Bolts beat Toronto as regular season winds down

by Gary Shelton on April 5, 2019 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos tied his high with 97 points./STEVEN MUNCIE

Friday, 4 a.m.

From here, there is failure and there is success. There is no middle ground.

From here, the Tampa Bay Lightning lifts the Stanley Cup. Or it drops a trophy on its toes.

The regular season is all but gone now, and the resume gets better and better. Which means the Lightning makes it to the other side, or it spends the off-season explaining what went wrong. There is no other option. They win it, or they are crashing under-achievers.

As far as the soon-to-be-over regular season (it concludes Saturday), it could hardly be more glittering. The Lightning won their 61st game of the season Thursday night -- the second most in NHL history -- with a 3-1 decision against Toronto.

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Vasilevskiy won his 39th game of the year./JEFFREY S. KING

Tampa Bay’s 126 points are the fifth-most all-time in a single season in the NHL. The Lightning’s 29 road wins are the second-most in a single season in league history.

Tampa Bay can tie the 95-96 Red Wings for the most all-time wins in the regular season with a victory over Boston on Saturday.

“We’re not really talking about it much," Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of winning 61. "I think that’s just a sign that we’re consistent with our game. We obviously want to be. We take a lot of pride in being competitive and not allowing losses to snowball into something bigger. It’s good that we can have a quick response after our losses this year and get back in the win column.”

The Bolts will finish the season with three 40-goal scorers. Steven Stamkos is fourth in the league with 44 goals after scoring Thursday. Nikita Kucherov, who had an empty-net goal,  is tied for 10th at 40. Brayden Point is tied for sixth at 41 goals.

Alex Killorn also scored for the Lightning.

“I was at the end of my shift," Killorn said. "I just wanted (Stamkos) to go on and shoot it, really. He found me because I think everyone kind of gravitates towards him when he has the puck. He found me, and it was a terrible shot, a change-up. That's probably why it went in.”

The Bolts are 18-1-1 in games following a loss this season.

“I think our team’s been good about (rebounding) all year long," Tyler Johnson said. "We don’t really focus too much on one game. We kind of just look to the next one, and I thought we had a good response today. I thought all four lines were going, and I thought we played really well.”

Said Killorn: “We really weren’t happy with the way we played in Montreal. They had a lot more to play for than we did, but tonight it was two teams that are kind of in similar situations. We just wanted to tune our game up before the playoffs start.”

Stamkos has now scored nine goals in nine games. Since Feb. 1, Stamkos has 16 goals and 21 assists.

“He was playing great on both sides," McDonagh said. "Does it all the time for us but even more tonight playing in his home town. He just was a driving force for us, getting momentum on our side again and getting us back in the game and obviously making a great play on the game-winning goal. So great to see him playing with confidence on both sides of the ice.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy had a strong game, stopping 29 shots. He has won 39 games this season, most in the NHL, to go along with his 44 from a year ago.

The Bolts finish their season Saturday against Boston. The puck is scheduled to drop at 1 p.m.



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