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Lightning blows 2-goal lead, but clinches playoff spot

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It doesn’t matter that they backed into playoffs. The way things are going for the Tampa Bay Lightning, they’re happy to be there at all.

Tampa Bay blew a two-goal lead and lost to the New York Rangers Tuesday night, but clinched a post-season berth when the Boston Bruins lost to the Carolina Panthers in a shootout.

The Bolts took a 2-0 lead on goals by Vlad Namestnikov and Brian Boyle. But the Rangers charged back to beat a depleted Tampa Bay lineup, 3-2. Besides Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the Lightning played without Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan. There is no guarantee that either Hedman or Callahan will play in the final two regular-season games.

“It’s good that we are in, but we should have won that game,’’ said Boyle, who scored his second power-play goal in the past three games. “We are not thrilled about the outcome tonight. But step one was to make the playoffs.’’

The Florida Panthers clinched the Atlantic Division with the Lightning loss.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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