Lightning advances to Conference Finals

by Gary Shelton on September 1, 2020

in general

Cooper saw his team win another one-goal game/JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

They are halfway home. Are you a fully convinced yet?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, once again, are in the NHL Eastern Conference finals. They beat the Boston Bruins, 3-2 in double-overtime Monday, to close out their second round series in five games.

The Lighting will face either the Islanders (who lead their series three games to one) or the Philadelphia Flyers. If successful, they would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Ah, but that has often been the big stumbling block throughout the Lightning's history, hasn't it?

-- In 2018, they lost to Washington in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

-- In 2016, they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.

-- In 2015, they beat the Rangers in six games but lost to Chicago for the Cup in six games.

-- In 2011, they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

-- In 2004, of course, they beat Philadelphia in seven games, then beat Calgary in seven for the Cup.

So is this team different? It certainly seemed to be Monday night, when it won its eighth one-goal game of the playoffs (in nine decisions). It had some grit, and it had some resiliency, after losing Nikita Kucherov, who played only 9:09 before leaving with an injury.

"If you want to advance, you have to win these games," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "That’s all there is to it. It was gutsy. The fact we lost Kooch and we were down to 10 forwards.

"It was a little deflating when we gave up the (tying) goal to David Krejci (with 2:33 to play).  We needed every ounce of our energy to get through that first overtime. Tongues were dragging. It was tough. How they managed to play that second overtime, I don’t know.“

For the Bolts, the star was goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won his 10th game of the post-season and stopped 45 shots.

The Lightning scored the winning goal at 5:50 left in the second overtime when Victor Hedman found the net. The Lightning post-game broadcast suggested that the goal had been credited, however, to Pat Maroon when the puck hit him on its way into the net.

The Bolts had scored early on two deflections by Ondrej Palat and by Anthony Cerilli. Both times, Boston came back to tie.

So is there a difference to this team?

"We pay attention all over the ice," Hedman said. "You don’t need to score 4 and 5 to win. The constant effort defensively has been a big turnaround for us."

It has also helped that the Bolts brought in grittier players such as Blake Coleman.

"Regardless of the score, I’m proud of this team," Cooper said. "They’ve done everything we’ve asked. (At the deadline) we didn’t think we needed top six forwards. We were looking for some guys who had dirt under their nails. Are you going to be a pain in the ass for the other team? Are you going to be able to wear a team down? It’s a grind. You need those type of guys who can fight through this stuff."

 The Lightning are now 83-67 all-time in the playoffs and 46-34 under head coach Jon Cooper.

Previous post:

Next post: