Friday 4 a.m.
It wasn't how often the Tampa Bay Lightning fell behind Thursday night.
It was how long they stayed there.
The Lightning, for once a spunky, resilient team, came back three times from one-goal deficits. Their accumulated time? A total of only 163 seconds.
The bounceback ability of the Bolts, not seen nearly often enough this season, led the team to a 6-3 victory over the Bruins. Nikita Kucherov scored a hat trick with two power play goals and an empty netter.
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The Lightning seemed to bounce right back into the race against the Bruins, which would have seemed impossible after the loss to Arizona.
“It took probably cumulative two-and-a-half, three minutes to keep tying the game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “That was, for me, the difference. To keep answering like that, it just kind of sucked some momentum from them, and then when we got the lead, they couldn’t answer and we extended it and that was it.”
Tampa Bay scored 44 seconds after going down 1-0, 24 seconds after going down 2-1 and 95 seconds after going down 3-2. But the Bolts scored three times in the third period to capture the game.
It was the opposite of Tuesday night, when the team seemed listless in a 5-3 loss to Arizona.
Also scoring for Tampa Bay was Anton Stralman (his first in 29 games), Jonathan Drouin (his first since February 9) and Brayden Point.
Kucherov has now scored 34 goals on the season, and half of them have come on the power play. His 17 power-play goals leads the NHL.
“Every year, he just keeps elevating his game,” Cooper said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence now, especially in the offensive zone. It was a matter of just getting him really to shoot pucks. You look back about a month and a half, two months ago, you’d see the stat sheet and he wouldn’t have a shot on goal. Now you’re seeing five, six, seven a game, and when that’s happening for a guy of his offensive talent caliber, pucks are going to go in for him, and right now they are.”
Cooper was also glad to see Drouin score.
“We need that,” Cooper said. “We can’t keep depending on the same guys all the time. Fortunate for us that they are still scoring. I think Jo is hitting, he’s good for a post a game and got that post early. I think he was a little frustrated. But for goal scorers to score like he did tonight, hopefully that’s going to open the floodgates for him.”
Peter Budaj stopped 28 of 31 shots for his second win as a Bolt.
“Veteran goalie and not afraid of these situations. Calm in the net, he just exudes poise back there, and it’s good for our team,” Cooper said. “You can put him in these situations and understand you’re going to get a game from him. Back-to-back on the road against two big teams, much needed.”
The Lightning plays the Red Wings in Detroit tonight. Tampa Bay is three points out of the second wild-card spot, and one point behind the Islanders.