Bolts close in on Stanley Cup victory

by Gary Shelton on September 14, 2020

in general

Palat has had a strong post-season./TIM WIRT

Monday, 3 a.m.

Five steps. That's the distance remaining.

Five games. You are starting to believe it, aren't you.

Five victories. Just that, and the Stanley Cup is theirs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning closed to within one victory of the Eastern Conference championship, and a handful of wins from the NHL Championship Sunday afternoon with a solid 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

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The Bolts scored two goals in 12 seconds in the second period of their latest game, gliding to the verge of the conference title. For the Islanders to deny them at this point, they would have to win three straight games. Dallas leads the Western Conference finals 3-1 over Las Vegas.

Can the Bolts deal with their own success from here?

“We have to,"said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "It’s kind of  the thing we’ve done the whole playoffs. We’ve had some lopsided wins -- by the score, not saying the game was -- and we’ve had to bounce back from those. We’ve had some losses  and we’ve had to bounce back from those. Just because you're one game away doesn’t say your in. We're still one game away. We’re going to have to match the effort that we’ve watched Columbus play and Boston play. We’ve gone through this. We know what we have to do."

The Bolts fell behind 1-0 when Brock Nelson scored with 11:27 to play in the second period. But 15 seconds later, Blake Coleman tied the game when he took a long pass from Yanni Gourde and scored. Twelve seconds after that, Ondrej Palat scored off a pass from Nikita Kucherov.

Kucherov had his 18th assist of the playoffs

Give credit to Cooper for sticking with the Gourde-Coleman line after it was scored on.

“I’m not a believer in that just because you get scored on, go to the bench and think about it," Cooper said. "Like, 'Get out there and  go get it back'. Now, I can’t say I thought they'd get it back in 15 seconds or whatever it was. It’s a game, it’s not a shift. Those guys have a job to do and I want them to go do it. I have full confidence in them."

The Bolts also got goals from Brayden Point -- who missed the previous game -- and Pat Maroon.

Cooper had praise for Palat.

"I've been his only coach as a pro," Cooper said. "That third goal was everything that Ondrej Palat is. He stays above pucks where a lot of guys might have skated away. He just does all of those things that are unnoticed, but lines don’t survive without him. I’ve watched it every year. He doesn’t get the attention some of the guys he plays with do, but you need a Palat on your line. I think that’s the ultimate compliment.”

The back-to-back goals were the latest example of the Bolts' resiliency. They still haven't lost consecutive games in the playoffs.

“We played a great game," Palat said. "We need to turn a page and get ready for the next game. We need to play our game and stay focused and do what makes us successful.”

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final between Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders will take place Tuesday from Edmonton’s Rogers Place (8 p.m. puck drop), the Lightning with a chance to close out the series and collect the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference playoff champions.

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