Lightning closes in on another Stanley Cup

by Gary Shelton on July 3, 2021

in general

Johnson scored twice against Montreal./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 4 a.m.

Hello? Is this the engraver?

It's time to start sketching out your work.

Some reminders: There is an "I" between the "K" and "Y" in Vasilevskiy. Brayden Point spells is first name with an "e." Ondrej Palat spells his first name with an "o." Yes, Sergachev is just how it sounds.

The Tampa Bay Lightning is on the verge of honors again. They have one more game to win, and they'd have four more chances to do it. The Bolts took a deathgrip on the Stanley Cup Friday night, winning a 6-3 win at Montreal's Bell Centre.

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The Bolts can become the ninth franchise to win back to back titles (some have done it repeatedly), a force that seems to be driving them forward. The closer this team gets to the finish, the harder it is to beat.

Take Friday night. The Bolts scored two goals in the first 3:27 of the first period, and two more in the first 3:33 of the second period.

"It’s that inner drive," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "That maturity level. You start throwing legacy around. There are a lot of the words that mean 'They were a pretty good team.' The determination of this group to get another is amazing to watch. We’re not there yet, but i’m so proud of the maturity level of this group."

The Bolts started each period off strong, but Montreal scored a late goal in each period. But once again, the Lightning is hard to beat in the third period.

This time, the star was Tyler Johnson -- a longtime Bolts' forward who has slipped from star to support player. He was on waivers early in the year, and he has been demoted to the fourth line. But Johnson scored twice Friday night.

"There’s a reason Tyler Johnson’s trophy case is fairly full," Cooper said. "It's because he is an ultimate team player. He’s selfless. We never lost faith in Tyler Johnson. He never lost faith in himself. Roles change, and you have to adapt. No one’s done it better than Tyler. I couldn’t be more happy for someone. Everything he’s gone through. I'm extremely happy for the win. I might be happier for Tyler Johnson."

Johnson, however, preferred to talk about the goal in front of the Lightning.

“I know how fun it was last year when we won," Johnson said. "I want to do that again. You never know how many chances you’ll get. Anytime you get this close, you really feel it. Winning it last year even makes you want to win it even more. There is still a lot more to do. One more game -- we know the fourth one is the toughest."

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy won his 15th game of this post season. He's won 33 post-season games in the last two years.

Despite the presence of the highly regarded Carey Price, the Bolts have scored 14 goals in three games.

Tampa bay has a chance to close the series out Monday night at the Bell Centre. The puck will drop shortly after 8 p.m.

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