Step Three: Lightning one win from advancing

by Gary Shelton on April 19, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy was sharp against the Devils in Game 4./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasilevskiy was sharp against the Devils in Game 4./CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

The Tampa Bay Lightning is going home. And once there, they will try to send the New Jersey Devils home for the off-season.

The Bolts moved within one game of advancement Wednesday night, beating the Devils 3-1 with a strong penalty kill. New Jersey was threatening to tie the series at two games all but was unable to win on its home ice.

The Lightning allowed New Jersey just 28 shots -- 15 of them in the final two periods -- to take the win. It was the Lightning's strongest game of the series defensively.

"Inevitably, you have to score to win games," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "I’ve been through the playoffs a little bit, and you’ve got to keep the puck out of the

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Kucherov scored twice for Tampa Bay./CARMEN MANDATO

Kucherov scored twice for Tampa Bay./CARMEN MANDATO

net. Throw all those defensive cliches out there. That’s what has to happen, because it’s so tight checking and goals are at a premium. When you play d and frustrate teams and don’t give them the chances, especially with some of the snipers we have, we’ll take our chances."

The Bolts fell behind 1-0 on a goal by Kyle Palmieri, but came back with a goal from J.T. Miller and two from Nikita Kucherov, one of them an empty-netter. Kucherov also had a big hit against Sami Vatanen, leaving some to wonder if he might face discipline from the league office.

Miller scored the first  Lightning goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Miller scored the first Lightning goal./CARMEN MANDATO

"I  thought that was a heck of a hockey hit," Cooper said. "The .only thing down about that is that Vatanen got hurt. I hope he’s ok. There is hitting in the game. It was a bang-It's a good hit.

“Kuch tonight flexed his muscles. He’s been pretty dynamic on the power play. But tonight I thought all around he was the best player on the ice. He just, when you’re playing both sides of the puck, you’re contributing offensively, defensively, you’re physical, you’re engaged, it did nothing but lift our team. He was a big part of why we one tonight.”

Hedman and the defense played well./CARMEN MANDATO

Hedman and the defense played well./CARMEN MANDATO

Andrei Vasilevskiy, just announced as a finalist for the Vezna Trophy, had 27 saves, a few of them on breakaway goals.

"You’ve heard me say this 1,000 times," Cooper said. "There are quarterbacks who are pretty darned important in that sport, and goalies in hockey.

“He’s the last line of defense. You’re going to give up some chances. You don’t hope to give up those Grade-A ones that we gave up. It’s probably a reason he’s going to Vegas in June because he can make those saves at those times. Regardless if a team gets 50 shots in a game, if they’re all from the outside and he’s getting a lot of work, but if you’re not getting a ton of work, can you make the big save at the big time? And he’s shown that ability to do that.”

Conacher had  a goal, but it was disallowed./CARMEN MANDATO

Conacher had a goal, but it was disallowed./CARMEN MANDATO

The line of Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and J.T. Miller had a nice effort.

“We learned from the last game," Miller said. "We're still taking too many penalties, but we’re working hard…You’ve got to make the right play, and I think tonight we put a really good effort on the ice. We played the way you’re supposed to play when you’re up a goal in the third period. We didn’t sit back. We didn’t give them much. That’s the way we’re supposed to play.”

Miller liked the Kucherov hit, too.

“Anytime you see one of your top offensive players and one of the best in the league offensively hit a guy like that, that’s a big-time hit and that gives the group a spark," Miller said. "I think that was a big part of that first period. When he’s involved and engaged physically like that, he sends a message to the team that everybody’s got to be engaged and this is a big game and I think from there on out we played a really solid game.”

The Lightning is at home against the Devils in Game 5 Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.






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