Last-second goal gives Bolts a 2-0 lead

by Gary Shelton on May 20, 2022

in general

Colton scored in the final seconds./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

The final pass was so dazzling, so breathtaking, that you tend to forget about the 59 minutes and 56 seconds that came before it.

The final goal was so sudden, so deadly, that you tend to forget about the pain and the passion that preceded it.

That's the thing about last-heartbeat victories in the world of sports. They tend to erase the good and the bad that happened before them. But this time, that would be a disservice to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which took a 2-0 playoff series lead with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday night.

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Kucherov's pass lifted Bolts./TIM WIRT

The game ended on a wow moment, with Nikita Kucherov making one of his magic passes -- a backhanded, barely look number -- to Ross Colton, who knocked in the winning goal with 3.8 seconds to play.

It was typical Kucherov, who is so danger that he pulled two Panther defenders with him behind the net. That left Colton open for his goal.

"When you're on the ice with Kuch, you’ve got to be ready for anything," Colton said. "He’s got eyes in the back of his head. I didn’t even know he knew I was there.  He just gift wrapped it for me and it squeaked under the bar."

Said Lightning coach Jon Cooper:  "I’ve seen Kuch be a part of goals like that. It brings you back to the bubble when (Ryan) McDonagh made that pass to Kuch, or 2015 when Tyler (Johnson) scored with a second left. I think Kuch was on the ice for all three of hose. Kuch is a special, special player.

“You can’t let the moment be bigger than you. Ross scored a massive goal for us tonight, but it’s the group. Look at the guys who killed the penalty 3 1/2 minutes before that. There’s no moment that’s too big."

Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 of 37 shots for his 55th career playoff win.

The Bolts first goal was scored by Corey Perry, who deflected a Steven Stamkos pass into the net. Eetu Luostarinen tied it in the second period for Florida.

The Bolts (and Colts) took a 2-0 series lead in Fort Lauderdale, meaning the Panthers would have to win four of five to take the series.

For the Bolts, the memory of this game will be the final score. But it will also be the bruises on the bodies of the Lightning players. As a team, they blocked 24 shots (and they've blocked 40 in two games). Stamkos, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev and Brandon Hagel all had to leave the bench with injuries before they returned.

"It’s just amazing what this group can continue to fight through," Stamkos said. "Obviously, we knew they were going to push, and they pushed. They played a great game. We bent, but we didn’t break. Vasy made some great saves, the penalty kills were amazing. You play till the end of the buzzer."

The Lightning return to the ice on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., facing the Panthers at Amalie Arena.

Perry gave the Bolts a 1-0 lead./TIM WIRT

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