The Tampa Bay Lightning is treating this playoff race like something real.
The Lightning won a memorable game against the Florida Panthers Saturday night, coming from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 victory. The Bolts are now 10-2-3 in their last 15 games.
After falling behind 2-0, the Bolts came back on a power-play by Nikita Kucherov, a short-handed goal by Yanni Gourde (his first in the NHL) and a tiebreaking goal off a deflection by Ondrej Palat. It was Kucherov’s 31st goal, and it tied him for the league lead in power-play goals.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper didn’t seem concerned that his team was down two goals in a hurry.
“To be honest, we were in the room thinking that there’s no way we should be down 2-0 in that game,” Cooper said. “I think the scoring chances were pretty even, shots were pretty even. Coby’s untimely break of his stick keeps the puck in the zone, and that was a tough break. The first one, I guess you realize why Jagr’s got 700-plus goals, to score a goal like that from that angle.
“So we thought, OK, maybe a couple of these weren’t getting the breaks, but we thought we were earning ours. We could’ve easily been up 2-0 in that period going into the break, but there was a lot of fight in the boys we had left. We felt we were playing well enough. It was keep working the way we were, and things will pay off, and they eventually did.”
For the Bolts, it was one of the team’s more impressive home stands of the season.
“Sometimes a little youthful exuberance injected in there, and guys don’t really care,” Cooper said. “They just want to go and try their hardest and try and win. Everybody knows where we are right now and it is desperation mode. The guys are playing with it.
“I don’t know how many kids we had that started the year in the minors that were in the lineup tonight. We talked earlier in the year. It’s not the 22 guys or the 23 guys at the start of the year that make this team. It’s 30-plus that are a part of our team. You need everybody to win.”
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is 5-0-1 in his last six games.
The Bolts travel to New York to face the Rangers on Monday and then on to Ottawa on Tuesday.