Bolts take 3-2 lead in Conference finals

by Gary Shelton on June 10, 2022

in general

Sergachev scored his first goal of the playoffs./TIM WIRT

Friday; 4 a.m.

If there isone lesson to be learned from the resiliency of the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is this: You don't leave until the show is over.

If there is a second lesson to be learned from the Lightning, it is this: Anyone in the cast could end up in the starring role.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, once again, ripped the hearts out of the New York Rangers Thursday night, scoring twice in the final two minutes to win 3-1 and take a 3-2 lead in the series. The Bolts will try to move to their third straight Stanley Cup final with a win on Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

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Palat scored another game-winner./TIM WIRT

The Bolts won their third straight game, coming from a one-goal deficit behind Mikhail Sergachev, who scored on one distance shot and had another that ticked off teammate Ondrej Palat's kneecap. Brandon Hagel scored an empty netter at the end.

The Bolts have owned the third period against the Rangers.

"There are a ton of characteristics that go into it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "When the game is run by a clock, you’ve got to play within that. It doesn’t matter. The game winner goal can come in the last minute or first minute. You play it to the end.

"Maybe they just didn't want to go into overtime."

The Bolts seem to get energy from a dying clock, in other words.

"You prepare for those moments with experience," captain Steven Stamkos said. "We’ve learned over the years how to do that. Comfortable is not the right word; we're just confident. You understand what goes on. No panic.

"But (the series) is not a time to rest on what we’ve done. Let’s go home and let’s finish the job. These guys have pushed. This game is going to be toughest yet."

Granted, New York has gotten off the mat in previous series against Pittsburgh and Carolina. Certainly, the Rangers aren't surrendering. But for the first time in the series, the Bolts have the upper hand.

Vasilevskiy has allowed four goals in three games./TIM WIRT

“I expect their best game," Cooper said. "With the guy (Gerard Gallant) behind the bench, they're going to come out hard. They're a better team today than the opening game of the playoffs. I would expect nothing less than an outstanding effort. It would be naive for us to think just because we're going back home we’re going to win. We’ve been in this position before. We’re here to win a series. We don’t care when we win it. We just want to win it."

The Bolts best shot is goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has allowed just four goals in the last three wins. He stopped 24 of 35 shots on Thursday night.

The Bolts were behind 1-0 with 2:26 to go in the second period when Sergachev launched his bomb. With Corey Perry and Ross Colton in front of the net, the puck sent past goalie Igor Shesterkin to tie the game.

Sergachev appeared to go it again with 1:50 left to play, but it was judged the puck caromed off of Palat, his 11th game-winning goal in the playoffs. With 59 seconds left, Hagel scored the empty netter. On Sergachev's next shot, Palat and Stamkos were in front.

"If you’re going to go this far, some fortunate things have to happen to you," Cooper said. "Some things have to go your way. We’ve been through these games. You’re not going to win them all. But there is a mindset with the group, especially not to change the way we play. To explain why we’ve scored late ...,  I can't sit here and say we have a magic potion for that. We’re just trying to play to the end. And fortunately the puck had eyes for us tonight."

Stamkos says the next game will be the toughest./TIM WIRT

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