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Tampa Bay Lightning trades goaltender Ben Bishop to Kings

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded away the best goaltender in their history Sunday night.

Now, the question is whether the team can make the playoffs without him.

The Bolts swapped Ben Bishop, who has won 112 regular season games over past three-plus seasons, to the Los Angeles Kings for goaltender Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak and two draft picks. It is a trade that will free up salary cap space for the Bolts, but it hurts them in this year’s playoff race. Bishop had won five straight games.

The trade had been talked about since the Lightning re-signed young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to a new contract. Bishop was to be an unrestricted free agent.

Budaj actually had won as many games this season (27) as Bishop and Vasilevskiy combined. However, he is 34, and no one knows how long he’ll be able to help.

Cernak, a former No. 2 draft pick, has not left the minors for the Kings.

Budaj, 6 feet 1 and 196 pounds, played in 53 games with the Kings this season, taking over the No. 1 job after Jonathan Quick suffered a groin injury in the season opener. Quick returned Saturday night for his first game since the opener. Budaj was 27-20-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage with seven shutouts. Budaj, 34, has appeared in 350 NHL games with Los Angeles, the Canadiens and the Avalanche, with a 152-127-39 record with 18 shutouts.

Cernak, 6-3 and 221 pounds, has played in 41 games with the junior Ontario League’s Erie Otters this season, with three goals and 17 points, and is plus-27. Cernak, 19, has played in 82 career OHL games with Erie, recording seven goals and 32 points, and is plus-34 rating.

Bishop had not played well much of this season, perhaps because of his contract status, because the upcoming salary cap and because Vasilevskiy had taken on more of a share of the net. However, his recent success brought his record to 16-12-3.

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Triplets reunited as Tampa Bay Lightning continues playing well

Once again, they were magic.

Once again, they were so electric you could almost see sparks on the ice. Nikita Kucherov. Ondrej Palat. Tyler Johnson.

The Triplets.

Stop them if you can.

You remember the Lightning’s Triplets, don’t you? In 2014-15, they were the most amazing line in the National Hockey League. They led the NHL in scoring that year, and given their tender ages, it seemed they would be a success for years to come.

Ah, but injuries happened, and the line was split up, and they appeared as a trio only every now and then.

Have you looked lately? The Tampa Bay Lightning line is clicking again, a one-two-three punch that can still take over games. They were solid in Colorado, getting off 13 shots. Then, in a keeper of a win against Edmonton, they were good again in a 4-1 victory.

Palat scored two goals. Kucherov scored one and had three assists. Johnson had two assists. And the Lightning pointed for the seventh straight game. At what may be their last chance, the Bolts are finally playing well again.

“It’s not that you put them together and all of the sudden the magic starts,” said coach Jon Cooper. “It’s playing the right way before that happens. Everyone had been defending really well. All of the sudden, you have the puck more, you have the puck in the right places more.”

Tuesday night’s game was an answer as to why the team had been spinning its wheels. The Bolts need more Triplets.

“It’s fun,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. “I’ve got the best seat in the house to watch it. They have that something extra and tonight they really brought it.”

Said Johnson: “It’s been great. We haven’t had much opportunity to play together the last couple of years. Maybe a period or two here or there. There haven’t been too many times (we played together) the entire game. Last game, we played well. We had a lot of chances to score, but it just didn’t go in for us. Now they’ve started to go in and we even had more opportunities.”

So will the Triplets stay together?

“It’s getting results, so I hope so,” Johnson said. “I like playing with those guys. They’re fun to play with. They make the game a lot better.”

Palat scored the first two goals for Tampa Bay. But Edmonton came back on goal by Iiro Pakarinen, then had another goal disallowed on an off-sides. It was a rare challenge won by Tampa Bay.

Kucherov added a third goal, and Vlad Namestikov was awarded a goal when he was hooked on an empty netter with one second to play.

Tampa Bay is home Thursday night against Calgary.

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This time, Lightning rallies after blowing two-goal lead and wins in OT

Forget that the opponent was in last-place. Forget that the Tampa Bay Lightning blew a two-goal lead for the second straight night. Forget that it took until overtime to complete the task.

The Lightning won.

What else matters?

The Lightning, getting points in its sixth straight game, is starting to show signs of life in the Eastern Conference Wild-card race. Sunday night, Tampa Bay launched 40 shots at Colorado, and came away with a 3-2 overtime victory.

The winning goal was scored when Jonathan Drouin stole the puck, then scored with at 2:27 of the overtime period.

“That’s what he does,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He’s a gifted, gifted player. You get him that close to the net with the puck and a little bit of time and space and he can do some magical things.”

For the second straight night, the Lightning seemed to be in good shape after Braydon Point and Vladislav Namestikov scored. But the Avs came back to force overtime when Matt Duchene scored the tying goal with 41.9 seconds to play on a shot that deflected off two players.

“Give Colorado credit for not quitting down 2-0 going into the third,” Cooper said, “but we needed to win one of those. Regardless of how this game’s going to turn out or how we’re going to get to 3-2, we needed it.”

The Lightning could have iced the game when Tyler Johnson scored in the third period, but the goal was disallowed. It spoiled a good night for the Triplets.

“Yeah, they were our best line tonight.” Cooper said. “They were a factor every time they hit the ice. Like I said, you feel for those guys. They get that one goal called back as well as they had played. There was a little contact. The ref saw it one way. We see it the other. That’s how it goes.”

Tampa Bay now returns home for four straight games, including Tuesday against Edmonton.

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Tampa Bay Lightning blows two leads in falling to Stars in overtime

The Tampa Bay Lighting came back from a five-day break Saturday night, but failed to get off to the re-start it wanted.

The Lightning let two leads slip away, and it turned into a 4-3 overtime win for the Dallas Stars Saturday night. Tampa Bay had leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the game but couldn’t hold off the Stars, especially Antone Roussel, a grinder who had his first career hat trick.

Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman had two goals and an assist in the loss.

The Bolts took a 2-0 lead, but still struggled in the opening period, which ended 2-2 after Roussel’s first two goals.

“I’m going to sit here and not dwell on whether we should have won that game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I think if people were watching the game, they know what happened. We’ve pointed in five straight. At some point here, we’ve got to start being two instead of just one, but I can’t sit here and say the guys didn’t leave it all out there. You look at all these teams that are coming out of the break and not winning, and I thought we gave ourselves every chance to win the game. And, unfortunately, we didn’t.”

The Lightning played better in the last two periods and ended up outshooting the Stars 37-28. They had four shots in overtime, including one by Alex Killorn which was stopped on a nice save by Kari Lehtonen. Jamie Benn, with 1:13 left to play in the extra period, scored the goal.

“We had our chances,” Cooper said. “And we couldn’t put it behind their guy. When they got their chances, they scored. That’s how it went.”

“The first period, I think the game was a little bit fast, and, ultimately when you take five days off — and I’m sure it’s the same for all the teams — the other team’s buzzing around, they’re in game mode, and we were probably a little bit in vacation mode. But give them a lot of credit, second, third period, we had 30 shots from the second period on. You get the lead, you’ve got to hold onto it and, unfortunately, a pretty tough turnover there. It’s a game of inches, we couldn’t get it out and they end up capitalizing. In the end, we just did everything we could in overtime, and they got the one chance. It’s obviously got to be on one of the best players in the league’s stick, and he knows what to do with it and he scores. But, you know what, can’t go back now, just got to look ahead. Now it’s Colorado, and that’s where our focus is.”

 

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Lightning gets a point, but loses to a strong Minnesota team

The Tampa Bay Lightning needed two points Friday night.

They settled for one.

The Lightning lost a shootout to the Central Division-leading Minnesota Wild, 2-1. At this point of the playoff race, with 27 games to play, the Lightning can use every point it can get.

Tampa Bay is 3-3 in shootouts this year. They are 24-24-7 overall.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy played well for Tampa Bay, saving 37 of 38 shots. The one he didn’t stop was a second period goal by Nino Niederreiter. Brayden Point tied the game on a deflected goal.

In the shootout, Point, Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov failed to convert a shot. Mikko Koivu scored in the shootout for Minnesota.

The Lightning plays at Winnipeg tonight.

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Tampa Bay Lightning finally win, beating Anaheim 3-2 in shootout

They won? Finally?

The Tampa Bay Lightning finally put up a winning scoreboard Saturday night, beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in a shootout.

The Lightning had lost six of its previous seven games (two in overtime), including two straight at home in which it managed only 21 shots per game in losses to Boston and Ottawa. This time, the Lightning outshot Anaheim by 21 shots (37-16).

The Bolts scored three goals in the shootout. Brayden Point started the scoring, Nikita Kucherov tied the extra period with a goal and Brian Boyle won it.

In regulation, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn scored.

The Ducks were lucky to get to overtime. They got off only 16 shots, none in overtime. It was enough to help Ben Bishop win his 12th game against 12 losses.

“It’s a real proud group in there,” said coach Jon Cooper. “They were not going to be denied tonight.”

Tampa Bay is home Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

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When it comes to the Lightning, have you heard this before?

Groundhog day, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are repeating themselves.

Check out Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. They started with a lead. They fell behind. They got off only 21 shots. And they lost their second game in a four-game home stand (and third overall)  that was supposed to turn all of this around.

“What did Punxsutawney Phil say?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. He was told six more weeks of winter. “Let’s hope not,” he said.

Things are cold enough for the Lightning, who fell to 22-24-6 with the loss. They lead only Detroit, by only one point, in the Eastern Conference.

“This group’s never been through this before,” Cooper said. “It’s kind of uncharted territory for them. A lot of guys are used to winning a lot. It tests you a little bit. Maybe in other times we’ve had this, but we’ve found a way to fight through it. Right now, it’s tough. Every time we start talking a step forward, we take two back.

“Maybe in the past, we knew something good was going to happen. We were going to work our way through. Now they’re waiting for something bad to happen. That’s the part you have to get over.

The Bolts have obviously been affected by the losing streak.

“It’s tough to describe really,” said Brian Boyle. “We’re just banging our heads against the wall right now. We’re trying to fix things. We’re putting a lot of effort into it. A lot of people are putting their time and effort into it. For whatever reason, we’re not executing.”

“I believe there’s 30 games left, so we can’t have that attitude that were being kicked while we’re down because I don’t think any other team is feeling sorry for us right now, that is going to give us a charity win along the way here. Every game is going to be like this, and whether we know it or not, it’s been like this in the past.”

Tampa Bay plays host to Anaheim Saturday night.

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Latest Lightning loss makes you wonder about their goaltender

Here’s something for the Tampa Bay Lightning to consider as they go nowhere.

What if Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t the future?

Vasilevskiy lost his sixth consecutive start Thursday night as the Bolts fell 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks. With the loss, the Lightning fell to 21-21-5 on the season. Vasilevskiy fell to 10-11-2. He has now given up 24 goals in his last six starts.

Tampa Bay has now lost 12 of its last 14 road games.

For the Bolts, the plan all along was that Vasilevskiy would be the future, and that the team would barter starting goaltender Ben Bishop somewhere along the way. But Vasilevskiy’s recent skid has called all of that into question.

The Sharks got goals from Ryan Carpenter and Logan Couture in the win. The Bolts’ goal came on a highlight-reel power play from Jonathan Drouin.

Still, it was not enough to pull out the win for Tampa Bay, which plays at Arizona Saturday night.

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Lightning beats Kings, 2-1, with solid game by Ben Bishop

Is it too late for the Tampa Bay Lightning?

The Lightning certainly hopes not. And Monday in Los Angeles, for once, the Lightning didn’t play like it. They ground out a 2-1 victory over the Kings that once again put them on the right side of .500 at 21-20-4.

The Kings scored first on a goal by Kyle Clifford. But the Bolts charged back with goals by Tyler Johnson and by Brian Boyle.

The goal by Johnson was particularly nifty, as he went top shelf after a dazzling pass from Jonathan Drouin.

“That’s what elite offensive-minded players can make, and Jo is elite in that regard. A lot of good things happen when he has the puck on his stick, and when you get yourself open, there’s a good chance he’s going to be able to find you. He did a great job protecting the puck. He beat his man, and now you give him a little bit of open space to make a play and Johnny opened up. The key was, it’s not so much he found Johnson, he put it right in Johnson’s wheelhouse. When you’re able to do that, give the guys a chance to score, and that’s what Jo did.”

The Bolts had lost five of their previous six games.

However, Ben Bishop won for the second time since returning from injury. In those two games, he has stopped 52 of 55 shots.

The Lightning played without Victor Hedman.

“It’s happened so often this year, you kind of don’t blink an eye. That was unfortunate, but then we found out Kopitar wasn’t playing like two minutes after that, so I thought, ‘Okay, that’s a one-for-one.’ Fans pay to see guys like Hedman and Anze Kopitar play, so it’s unfortunate they couldn’t. But it was still an entertaining hockey game.”

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Lightning prepared to raise Marty St. Louis’ jersey to rafters

Three years ago, he went away angry.

Three years ago, a lot of Tampa Bay Lightning fans felt he had pulled out on the team.

But tonight, Marty St. Louis returns home for the team’s first jersey-retiring ceremony before the game against Columbus. Finally, the team and its star have reconciled.

“I don’t think even when you’re done playing and you’ve done some great things” St. Louis said, “it’s nothing you hope for. This is an add-on you never felt coming. I’m so flattered and honored. I feel good about what I’ve done. But there are people who want to recognize me for it is something I’ll remember forever.”

St. Louis, an afterthought when he entered the league, always played with a chip on his shoulder, as if he had something to prove. He was undersized as a player, but he showed he was big enough.

“You always feel you have something to prove,” St. Louis said. “It’s hard to make it to the NHL, and it’s hard to be an elite player. It’s even harder to stay there. Every year, kids are pushing you trying to get to there. I took pride in that. I think I was my biggest critic. I was trying to show people I could still do it. I think I was an impact player longer because of that mentality.”

St. Louis looks back on his days in Tampa fondly.

“My wife and I talk about it all the time,” St. Louis said. “We grew up here. We had just gotten married. All of our kids were raised here at a young age. We have a lot of friends of the family who are here. I matured here. It will always be home. It was home. Always be a special place.”

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