Lightning blows open close game against Carolina

by Gary Shelton on October 25, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots against Carolina./JEFFREY S. KING

Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots against Carolina./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 2 a.m.

There for a while, the Tampa Bay Lightning had all it wanted from the Carolina Hurricanes.

And then the last two minutes and 37 seconds happened, and once again, the Lightning were the hottest team in the NHL.

The Lightning scored three goals in the last heartbeat of a game, and a 2-1 nail-biter turned into a 5-1 victory. It increased Tampa Bay's record to 8-1-1, six points ahead of Toronto in the Atlantic Division.

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Stamkos added to his season assist total./ANDREW KRAMER

Stamkos added to his season assist total./ANDREW KRAMER

Andrei Vasilevskiy won his eighth game in goal for the Bolts, stopping 30 of 31 shots. Vasilevskiy has surrendered only four goals in his last four games.

The Bolts were ahead 2-0, but Carolina played well in the final period, scoring a goal and swarming the net.

"To be honest, we had a disappointing third period,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We had that game in complete control after two. We weren’t really giving them much. We had a two-goal lead and we just came out and gave it to our goaltender and said, ‘You go win this one for us.’ It was a little disappointing the way we played. We take the penalty, we get scored on just after that and it was pretty much a fire drill after that. We played with fire a little bit tonight. We got away with it but we can’t continue to have third periods like that.”

Still, the Lightning won.

"It’s great that we got the two points,” Cooper said. As a coach, you’re happy with that, but in the end, you just can’t keep playing like that down the stretch, not that we have. We’ve played pretty well the last few weeks here, but we let them back into it and we gave them momentum. We were fortunate to get those empty-netters or who knows what would have happened.”

Steven Stamkos agreed that the Bolts were shaky in the third period.

"We didn’t play very well in the third…You can’t sit back as much as we did,” Stamkos said. “Give them credit: We knew they were going to push. Vasy made some big saves like he always does and we hung on for one. It’s not pretty every night, but the good news is we got the win and there’s room for improvement, so we’ll look to improve.”

The difference, Stamkos said, was Vasilevskiy.

"I thought the penalty kill, and Vasy’s a big part of the penalty kill, did a great job in the first,” Stamkos said. “They came out hard. We knew this was going to be a close game. Obviously, 5-1 wasn’t very indicative of the game. It was a 2-1 game. It was tight-checking, and Vasy played great. If you ask anyone in this room, he’s one of the best in the world. We’re happy he’s on our team, and he’s a big reason why we’ve started the way we have.”

The Bolts got empty netters from Vlad Namestnikov and Ryan Callahan in the closing moments. Nikita Kucherov scored his 11th goal with four seconds to play on a pass from Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning play at home Thursday night against Detroit. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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