Bolts lose another game, and home ice with it

by Gary Shelton on May 11, 2021

in general

The scoreboard hasn't been kind to Cooper./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

This must be the strategy: The Tampa Bay Lightning seem to be committed to making sure the Florida Panthers will be as over-confident as possible as they enter their playoff series this week.

I mean, how else can you explain a team's lost weekend?

For the second straight night, the Bolts took it on the nose against the Panthers, this time losing a 4-0 game. You could just imagine the reaction of the Panthers' players.

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That was the Stanley Cup champion? That was the high-scoring offense? That was the goaltender who is up for the Vezina Trophy again?

The Bolts are reeling. They have lost three straight games -- by a combined score of 14-3 -- and have only scored three goals or more in four of their last 24 games.

Granted, the Lightning roster was shredded. Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Barclay Goodrow, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov all missed the game. Most of those might be back by the playoffs, but with Stamkos and Kucherov, in particular, Bolts' coach Jon Cooper will have to manage their playing time carefully.

The Panthers won five of eight games against the Bolts this year, scoring 32 goals. The Panthers were 3-1 on home ice, which they now control.

One keeper moment for the Lightning was the start of the game when the team started Mathieu Joseph, Daniel Walcott and Gemel Smith -- all men of color -- on the same line for the Bolts.

"First of all, they're in the NHL for a reason," Cooper said. "They deserve to be here, and they’ve worked their tails off to get here. As we move forward as a league, you hope this isn’t a story. It may be a story today, but as the league gets more diverse, you hope it’s not a story anymore. "

Said Joseph: “It was pretty awesome. I thought it was great. It’s a step in the right direction. 

The Bolts finished their regular season in third place in the NHL Central with a 35-17-3 record.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 of 30 shots in defeat, his second-straight loss to close out the regular season. Vasilevskiy concludes the regular season with a 31-10-1 mark. He leads the NHL for wins currently and is aiming to finish the regular season first or tied for first for the fourth-consecutive season.

Yes, you can suggest that the Bolts backed into the playoffs, but consider this. When they won the Stanley Cup last year, they lost their last two regular season games. In 2003-04, when they won it, they lost their last game.

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