Third line leads Bolts past Chicago

by Gary Shelton on April 1, 2022

in general

Colton scored twice against Chicago./TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

They have been together for, oh, minutes now. Long enough to learn each other's name, but not a lot more.

But from the looks of it, the Tampa Bay Lightning have put together a fairly impressive line.

Newcomers Nicholas Paul and Brandon Hagel, along with second-year pro Ross Colton, made their presence felt in Friday night's 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Together, they scored three goals and three assists and launched 11 shots as the Bolts pulled away from Chicago.

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In their last 19 games against Chicago, the Bolts are 17-1-1.

Colton scored two of the goals (Hagel had the third) as the Bolts pulled away from Chicago in the last two periods. Tampa Bay had taken a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, but Chicago came back to tie.

That's when the line-from-wherever started its comeback, the highlight play being a betwee-the-legs pass from Paul to Colton.

"That was a sweet one," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who coached his 700th NHL game. "You can tell by the reaction of the players on the bench when people do something like that. The whole play, all the way up the ice, was impressive. Nothing happens without Colton going to the net. It was a good play all the way around.

"That was their best game since they’ve been together. When you’re trying to find chemistry with a line, it takes some time.  I thought they found their stride tonight. We fell in line with them or they fell in line with us. They had something going. They did a ton of the right things we preach. and they got rewarded. Hopefully more of that to come."

Hagel scored an empty netter after Colton missed a chance at a hat trick, his shot fading just to the left. Still, the goal on Paul's between-the-legs pass was impressive enough.

"At first, I thought he spun around and did it on his backhand," Colton said. "On the replay, I saw he went through the legs. It was an unbelievable play. It just goes to show you what kind of player he is. He’s big, he's physical and he can move extremely well. When he’s throwing passes like that he looks like Kuch or something.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy ran his record to 13-0 against Chicago. He now has 35 wins on the season.

The Bolts will play again tonight at Amalie Arena, facing Montreal. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

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