Tuesday, 4 a.m.
Usually, it is the safest place in the world for the puck. It is a mother's arms in a bank vault in outer space.
Once the puck is on the stick of Victor Hedman, the Palace Guard, surely nothing will befall the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the road? It's okay. In a tie game? Fine. The pressure building? That's cool. Hedman is the team's rock. He is the linebacker on ice. He was the calming influence on this team long before he signed his new contract extension.
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So what is Hedman doing as he watches while the puck goes the wrong way.
The Lightning and Panthers were tied at 1-1 with four-and-a-half minutes to play, and Hedman had the puck on his stick again. And then his pocket was picked, and Reilly Smith had the puck on his stick and was heading the wrong way. He skated around Anton Stralman and fired the puck past Ben Bishop. One play, and he had beaten the threesome that keeps the net safe for Tampa Bay.
It was the key play in the Lightning's 3-1 loss to Florida (which added an empty netter).
"You can't do that late in the game," Hedman said. "Doesn't matter if you're 18, 25 or 30 years old, you got to learn. The same goes for me. You can't beat yourself up too much, because in this league games come very quickly. You learn from it and look forward to the next game."
Most of the time, Hedman seems to have paid attention. The last two playoffs, he has established himself as one of the league's top defensemen. It was one of the reasons the Bolts tied him up in the off-season.
"Plays happened. It can't happen at that point of the game," Hedman said. "I didn't really see him at the last second, but at the same time you got to get rid of the puck quicker, but you learn from it."
Said Lighting coach Jon Cooper: “His plusses are more than his minuses.”
The Bolts had fallen behind 1-0 after one period...again. It was the ninth time in 13 games the team had fallen behind after a period. Tampa Bay is now 3-4 on the road this season.
The Lightning had several chances to get on the boards, but goalkeeper Roberto Luongo was too good. He snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Bolts are home Thursday night against the Islanders.