Lightning stays alive with overtime win

by Gary Shelton on February 20, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Drouin rescued the Bolts in overtime./JEFFREY S. KING

Drouin rescued the Bolts in overtime./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 a.m.

Maybe it turns against the unlikeliest of opponents.

Maybe it turns after a disappointing collapse.

Maybe it turns with an awkward, clumsy step.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, which has sputtered for most of the season, didn't have one of its classic games Sunday night, and it didn't

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come against one of its most respected opponents. It won one of those games that beats the alternative. It was stepping over a corpse on your way to the palace.

Still, the team got points in its sixth straight game, its best streak of the season. And because of that, the Bolts find themselves in striking position as March approaches.

That's the thing that sports teaches us. There is no shame in barely beating a bad team. Not as long as you do beat them. There is no stain to blowing a lead. Not as long as you get it back. We all want to imagine a team kicking in the door and making a statement, but sometimes, survival is enough.

Oh, this one could have gotten away, all right. The Lightning had to scrap to beat the pitiful Colorado Avs, 3-2. They blew a 2-0 lead in the third period, and it had a goal disallowed, and it found itself in overtime for the second straight game against a team that seemed willing to absorb yet another defeat as it settles into last place.

But Jonathan Drouin stole the puck with 2:27 to play and tucked it into the net for the game winner. It was his 17th goal of the season and his third in the last six games. It was a sweet enough play to last for a while.

“That's what he does,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He's a gifted, gifted player. You get him that close to the net with the puck and a little bit of time and space and he can do some magical things.”

Drouin plays with the audacity of youth. He still isn't ripe as a player yet. He'll tell you that. But he hustles, and he has speed, and when he gets to the open ice, he has a bag of tricks to get the puck into the net.

Yes, it was a nice little story for Drouin. And for Nikita Kucherov, who got off nine of the team's 40 shots. And for Ben Bishop, despite giving up the tying goal with 41.9 seconds to play.

But the best thing about this one was how it would have felt if it had turned out the other way. If the Bolts had lost this one, and blown its second straight game with a 2-0 lead, and limped back home after losing to a team that skates in circles, it could have deflated this team enough to shatter whatever confidence it had left.

Instead, the Bolts won, and the pulse is still there. For the first time all season, the Bolts have notched a point in six straight. In those six games, the Bolts have lost twice -- once in overtime and once in a shootout. They're playing better than those go-nowhere nights.

When else has this team given you any reason to think about the post-season? When else has it strung together anything. Weak opponent or not, you can imagine this team catching fire from here.

Oh, there is still work to be done. The Bolts now return home for a four-game stand. They need to have an impressive stand to remain relevant.

Again, it beats the alternative.

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