Lightning have had a list of stars in their wins

by Gary Shelton on May 21, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Ryan Callahan has been big for Bolts../STEVEN MUNCIE

Ryan Callahan has been big for Bolts../STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 3 a.m.

Who will it be?

Whose turn is it?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, showing resilience again, showing focus, has another team on the ropes. So who finds the net? Steven Stankos? Tyler Johnson? Nikita Kucherov. Someone? Anyone?

That's been the thing about the Bolts. They've found their heroes on any line, on any shift. It's how they have stayed alive.

"You just look at the series," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Think about

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Vasilevskiy has had two straight solid games./JEFFREY S. KING

Vasilevskiy has had two straight solid games./JEFFREY S. KING

Game 1 in New Jersey. That doesn't even feel like it was this year. The people that stepped up in that series. You look at what Vasilevskiy is garnering, deservedly so, a lot of the accolades here the last couple games. It was the Brayden Point line in the Boston series. It was Stamkos and Kuch in Game 4 and 5 in Jersey. There's different heroes every night. Can't overlook Paquette, Callahan and Kunitz contributions this round. Our D. There's just so many things that go into it. When it’s all added up together, it spells team."

To that end, the Bolts once again march on Washington. Once again, they'll need to be urgent. Even on the edge of a cliff, the Caps are dangerous.

Tyler Johnson enjoys this time of year../STEVEN MUNCIE

Tyler Johnson enjoys this time of year../STEVEN MUNCIE

"We're going to have to match their urgency," Cooper said. "The closeout games, potential closeout games, they just seem to bring out the best in everybody. For us, we've had some success when we've gotten the lead. When you do that, you put a little pressure on the other team. Something we'll try and focus on tomorrow night.

"The difference (in a closeout game) was both those (rounds against the Devils and Bruins) were at home. This one we're going on the road. But we've been in these situations before. In these last four years (or three playoff runs), you just do the math every different way. We've been up 2-3, down 3-2, been on the road, been at home. We can't look back, we just have to look forward."

The latest hero for the Bolts has been Ryan Callahan, often a low-scoring grinder who makes his living swapping punishment.

"The guys contribute differently," Cooper said. "The one thing that I think makes guys like Ryan special, everybody goes through these pains, they judge themselves on points. That's what happens in the regular season. When you go 82 games, you only have a couple goals, you don't feel like you're contributing. That's the hard thing to impart on players, that they don't realize how much they are contributing. If their name doesn't show up in the box score, I think sometimes they just don't feel the love.

Stamkos has had his moments./CARMEN MANDATO

Stamkos has had his moments./CARMEN MANDATO

"One thing Ryan has learned, and I know Kuny has, they know, I think I said this last night, they inspire our team. They pull us into the fight. When you get to this time of the year, it's oftentimes not the big goal, it's the big block or the big hit, the big penalty kill that gets you over the top. Those guys are worth their weight in gold."

Callahan has been among the leaders in hits and blocked shots. Saturday night, he scored the winning goal.

"I love him," said Tyler Johnson. "He's a guy that you definitely need on your team. He literally does everything. He's a guy that when you watch play, he just kind of picks everybody up by doing the right thing constantly over and over again, sacrificing so much. He's just a big voice in the locker room. He's just a really, really big part of our team."

Added Steven Stamkos:  "He means so much. I mean, he's that character guy that really is willing to sacrifice anything for the betterment of the team. You can't have enough of those guys. You see him get rewarded, so deservingly so. The difference that he can make in not only a game but a series, his ability on the penalty kill, on the forecheck, then when he's chipping in, it's icing on the cake.
He's an unbelievable teammate and a great leader. He's a huge part of our success as a team."

If Callahan was on the other side, Stamkos said he would wear a team out.

"I mean, he plays the game I think as honest as you're going to find in this league," Stamkos said. "He plays it clean. He plays it hard. He's not one of those guys that's going to go out there and chirp your ear off. He's going to do it by constantly finishing his checks, by constantly being on the right side, by constantly being in the shooting lane and blocking your shot. He's an unbelievable professional. Like I said, he can change the momentum of a game, which can change a series. Him and Paquette and Kunitz have done that for us."

For the Bolts, the challenge will be to try to play as they did in the first period for the entire game.

"I think you have to have the same mentality as what we had in the first period," Johnson said. "I agree with what they said. I thought our first period was good. That was probably the only time we really played our game to a T in a way. Obviously we sat back a little bit, a little bit with the lead and everything. Really the mentality shouldn't change. You just have to keep pressing. We were able to get the win, so that's what really matters.

"The series isn't over till you win four games. We really haven't accomplished anything yet. We're one game away, but that's what it is, one game away. You never want to give a team life. You want to try to get it over as fast as possible."

Added Cooper: "We have to understand the magnitude of the situation. Yes, we're going on the road and we have had success there, but to close this out, if you can, garner a couple more days' rest. As you know, at this time of year, we're banged up, they're banged up. The mental fatigue. Any time you can close one out earlier than seven is a good thing."

The game begins at 8 p.m. in Washington.


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