LIGHTNING RECAP – MAY 14
By Leo Haggerty

GAMES 53 THROUGH 56

The final Bolts recap of the 2020-21 regular season saw Tampa Bay pretty much limp into the National Hockey League’s second season.  The Lightning went 1-3 and are nursing a lot of injuries to front line players especially those on the blue line.

Here’s what transpired over the last four regular season contests.  Enjoy.

DALLAS STARS 2  TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 6
The Lightning stayed in the thick of the race for the top spot in the Central Division with a 6-2 triumph over the Stars at Amalie Arena.  The win pushed Tampa Bay to 36-14-3 while the loss dropped Dallas to 21-18-4.

The Bolts scored first at 2:14 of the opening period.  F Tyler Johnson (8) found the back of the net to give the home team an early 1-0 advantage.

The Stars answered with a goal of their own with just 27 second left in the first period.  F Tyler Seguin (2) put the biscuit in the basket to tie the score at 1 apiece.

The Lightning jumped ahead in the middle period with two unanswered goals.  F Alex Killorn (15) notched a power player marker at 16:39 and Brayden Point (23) intercepted a clearing pass and maneuvered the rubber disk past Dallas G Jake Oettinger (14 saves on 18 shots) with just 14 ticks left in the second period.

Dallas made it interesting at 10:44 of the third period.  D Andrej Sekera (3) got the puck behind Bolts G Andrei Vasilevskiy (20 saves on 22 shots) to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 3-2 but that’s as close as the Stars would get.

The Bolts scored the next three goals to put the game out of reach.  The first came just 50 seconds after the Dallas goal when D Erik Cernak (5) put the Lightning back up 4-2.  The last two scores, both of the empty net variety, were by F Ross Colton (9) at 16:47 followed by  Mikhail Sergachev (4) with 53 seconds left in regulation.  That made the final arithmetic 6-2 and allowed Tampa bay to deposit two big points in the standings.

DALLAS STARS 5  TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 2
The Stars, fighting for their playoff lives, split the series with a 5-2 victory over the Bolts at Amalie Arena.  The win kept the slim playoff hopes of The Big D Guys alive as they advanced to 22-18-4 while the Bolts fell to 36-15-3.

The Stars dented the scoreboard first at 5:50 of the opening period.  Jamie Oleksiak (6) beat Tampa Bay G Curtis McElhinney (26 saves on 31 shots) to give Dallas an early 1-0 lead.

The Stars stretched their lead at 5:17 of the second period.  F Joe Pavelski (23) lit the lamp and that extended the Dallas lead to 2-zip.

The Lightning cut the margin in half at 11:11 of the second stanza.  F Blake Coleman (14) beat Stars G Anton Khudobin (25 saves on 27 shots) but there would be only one other puck that would elude the Dallas netminder the rest of the evening.

The Big D Guys extended their lead at 13:05 of the middle period.  Again, it was Pavelski (24) doing the honors to stretch the lead to 3-1.

The Stars converted with just 15 ticks left before the second intermission.  F Roope Hintz (15) got behind the Bolts defenders and scored to make it 4-1 after 40 minutes of play.

Dallas scored again at 3:49 of the final period.  F Joe Kiviranta (5) put the Stars up 5-1 and it wasn’t looking too good for the home town squad.

The Lightning made it 5-2 at 8:29 of the third period.  F Alex Barre-Boulet (3) scored with the Bolts on the power play but it was too little and too late as the visitors garnered a much needed two points.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 1  FLORIDA PANTHERS 5
With Carolina clinching the top spot in the Central Division, the Panthers took a huge step toward securing home ice for the first round of the playoffs with a 5-1 defeat of the Bolts at the BB&T Center.  The win moved the Cats into second place with a 36-14-5 log and the Lightning slipped to third place in the division with a 36-16-3 record.

Florida recorded the first goal of the tilt at 11:44 of the opening period.  F Alex Wennberg (14) put the puck past Vasilevskiy (30 saves on 35 shots) to put the Panthers on top 1-0.

The Cats doubled their margin at 3:07 of the middle period.  F Sam Bennett (10) found the back of the net with Florida on the power play to make it 2-nil.

Tampa Bay got one back at 4:52 of the second period.  D Luke Schenn (2) beat Florida G Sergei Bobrovsky (28 saves on 29 shots) but that would be the lone goal the Panthers goalie would allow this evening.

The Cats would post two more scores before the end of the second period.  It was Wennberg (15) again at 12:54 and that was followed by Jonathan Huberdeau (20) 1:59 later to put Florida up 4-1 at the second intermission.

Wennberg (16) completed the hat trick at 13:38 of the final period making the final score 5-1.  That set up a winner take all contest with home ice on the line in the regular season finale.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 0  FLORIDA PANTHERS 4
In a battle for the second spot in the Central Division, Florida scored in every period and dispatched Tampa Bay 4-0 at the BB&T Center.  The Panthers ended the regular season with a record of 37-14-5 while Lightning finished the campaign at 36-17-3.

The Cats scored what proved to be the only goal they would need all night at 15:19 of the opening period.  D Mackenzie Weegar (6) beat Vasilevskiy (26 saves on 30 shots) to give Florida a 1-0 advantage.

The Panthers stretched their margin at 8:23 of the middle period.  F Julo Lammikko (2) scored with the Cats down a man to make it 2-0.

The Panthers added two third period markers for good measure.  F Carter Verhaeghe (18) lit the lamp at 2:27 and Wennberg (16) finished off the scoring at 14:07 but the story was Florida G Chris Driedger (30 saves on 30 shots) who pitched a shutout for the home team.

So now it’s off to the playoffs and, lo and behold, the first round is an all Florida series against the Panthers  The series begins on Sunday in South Florida for the first two with the second game on Tuesday.  Then, it’s off to Amalie for games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday.

So look for our next LIGHTNING PLAYOFF RECAP sometime next weekend.  GO BOLTS.