The Tampa Bay Lightning continues to be contrarians.
Following a three-game losing streak that looked as if it was going to finish the team, the Bolts responded with a two-game winning streak on the road that might end up saving them.
The Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings Friday night, 2-1 in overtime, to pull within one point of the Bruins and Islanders for the final wild-card spot. The Bruins and Islanders play each other today.
The Lightning now has at least a point in 11 of its last 12 road games (8-1-3).
Nikita Kucherov won the game for the Bolts with a goal in overtime. It was his 38th goal of the season, and his seventh in the last four games. Earlier, Ondrej Palat had scored to tie the game at 1.
“It just feels good to win this game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “We had a tough little stretch there where we lost three in a row at home, and you sit here and say every game’s a must win, but let’s be honest, we don’t come out with four points in this, we’re in trouble. To come in on the back-to-back and be down in the third and to gut one out, pretty proud of the guys.
“Losing would have been devastating for us, and that’s the way it is. When you’re not just trying to catch one team, you’re catching multiple teams, that’s why it’s hard to do. Really, you’ve just got to sit here and say the only destiny you can control is your own. That was the big conversation going into the third period. We had the one-goal lead against Arizona the other night and let it slip away, now we’re down a goal, what are we going to do here? The guys just talked about what needed to be done to win a hockey game, and they found a way.”
Cooper talked about the ascension of Kucherov, who has carried the Bolts as of late.
“The biggest thing for me, what I think what’s really changed for him and it actually didn’t look like it tonight, but he’s been shooting the puck,” Cooper said. “And probably a month and a half ago, he’d show up on the sheet with one or zero shots, and I thought a big turning point was in Colorado, he didn’t score but I think he had eight or nine shots on goal that night. And the next night he had seven and scored, and it’s just taken off ever since. He got the big one tonight, but he passed up a couple really good looks where he can score. When Kuch is getting into that three to six shot a night range, pucks go in for guys like him. That’s what he’s doing, he’s creating space for himself, he’s fighting through stuff and, as I said, your best players got to be your best players and he’s a big reason why we’re back in this race.”
Tampa Bay is off until Monday when it plays Chicago.