Bolts clinch playoffs with dramatic win

by Gary Shelton on April 15, 2022

in general

Kucherov tied the game with 12.2 seconds to play/.JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 4 a.m.

There for a while, it appeared the Tampa Bay Lightning were trying as hard as possible to back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Instead, they madeit on a night surrounded by dramatics.

The Bolts won an up-and-down game against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night, falling from ahead and coming from behind to beat the Ducks, 4-3 in overtime. It clinched the team's fifth straight playoff berth and their eighth in nine full seasons under coach Jon Cooper.

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It was a game that featured a crisp first period by the Bolts, a miserable second period and a frantic finish.

Along the way:

-- Anthony Cirelli scored the winning goal in overtime with 1:59 to play in the period.

-- Nikita Kucherov sent the game into overtime with his tying goal with 12.2 seconds to play.

-- Goaltender Brian Elliott came off the bench to stop all 13 shots he faced in relief of Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was the first time Vasilevskiy has been pulled from a game in almost four years.

-- Forward Alex Killorn had two goals disallowed for offsides. He did score on one and earned an assist of Cirelli's winning goal.

-- The Bolts won fter going 1-5 in their previous half-dozen games. They were 6-11 in their last 17.

-- Tampa Bay lost a 2-0 lead by giving up three second-period goals to the Ducks. After the last one, Cooper made the rare decision to pull his starting goaltender.

"Those are tough decisions," Cooper said. "They haven’t been too tough for me. We haven’t been in those situations. I tend to leave our goalies in more than I should, but I trust them. In this situation, I felt it was time. Three quick ones went in.

"I didn’t want to be in a situation where I wanted anyone losing confidence. I didn’t want to burn a time out. I thought about putting him (Vasilevskiy) back in -- a lot of different things go into it. For Vasy, if you’re getting pulled once every three (four) years. I hope the next time it happens. it’s not til three years from now."

The shaky second period was a reminder of how bad the previous month has been, however.

"I don't know if we took our foot off the gas or what," Killorn said.

Said Cooper: "We played a near picture-perfect first and then we just didn't check. The players are too good. The game can change just like that and that’s what happened."

The Bolts also got a goal from Ross Colton.

Tampa Bay is home again Saturday night against Winnipeg at Amalie Arena. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

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