Bolts’ strong third period grounds Jets

by Gary Shelton on April 17, 2022

in general

Kucherov scored two goals for the Bolts. / CHUCK MULLER

Sunday, 4 a.m.

They won. They came from behind. They showed a bit of scrap.

Ah, but how would this Lightning effort play in the post-season?

They were efficient on offense. They had a smothering defense. Their stars were bright.

But one more time. How would it translate into the playoffs?

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At this point of the season, that is the most essential question before the Lightning. Every success, and every failure, is to be considered with the playoffs in mind. Look sloppy against a mediocre team? It's cause for concern. Look crisp? It's a reason for hope.

And so it is that many fans will find a glimmer of optimism in the Bolts' 7-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. The Bolts were down 4-2 halfway through the second period, but they roared back with five straight goals. In the third period, they dominated a weary Winnipeg Jets team (it had played the night before against Florida).

So what does it all mean?

We'll see.

“It kind of felt like our old selves a bit in the third," said Steven Stamkos, who had a goal and an assist. "Just the execution and the plays we were making. Hopefully we can build on that third. That’s the kind of hockey we're accustomed to playing, playing with confidence and poise. Just making the right reads and defending hard.

"I thought we gave them too much time and space early in the game. We talked about eliminating in the D-zone. We have to get back to that on a more consistent level."

The Bolts allowed only 18 shots on the night, only four in the third period. They got two goals from Nikita Kucherov and one each from Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nicholas Paul and Mikhail Sergachev.

Kucherov now has goals in six of his last eight games.

"When he’s on his game and playing like he did tonight -- and the big goal last game, it’s a about confidence," Stamkos said. "Kuch hasn’t played a lot of hockey in the last couple of years. He’s coming back from a fairly significant surgery. The body can feel good in stretches and not so good in other stretches. It’s something that takes time. You can tell when he has the puck, and he’s taking those first three steps and creating space and sucking guys in and making plays. That’s when he’s at his best. You can tell physically he’s feeling a lot better. When the puck’s on his stick, it’s usually a very good thing for us."

So do you concentrate on the last half of the game? Or the first half, when the Bolts fell behind a sixth-place Jets team 4-2.

"I think we needed something to pull us into the fight," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "The first shift kind  of said it all. We were a little passive, we weren’t finishing. Give Winnipeg a ton of credit. They played hard. We were missing some edge in the first.

"Yes, we have a lot of compete in our room. We had to pull it out of ourselves. Sometimes a little pugilism does it."

Kucherov and Hedman each had four points. Backup goaltender Brian Elliott won his 10th game of the year for Tampa Bay.

The Bolts are home again on Tuesday night against Detroit at Amalie Arena. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

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