Bolts hang on to win on Conacher’s penalty shot

by Gary Shelton on February 4, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Conacher iced the game with a penalty shot./JEFFREY S. KING

Conacher iced the game with a penalty shot./JEFFREY S. KING

Sunday, 2 a.m.

The big lead was mostly gone now, and defeat was in the air, and the Vancouver Canucks -- the lowly Canucks -- had all of the momentum.

Which is when Corey Conacher stepped in to save the day for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Really.  Corey Conacher.

Conacher scored on a penalty shot with 3:24 left to play to lift the Bolts to a 4-2

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Vasilevskiy won his 31st game./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Vasilevskiy won his 31st game./ANDREW J. KRAMER

victory over the Canucks. The Bolts, 52 games in, are now 36-13-3 on the year. It was the Lightning's fifth win in its last six games.

"If Conacher doesn't draw that penalty shot and fortunately score, who knows what would have happened?" Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Because it wasn't looking too good."

Herman clings to hopes, but Lightning on verge of elimination./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Hedman thinks the Lightning should have finished stronger./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Chris Kunitz, Victor Hedman and Yanni Gourde had scored to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead, but Vancouver came back strong in the third period with two goals and 17 shots to make it close.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots for his 31st victory of the season.

“He’s been our best player throughout the whole year," said defenseman Victor Hedman. "He’s been phenomenal and keeping us in games we don’t really deserve. He’s a game changer that’s for sure, and he’s been playing like this the whole season. He’s still a young kid so he had a little bit of a stretch there, two or three games where pucks were going in. But he’s the biggest competitor on this team and competes really hard at practice and in games. We owe it to him to play better over 60 minutes. But he’s undoubtedly been our most complete player all year.”

That said, Hedman wasn't happy with the overall effort.

“I think the third period is not good enough," Hedman said. "We talked before the game about eliminating scoring chances against, and I think close to 17 shots and Vasy bailed us out once again so we’ve got to make sure that we play a full 60. Started well obviously. To have a 3-0 lead going into the third and kill off a 5-on-3, that should give us the momentum. But it kind of turned the other way. We’ve got to make sure we get better here. Obviously happy with the two points, but we’ve got to play a full 60 in the next game for sure to play the right way for the rest of this trip.

“We started great, killing off a 5-on-3 should give momentum to kill the game off in the third and we didn’t do that. They pushed. We know they’ve been playing well. They’re healthy. They’re a good team, so we knew they were going to push and we just didn’t answer back. We played too much in our own end and things started to tilt a little bit in the second period. But then we eliminated their scoring chances, kept them to the outside. I think they got too many Grade-As there in the third and they have really good players who can put the puck in the net.”

Gourde, who scored his 18th goal of the season, said the Lightning can play better.

“I think just when we get to the line, sometimes we don’t make the right play," Gourde said. "I think we were doing sort of that in the first two periods, we were chipping the puck and going to work and we didn’t manage the game in the third period and I think that’s how they had their scoring chances.

“We have much better than what we showed tonight. We’ve got to get back to what worked really good for us in the first half of the season and I think it’s just working hard and our compete level and making the right decision and managing the game a little bit better. If we do that, I’m pretty confident we’re going to be in good shape.”

Kunitz, too, was let down over the way the Lightning finished.

“We just quit playing a team game," Kunitz said." We turned pucks over in areas, let them come at us in waves and they’re a good, skilled team that plays fast. If you give them those chances, we don’t work hard enough the whole ice, it turns into a pretty big cluster. We have to make sure we play that committed team game and play it all for 60.

“It’s the way the league’s going. Whoever’s putting the most shots on net, the most attempts, that’s the team that’s going to come out with the higher percentage of goals. We have to find a way to cut down how many shots the other team is getting, but you can do that by playing in the other team’s end, not turning pucks over and you yourself shooting pucks, getting rebounds and doing your thing.”

The Lightning concludes its swing through Western Canada on Monday with a game against Edmonton. The puck is scheduled to drop at 9 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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