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Lightning wins, waits, watches to see if playoffs are possible

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The Tampa Bay Lightning has one game left, but the games they don’t control that will be the most nerve-wracking.

The Lightning has to watch as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. A win in either game clinches the playoffs for the Leafs and eliminates the Lightning.

The Lightning closes out his season Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres. The team has to wait to see if that game matters.

The Bolts beat Montreal Friday night, 4-2, to come within one point of the Maple Leafs.

Yanni Gourde scored twice for the Bolts. Nikita Kucherov scored his 40th goal, and Alex Killorn added a goal. Andrie Vasilevskiy played for the third straight game and stopped 27 shots.

“What’s encouraging for us, these guys (rookies) that are new to this, they don’t seem to care,” Bolts’ coach Jon Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter what league they’re playing in. They’re not afraid of the moment.”

The Bolts have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Gourde has scored in five of the last seven games.

“I think just hard work,” Lightning rookie Brayden Point said of his team’s late-season run. “You look at the last two minutes on that penalty kill, guys are selling out and blocking shots. I think that’s why we’re having success. we’re so excited, these are must wins for our team. We’ve got lots of energy. Obviously, it was a tight-checking game, but I think we worked really hard tonight.”

Point said his team would pay attention to Saturday’s game.

“I think we’ll all be watching them pretty close,” Point said. “But we’ve got to rest up and take care of business ourselves.”

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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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