Bolts knocking on history’s door after shootout win

by Gary Shelton on February 26, 2019 · 1 comment

in general

Hedman after scoring the shootout goal for the win./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Hello? History? Anybody home?

The Tampa Bay Lightning are knocking at your door.

The Lightning, winners yet again, have suddenly gone from a team having a very good regular season to one that is having one of the best seasons of all time. The Bolts beat the Los Angeles Kings Monday night, 4-3 in a shootout, to get to their 100th point as a team.

Think about that for a minute. The Bolts have 19 games to go -- another possible 38 points. The NHL record for points is 132 by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings of 1995-96 had 131 points. Five other teams had more than 120 points.

If the Lightning keeps winning, in other words, they could rank among history's all-time greatest teams. After nine straight wins,

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Vasilevskiy covers up the puck in the Lightning win./JEFFREY S. KING

that doesn't seem out of reach. The Bolts reached 100 points in 63 games, joining the Canadiens of 76-77 and the Canadiens of 77-78, who needed 62 games to get there, and the 71-72 Boston Bruins, who needed 63.

The Lightning is now 6-1 in shootouts this season. They've achieved points in 13 straight games (11-0-2).

Kucherov scored in the shootout./JEFFREY S. KING

The Bolts won Monday night despite not being at their best. They took a 2-0 lead, and clanked several shots off of the goal posts. But in the third period, they gave up three straight goals before J.T. Miller scored to send the game into overtime.

"He's moved around the lineup a little bit, but he plays a big role for us in the sense that he plays both units and can play in some big spots," Cooper said. "He wins draws for us and he can play anywhere up in the lineup and he can play multiple positions so it makes him very valuable."

Cooper said that you could count Miller's addition as a team comment on the trade deadline.

Cirelli celebrates his goal./JEFFREY S. KING

"We made a big trade last year that made a lot of news, but that trade wasn't only for last year," Cooper said. "It was for years to come, and I think we're reaping the benefits of that this year. It's not always you have to make a trade to push a team over the top. Only one team wins the Stanley Cup, so all the teams that make a big move, most of them aren't winning (it). We like what we have going here, so we're going with it."

Said Miller: “It’s nice to put the puck in the net. Obviously, I’d like to do it a little bit more, but I’m just trying to keep shooting the puck a little bit more and hopefully get a couple to go in.”

Stamkos had another multi-point night./JEFFREY S. KING

No one scored in the extra period, and the Lightning fell behind 2-1 in the shootout. But Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman -- of three of the four players who have scored shootout goals for the Bolts this year, all scored for the win.

The Lightning tied the franchise record with their nine-game winning streak.

"It's nice to win, it always feels good," captain Steven Stamkos said. "Like we said it's more than about wins for our group, it's about playing the right way heading down the stretch. I thought the third period obviously we need to correct some things. You have a two-goal lead at home, that needs to be automatic for our group and it should be with where we are. So we're not pleased with that but in saying that the demeanor on the bench was

Gourde finds free ice against the Kings./JEFFREY S. KING

very positive to just go out and get one and then you never know what's going to happen. We'll take our chances with the goalie we have when we get into overtime or a shootout."

The lack of additions at the trade deadline didn't bother Stamkos:

"It is what it is," Stamkos said. "We have the group in here that's confident that we can go out and perform when it matters and we've done it all season long. It doesn't change our mindset. We know the group now. Everyone can sleep a little easier and concentrate on these last 19 games and make sure we're playing the way we want to be playing heading into the playoffs.”

Added Miller: “I think everybody in this whole organization has faith in this room. So obviously, it says exactly that, we have a great team in here. We have a lot of confidence moving forward, and I think we should.”

In regulation, Brayden Point scored his 26th goal and Anthony Cirelli scored his 12th. It was Miller's 11th goal of the season.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 of 33 saves to improve his record to 28-7-4 on the season. Vasilevskiy has won seven-consecutive starts.

Tampa Bay now goes on the road for back-to-back games,  starting Wednesday with a meeting against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.

Point scored his 36th goal for a 1-0 lead./JEFFREY S. KING






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