Lightning hangs on for shaky 7-6 victory

by Gary Shelton on March 23, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Friday, 2 a.m.

If you wish, you can revel in the glory of accomplishment. The Lightning won Thursday night, and along the way, a number of players achieved goals.

Or, you can remember this game this way: For the first five minutes of the third period, they were slipping off of the ledge. It felt ugly, it felt desperate, and it felt dangerous.

Finally, in the middle of what looked to be like blowing a lead, the Lightning righted itself and went on a narrow 7-6 win over the New York Islanders. The Bolts led 4-1 in the game, and it led 7-3 going into the final period before things got hairy.

Still, it was a notable victory for Tampa Bay, it's 51st of the season.

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Miller reached 20 goals on the season./CARMEN MANDATO

Miller reached 20 goals on the season./CARMEN MANDATO

-- Lightning coach Jon Cooper tied former coach John Tortorella with his 239th victory.

-- The team won its 51st game, a franchise record.

-- Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won his 42nd game of the season, putting him into a 10-way tie for 20th on the all-time list. Another win would put him in the top 14. He tied Nikolai Khabibulin for second place on the franchise list with the 83rd win of his career.

Cirelli scored the Ligjtmomg's first goal.'/CARMEN MANDATO

Cirelli scored the Lightning's first goal.'/CARMEN MANDATO

-- J.T. Miller scored his 19th and 20th goals, giving the Bolts seven players (including traded Vlad Namestnikov) with 20 this year.

Still, the game went from the feel of a moonlight skate to that of another one where the team simply couldn't close out its opponent.

“(We) gave up another power-play goal," said Cooper. "We gave up three tonight, that’s tough to swallow. Then (we had a) tough turnover, tough sort and all of a sudden we don’t get a stick in front and they get three. You’ve got to feel for our goaltender a little bit. We did a lot of good things and it was just a few times we made a mistake it ended up in the back of our net. If I sit

Vasilevskiy won his 42nd on a goal-filled night./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasilevskiy won his 42nd on a goal-filled night./CARMEN MANDATO

here and look at turnovers we made in that game, we didn’t make a ton of them, but when we did, it turned into big-time chances against. We’ve got to fix that. And naturally, giving up three power-play goals is tough.”

The Bolts jumped to a quick lead on goals by Anthony Cirelli, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman and Braden Point. The Isles came back within 4-3, but the Bolts added two goals by J.T. Miller and one by Mikhail Sergachev.

Cooper said he didn't pay attention to the team's record-setting victory.

“Actually, I haven’t really sat back and thought about it," Cooper said. "You look at this, you’ve got to win the game all different ways. You’ve got to win them 1-0. You can win them 7-6, but in the end, these guys have found ways to win games. Whether you’re coming back or protecting leads, you’ve got to find a way to get into the playoffs. You get 51 wins, this organization’s been around 25 years, you’ve got to give the guys a little pat on the back for doing what they’ve done.”

Sergachev scored the seventh goal for the Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Sergachev scored the seventh goal for the Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

For Cooper, his record tying game came in his sixth year (his first was only 16 games long.. Tortorella took seven years, and his winning percentage (.620) is ahead of Tortorella's .516.

“I didn’t know that one either," Cooper said. "John Tortorella ... you look at the coaches that have been around the last 10-15 years, he’s been a really good one. I know I spent a lot of time with that ’04 team and they talk about Torts in extremely high regard. I’ve been fortunate to meet him a few times and know what he meant to our organization and the time he spent here and he laid a groundwork for guys like me to come in and follow suit. If my name is up beside John Tortorella’s, I feel like that’s an honor.”

For all the records, the Bolts had the feeling of sloppy play as they won.

“It’s good to get the win but definitely not the way we want to win," Captain Steven Stamkos said. "We’re still going to continue to work on some areas of our game, obviously the PK and defending. We’ll just continue to work hard. There’s nothing else we can do except try to get better.”

“We have a tendency to play to however the game’s going. A very intense game with a lot of emotion and a good atmosphere and a lot on the line, it seems a majority of the time we find a way to match that. But when you’re in a game like we were tonight, it should be just close them out. Just don’t give them a chance. If the penalty kill’s struggling, then let’s stay out of the penalty box. That’s a start. There’s areas to improve on and we’ll look to improve on it the last eight games.”

Hedman took heart that the Bolts were able to hold off the Islanders at the end of the game.

“Obviously going into the third, being up four goals, they scored three goals in the first five-and-a-half minutes, but I think after that we really stepped up our game and we didn’t give them too many Grade-A chances," Hedman said. "When it was a one-goal game, we were able to turn it on. They’ve got some really skilled forwards who can make some plays and they burned us today in the third period. Obviously we’ll learn from that, but when it’s all said and done with the fact coming in that we traveled today, we’ll take the two points and we’re obviously very happy with scoring seven goals but giving up six is something we want to clean up.”

The Bolts play Saturday night at the New Jersey Devils. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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