as they did against Dallas two days earlier, the Bolts tied the score at 3 each in the final period.  This time it was F Mathieu Joseph (9) doing the honors just 22 seconds into the last 20 minute session.

Sadly, like Thursday night, the guys in the other jersey netted a late goal for the win.  Again, it was Necas (9) at 16:07 finding the back of the net with the Hurricanes having the man advantage.  That gave Carolina a valuable two points as they stayed right on the heels of the Lightning for the top spot in the Central Division.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS 3  TAMA BAY LIGHTNING 1
For the first time this season, the Lightning lost their third consecutive game when the Bolts fell to the Blue Jackets by a 3-1 count at Amalie Arena.  Columbus improved to 14-15-8 while Tampa Bay fell to 24-9-2.

After both goalies pitched shutouts in the opening 20 minutes, the Jackets broke through for two second period counters.  The first came at 10:49 when F Oliver Bjorkstrand (13) put the biscuit in the basket.  Columbus made it 2 zip when D David Savard (1) sent a shot that eluded Bolts G Curtis McElhinney (18 saves on 20 shots) with just 32 seconds left before intermission.

The Lightning cut lead in half at 4:12 of the final period.  Joseph (10) put the puck past Blue Jackets G Elvis Merzlikins (37 saves on 38 shots) but that was the only puck that would elude the Columbus netminder.

The Jackets added an insurance goal with just 1:31 left in regulation.  F Cam Atkinson (13) empty netter gave Columbus a hard earned road two points.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS 2  TAMA BAY LIGHTNING 3
Tampa Bay managed a split in their two game series with Columbus scoring two late third period goals for a 3-2 victory at Amalie Arena.  The Lightning advanced to 25-9-2 while the Blue Jackets slipped to 14-16-8.

The Bolts scored first at 15:45 of the opening period.  F Brayden Point (14) dropped the puck behind Merzlikins (31 saves on 34 shots) on a power play opportunity.

The Jackets got on the scoreboard at (9:04) of the middle period.  D Zach Werenski (5) found the back of the net knotting the score at 1 all.

Columbus took the lead midway through the final period.  F Eric Robinson (5) slipped the puck past Vasilevskiy (36 saves on 38 shots) at 10:54 for a 2-1 Blue Jackets lead.

The Lightning roared back with two late goals.  Rookie F Ross Colton (3) tied the score at 14:49.  Point (15) chipped in the game winner just 55 second later to end the losing streak and put two more points on the board for the Bolts.

Right before the end of this quartet of contest, I had a chance to ask Head Coach Jon Cooper whether it was an advantage or a disadvantage just playing seven franchises over the course of the regular season as opposed to seeing all 30 National Hockey League organizations. After he asked me if I was “on the couch” for this Zoom availability, which has become a standing joke between the two of us, he replied, “Well, I guess if you match up really well against the other seven teams, then it’s an advantage.  I think, regardless, you have to win your games.  The familiarity of the teams, maybe, gives it a playoff feel to it because you play these teams so much.  Down the stretch here the games become important if you’re a bubble team to make the playoffs.  But, you don’t have any way to gauge where your team is at because you only play seven other teams. In that way, I can’t sit here and say that’s an advantage.  I don’t know.  It’s tough to answer that question as to what is really an advantage or a disadvantage.  I just know that it’s not as fun.  I can tell you that.”

Look for the next LIGHTNING RECAP around 9th of April.  That will be after the conclusion of a two game home set with Detroit and then a couple of road games in Columbus.  Until then, stay safe and I’ll meet you around the TV to catch the Bolts.