Step One: Rays qualify for the playoffs

by Gary Shelton on April 28, 2021

in general

Killorn scored twice against Chicago,/ CHUCK MULLER

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

It's good they're back in. Really, it is.

Now what?

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was never about simply clinching the playoffs, which the team accomplished in Tuesday night's 7-4 blasting of the Chicago Blackhawks. After all, the Bolts are the defending Stanley Cup champions. This season was going to be successful only with a firm run at another one.

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Still, a team has to take its first step, which the Bolts did against Chicago. Perhaps as important is that the team's offense finally woke up. The Bolts have scored 11 goals in their last two wins after scoring more than three only once in 16 games.

“A former general manager told me this is a hard league to win in," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I appreciate every time we win a hockey game and even more when we make the playoffs. There ’s a high expectation in this organization -- to make the playoffs every year.  You want it to become the norm. I couldn’t be more proud of them. To put yourself in position to win the Stanley Cup, you have to make the playoffs. It always feels good when you step over that hurdle."

Alex Killorn scored twice for Tampa Bay. Also scoring were Erik Cernak, Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point, Blake Coleman and Alex Barre-Boulet.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy gave up four goals, but he stopped 36 shots. Chicago was only one-for-seven on the power play. Vasilevskiy's 29 wins continues to lead the NHL.

“It’s great," Point said. "That (the playoffs) are what you play for. It’s great to be in, now we have to look at ways to improve our game and make sure we’re ready to go in these last games."

The Lighting has now qualified for four straight playoffs and seven of coach Jon Cooper's eight seasons.

The Bolts are home against Dallas on Thursday night. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.

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