Bolts near elimination after yet another loss

by Gary Shelton on April 15, 2019 · 1 comment

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Palat scored the only goal for the Lightning./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 a.m.

What happened to them?

Where did they go? And why?

Less than a week ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning were dazzling. They were the best team the NHL had seen for a while. They had the goaltender. They had the scorers. They had depth and resiliency and consistency and grit and smarts. They came from behind. They rarely lost two in a row, and never three.

Yet, here they are: Their backs to the wall, their heels on the cliff, their bodies bleed as they try desperately to avoid the final plunge to their finish.

The Tampa Bay Lightning fell a little farther Sunday night, losing a 3-1 game to the Columbus Blue Jackets to near elimination in their NHL playoff series. The Lightning, huge favorites in the series, has dropped three games in a row for the first time all season. (All together in the playoffs, they have lost five straight games.)

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Stamkos is scoreless in the series./CARMEN MANDATO

Matt Duchene and Oliver  Bjorkstrand scored second period goals to lift the Jackets. Cam Atkinson added an empty netter.

For the Lightning, Ondrej Palat scored in the third period.

The Bolts played without Nikita Kucherov, who was suspended, and Victor Hedman, who was hurt.

“I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re going to look at the big picture," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "I do know there’s a lot of positive energy in that room after the third period. As down as the guys are about losing the game, and rightfully so, I think the guys liked how the game started to go in the second half.

“I thought we battled. We weathered that first storm we knew they’d have in the first period. But after that, especially in the third period, we carried play. Things that have gone in this year just haven’t gone in.”

Steven Stamkos did not have a shot for the Lightning. He has yet to score a point in the series.

“This was a game we really wanted," Stamkos said. "We stuck with it. We knew they were going to push hard in the beginning. Vasy made some big saves, kind of calmed the storm a little bit and gave ourselves a chance in the third. They’re defending well. We’re not getting any opportunities. We pushed hard in the third period hoping that at least we’d get one power play there after we got that goal. To have no power plays in a game is pretty surprising. You have to earn those and I thought we played well in the third but it’s no consolation right now with the position we’re in.

“We’ve got to win a game, just win a game, get it back to Tampa. It’s tough right now, but we just have to find a way. There’s nothing to save it for right now. We just have to win the next game and see where it takes us.”

Tyler Johnson said the Bolts still have fight in them.

"We’ve won a lot of hockey games as a team," Johnson said. "We can definitely do it. If there’s a group that can, it’s us. We’ve just got to play the right way. Everyone’s got to step up. Everyone’s got to play a solid game, and we’ve got to make it a little bit harder.”

For the Lightning, focusing on the next step is more important than figuring out what has happened, Ryne McDonagh said.

“I mean, it’s a lot to digest right now. If you look at the big picture, I don’t think that helps us. Our focus has to be coming out and playing with that same pace, that same execution and that same desperation right from the start, play one period at a time.

“I think we did a lot of good things, probably a lot more in this game than we did in Game 2 for sure. You’ve got to stick with the formula there and hope a few more find the back. We were definitely working better in support of one another, and that’s what we’ve got to do for a complete game here. It helps us set up our offense and get out of our zone quick. That’s the keys for us and we’re going to try to get to the strength of our game here a lot sooner and hopefully it carries.”

The teams play again Thursday night. The Lightning can force the series back to Tampa with a win, but the Jackets can close them out if they win. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.



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