Not even a bad break can slow down the Lightning

by Gary Shelton on March 6, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Vasilevskiy won his 10th in a row./CHUCK MULLER

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Sometimes, even the worst breaks of all can only help to define the best team of all.

Consider, if you will, Winnipeg's second goal of the night Tuesday night.

It was found money. It was an answered prayer. It was luck surrounded by fortune and wrapped in a blessing. It was the luckiest goal you will ever see, a puck directed by favorable surroundings and a good bounce.

And the Bolts still won the game, 5-2 over the Jets.

That's how well things are going for the Lightning, who are now 51-12-4 on the season. Not even gifts from heaven can hurt them. Consider that

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Erne scored his seventh goal./CHUCK MULLER

second goal, when Jacob Trouba of the Jets was trying to bounce a pass off the plexiglass wall surrounding the rink.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy retreated behind the goal to intercept the pass. But the puck ricocheted off of a stanchion and went right into the net.

In a low-scoring sport such as hockey, perhaps you would have expected a

Point scored his 37th goal./CHUCK MULLER

lottery-winning goal such as that to make a difference in a game between two of the NHL's better teams. But it didn't. These days, not even the angels can cool down the Bolts.

Why? Consider:

-- Forward Nikita Kucherov tied Vinny Lecavalier for the most points ever in a season, increasing his total to a league-leading 108.

-- Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won his 31st game of the season, giving him 75 wins in the last two regular seasons. (He also had 11 in last season's playoffs). Vasilevskiy is now 31-7-2, one off of the NHL lead despite missing time with a broken foot.

-- Forward Brayden Point scored his 37th goal of the season, which ties him for fourth in the league.

Hedman became the team's all-time power play points leader amongst defensemen.. / CHUCK MULLER

-- Center Steven Stamkos scored hs 34th goal, which would put him ninth in the league.

Also scoring for Tampa Bay was Yanni Gourde, his 18th, Adam Erne, his seventh, and Cedric Paquette, his 10th. It was the 12th win in 13 games for the Bolts. Point now has 19 power play goals, most in the NHL, while Stamkos has 16.

"They've got a lot of weapons," Trouba said. "Either side they pass to, they’ve got a big shot and some good low plays and those shots close down. They make the right read and make the right play. It's hard to defend."

The Bolts got a good night from its fourth line with Erne, Paquette and Mathieu Joseph.

Stamkos celebrates his 34th goal. CHUCK MULLER

“Tonight, they were humming, all of those guys," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Other than putting the puck in the net, they were a physical presence. They took penalties but they drew penalties. When things like that are going on, they’re pretty involved in the game, and Adam was one of those guys.

“I don’t know if confidence is the word (with Erne), maybe familiarity a little bit more with the League. You’ve got to learn this league and you have to learn who you’re playing against. When you’re not getting the 20 minutes ice time a night, it’s a little bit longer and you have to find your way.”

Said Joseph: “I think it was a great team game in general. I thought that all

Tyler Johnson fights for open space./CHUCK MULLER

the guys came out and competed, and we were above them and we’re finishing hits and shooting pucks. In general, I thought we started the game really well. I think we kept going in the second and the third and a good result overall.

“I think we didn’t really have a night that things were going our way like tonight. It obviously felt good to help the team to win. I thought it was a really nice shot by Ern, it was a hard shot to get out there. Obviously Ceddy’s goal, we all saw it, and it was a great shot. Helping the team to win tonight is always good.”

Said Erne:  "I think it's going to be important until playoff time to have production from all four lines. Can't just rely on the top guys the whole time, obviously they have our back almost every game. Sometimes it's important to get some scoring from the other lines."

Connor Hellebuyck caught a Kucherov shot in the face./CHUCK MULLER

Cooper thought Joseph also played well.

“He’s a pretty explosive skater," Cooper said. "I think there was a little stretch there where he wasn’t having an impact on the game because he wasn’t using his legs. The last couple, especially tonight, pucks were put in the space for him and he’s the first one there.”

On most nights, most the attention would have gone to Kucherov, who picked up his 76th and 77th assists.

"It's amazing," Erne said. "I mean it just happens for him. He's a really hard worker, and you can tell how hard he works in practice on his particular skills and how well he knows his game and what he needs to do."

The Lightning plays again Thursday night at Amalie Arena when the Minnesota Wild visits. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.

Paquette's temper rose late in the game./CHUCK MULLER





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