Support players lead Bolts’ latest victory

by Gary Shelton on February 14, 2020

in general

Vasilevskiy stood tall once again./CHUCK MULLER

Friday, 4 a.m.

Who needs the big money guys?

The depleted Tampa Bay Lightning won again Thursday night, beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 behind its support players. The Bolts have now won nine in a row and 21 of their last 24 games.

What? Did you expect them to whine about not having Steven Stamkos again? Why, they had Pat Maroon, who hadn't scored a goal in 10 games.

Did you expect them to sob over the absence of Nikita Kucherov? Not when they had Cedric Paquette, who hadn't scored a goal in 25 games.

And how about Anthony Cirelli? Hey, the Bolts had the reborn Yanni Gourde, who scored in his second straight game. But before that, Gourde went 35 games without a goal.

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Lightning LW Pat Maroon celebrates his 2nd period goal. / CHUCK MULLER

It all added up to the Bolts' 38th win of the season. It was the seventh straight game in which Tampa Bay has given up two goals or fewer.

“Two or less (goals allowed) and you're giving yourself a really good chance," Lightning coach Jon Coper said. "With three, it's in the balance. Four and you're in trouble. You don’t want to have to score your way out of games. You’ve got to defend to win games. It's something our guys have attached themselves to and we take pride in it."

The Bolts have been very good at closing out games. They're 26-0-4 when leading after two periods.

Gourde has scored the game-winner twice in a row../CHUCK MULLER

“The theme after the second was to keep the game simple," Cooper said. "Get pucks out when we can. We bogged it down the middle pretty good. Sometimes you need to play a simple game. That's what we did tonight and it worked out."

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 30 shots to run his record to 31-9-3. He is 19-0-2 with a 1.92 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in his last 20 games, in which the Bolts have at least a point in every game.

Maroon scored by bouncing the puck off of goalie Mike Smith for a 1-0 lead. After it was tied 1-1, Gourde scored the team's third shorthanded goal of the season. Paquette finished it with an empty netter after an open Brayden Point passed it to him.

“You win as a team," Cooper said. "You knew when he was picking up that puck he was going to pass it to him. Guys are looking out for each other. When guys are selfless and putting the team first,it’s a good sign."

The Lightning will be home again Saturday at Amalie Arena against Philadelphia. The puck is scheduled to drop at 4 p.m.

Pauquette's empty-netter finished the scoring./CHUCK MULLER

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