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Lightning lets one opportunity pass, waits for another one vs. Penguins

The opportunity was gone. The chance had slipped through their fingers. The game had been blown.

And now, the players of the Tampa Bay Lightning, were already talking about their next turn.

The Lightning, with an opportunity to get to its second consecutive Stanley Cup Final, were badly outskated by the Pittsburgh Penguins for most of Tuesday night’s game. The Lightning lost, 5-2, to force Game Seven on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

“We have one game to get to the Stanley Cup Finals,” said forward Ryan Callahan.

“What a great opportunity,” said forward Brian Boyle, who scored both Lightning goals. “This is a terrific chance to do something.”

Never mind that the Bolts managed only four shots in the first period, and only 11 in the first two. Never mind that, after a disallowed goal by the Lightning (offsides), the Penguins made the Lightning play chase.

“We just weren’t skating,” Boyle said. “I don’t know if we didn’t want to get beat. Whatever it was, it wasn’t what we needed to do.”

The situation is almost identical to last year’s series against the New York Rangers. Again, the Bolts had a chance to close out the Eastern Conference Finals, but instead laid an egg in a lopsided loss. This time, ditto.

The Penguins’ best players took control of this one. Phil Kessel scored his ninth goal of the playoffs. Kris LeTang scored his second and Sidney Crosby his sixth.

Boyle scored twice to help the Lightning come within 3-2, but the Penguins scored two goals in the final 3:48 (one an empty netter) to even the series.

“I don’t think we were attacking enough, and obviously we weren’t creating enough in their end,” Callahan said. “We were a lot of one-and-dones, not getting pucks through. We spent a lot of time in our own end.”

“Their best players played better than ours for 40, and ours probably played better than theirs for 20,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

So far, the Bolts have had trouble getting to the dressing room. They’ve given up five goals in the last 90 seconds of a period.

“I guess you can sit here and say giving up a goal in the last minute is not ideal,” Cooper said, “but I just think giving up goals is not ideal. Whether you score them in the first minute or the last minute, it doesn’t matter. You are still giving up a goal. Unfortunately, you put yourself behind three, regardless of when they score them, (Pittsburgh) still scored three. It’s tough to form a comeback. Just like when we scored four a couple games ago and it’s tough for them to comeback. It’s magnified because it’s the last minute, I guess, but 3-0 is 3-0 no matter when they score.”

The teams play Thursday night at 8.

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Bucs pleased for Lightning, but they feel a bit of jealousy, too

The Tampa Bay Bucs feel a lot of things for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They feel excitement, and they feel passion, and they feel kinship.

Also, they feel, well, jealous.

The Lightning is in its third straight playoffs, and its eighth in the past 13 seasons. The Bucs, meanwhile, have been to the post-season twice in that span, and they have’t won a game. What the Lightning is feeling, the Bucs would like some of, thank you very much.

“I’m jealous as hell,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “Are you kidding me? I’m extremely jealous of what they have going and that certainly gives us something to work for.

“This town’s on fire for the Lightning right now. [They] have the whole town excited. You can’t go anywhere without seeing those blue shirts, blue hats, blue banners – we’re rooting for them 100 percent. Go Lightning.”

Tackle Gerald McCoy, a follower of the Lightning, agreed that it would be nice to see the town in a frenzy over his team.

“Well, we’re in the same city, so we’re rooting for them,” McCoy said. “But you do, especially if you have a chance to go to the game, you get to feel that energy. I don’t know if it makes me jealous more than [it makes me] want to feel that [myself].

“I know that we have all the pieces necessary to do it and we’re on the right track, so, more power to the Lightning, we’re pulling for them, but we want to make that more than just one part of the city. We want to try to hit every sport we have in this city, we want to try to be at the top, so we’re definitely feeding off of them, for sure.”

 

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Lightning hopes to close out Penguins in tonight’s Game Six

The Tampa Bay Lightning hopes to close out the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

Otherwise, the Eastern Conference Finals could get dicey yet.

The Lightning is home against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. But if the Penguins win, then Game Seven is in Pittsburgh. True, the Lightning won the last meeting between the teams there, but it’s not adviseable to try to make a living. Pittsburgh was 26-11-4 at home this season.

Then there is this. If the teams were to play a Game Seven, then coach Jon Cooper would have a decision to make in goal. Would he go with Ben Bishop, the team’s MVP this season? Or would he stay with Andrei Vasileskiy, who has played for most of this series. Obviously, much of the decision would be based on whether Bishop was healthy enough to offset the time he has missed.

The Lightning again will face the high-powered Penguins’ offense featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

A year ago, the Bolts were in a similar position. They had a chance to close out the Rangers, but they lost badly. And they had to find a way to win a Game Seven.

If the Lightning were to win tonight, they would reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight year (the third in franchise history).

Game time is 8 p.m. At Amalie Arena.

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Lightning look to close out Penguins and advance to Finals

For the Lightning, it’s about Game Six.

For the Lightning, it’s always been about Game Six.

Throughout the history of the franchise, a lot of series seem to wind up at Game Six, which has been the home to triumphs and heartache for the Lightning. Game Sixes have been about overtime, and about Marty St. Louis, and about Ben Bishop.

And now, here we go again. The Tampa Bay Lightning has a chance to advance to their second straight Stanley Cup Finals if they can beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Overall, the Lighting is 6-5 in Game Sixes in the playoffs.

The Bolts lost their first-ever playoff series in Game Six, losing a 6-1 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1995. They won their first series, beating Washington 2-1 in triple overtime on a goal by Martin St. Louis.

In their Stanley Cup year, they were forced to a seventh game by Philadelphia in an overtime loss in Game Six, only to win in Game Seven. The next series, they won their most crucial game of the Stanley Cup Finals, beating Calgary 3-2 on a goal by St. Louis. Earlier in that game, the Flames swore they scored the winning goal, but there were no replays to show the puck over the line.

In 2007, they lost in Game Six to New Jersey, 3-2.

In 2011, they beat Pittsburgh 4-2 and forced a seventh game, which they won. They lost a 1-0 game to Boston in Game Six.

Last year, the Bolts beat Detroit to force Game Seven (a win), closed out Montreal, lost to the Rangers (but won Game Seven) and were closed out by Chicago.

And now this.

Bolts’ coach Jon Cooper says his team relaxed a year ago against the Rangers, who won Game Six easily to force the seventh game.

“If there’s one thing we have to have learned from last year is what happened in Game 6 in the Rangers series,” Cooper said. “You can’t sit here and dictate or guarantee what the result’s going to be, but our mindset going into the game has got to be a heck of a lot different, and our group is well aware of that.

“I look back at last year, and we beat Detroit in Game 6, and then we came back, and a little bit on our heels in Game 7, and we were fortunate to pull it out. As we got a little bit more confidence in the series and we got to play the Rangers, I think we won such a big game in Game 5, I think the natural inclination was, oh, we’re going home. We’re going to close this out, especially the way we won Game 5, and they blew us out.”

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Bolts are within one game of Stanley Cup Finals after beating Pittsburgh

The Tampa Bay Lightning has moved within one stride of their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.

The Lighting scored 53 seconds into overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, and to take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series. Tyler Johnson got credit for the goal when Jason Garrison’s shot caromed off of his back.

“It’s a lot of fun to be their coach,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I’m not saying they don’t give you ulcers, but there is a quiet calm about that group. When they were down 2-0, it wasn’t panic. Nothing was going on but ‘let’s get the next one.’ We’ve just been in this situation too many times.”

Tampa Bay came back twice in the game after trailing 2-0 and 3-2 for the win. They also trailed 2-1 in games, and were badly being outplayed before finding a way to win despite the absence of goaltender Ben Bishop and forward Steven Stamkos.

The Penguins went ahead 1-0 when Brian Dumoulin scored with less than one second to go in the first period. They made it 2-0 when Patric Hornqvist scored 90 seconds into the second period. But Tampa Bay charged back, getting goals from Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov within 70 seconds.

Again, Pittsburgh scored late in the period on a goal by Chris Kunitz.

With 3:50 to play, Ryan Callahan hit a post, and the puck skirted just outside the goalmouth. But 34 seconds later, Kucherov scored his second goal on a wrap-around to score.

Kucherov leads the NHL in post-season scoring

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the overtime was over quickly. The Lightning has now played four overtime games, winning three, and all of them have been over in a hurry. They beat the Islanders in 2:48 and 1:34. The Penguins won earlier in the series 40 seconds into overtime. Now the Lightning have won in less than a minute.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots to get his second straight win.

The Lightning can close out the series Tuesday night at home. If they do not, game seven will be in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

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Could the Triplets save the Lightning against the Penguins?

The Tampa Bay Lightning hope they can be saved by the rebirth of the Triplets.

The Triplets’ line dazzled the NHL a year ago, as Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat went through the league in a blur. This year, however, the group has been largely split up because of the team’s scoring woes. Alex Killorn has replaced Palat much of the time, who has played with Steven Stamkos and now Jonathan Drouin.

In Wednesday night’s 4-2 defeat by the Pittsburgh Penguins, however, the line scored both of the Bolts’ goals late as Johnson and Palat found the in one of those too-little, too-late occurenes.

“Same thing as prompted it for two series prior to that,” Coach Jon Cooper said. “I think with a lot of coaches, what happens are adjustments and different things that happen in a game. We’d gone two periods without scoring. We weren’t getting a ton in there. We put those guys back together, and they gave us a little bit of a boost.

“So you’re just looking for different things that work and guys that have a little bit of chemistry together. Fortunately, they do, as well as — you know, they play with other guys as well. But you just can’t — you’ve got to look after the rest of your team as well, and we’re trying not only to get — you think, well, you get Kuch and Johnny going, you know, Palat helped spark that, and you’re just trying to help — you’re just trying to find ways. Because it’s worked with those guys in the past, we wanted to go back to it. I’ve done it a ton during the beginning.

“Something I would consider? Of course I would consider it.’

The Lightning, down 2-1, has been dramatically outshot in all three games.

Cooper said he was not looking for goaltender Ben Bishop to return to play. Stamkos said his situation, too, was unchanged.

Still, Cooper said he believes the Lightning can play with Pittburgh.

“I think being down in the series is being down in a series,” Cooper said. “It really doesn’t matter how, I guess, you get there. The one thing I looked at and said, okay, we’ve won one of these three games. We did take three away from them in the regular season. So it’s not something we’re sitting here saying, oh, we can’t beat this team. We couldn’t beat them in the last two games, and that’s the way we’re looking at it.”

Game time is Friday night at Amalie Arena at 8 p.m.

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Tampa Bay Lightning battered by Pittsburgh’s potent attack

Here comes another one. And another.

Close your eyes, and the pucks are still flying. From here. From there. From everywhere.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost again in the finals of the Eastern Conference championship Wednesday, as the high-powered Penguins took back home ice advantage and battered the Bolts for the second striaght night in a 4-2 victory.

This time, Pittsburgh got off a staggering 48 shots. They had 41 in their victory Monday night, and they have 124 in the three-game series.

The Lightning now trail 2-1 to Pittsburgh, which can take a firm hold on their series with a win Friday night.

“It’s pretty much do-or-die,” said Tyler Johnson, who scored one of the Lightning’s goals. “It always is in the playoffs, but we don’t want to be down 3-1 going back to Pittsburgh.”

The Lightning spent much of the post-game talking confidently about how they still had not put their best foot forward. But they also said that before Wednesday’s game.

“You can’t win too many when you give up that many (shots),” Johnson said. “Vasi was outstanding. He gave us every chance to win. You honestly feel bad for him becaue he played so well.’

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper managed to sound as confident as possible.

“The message would have been a lot different if this was the best of three, but it’s the best of seven,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen every different way. We’ve been up 2-1 and down 2-1. You have to have a short memory. So we’ll turn the page. The sun is coming up … I think.”

Despite the loss, the Bolts were tied almost to the second intermission when Carl Hagelin scored with 10 seconds to play. Pittsburgh scored three times in the third to take a 4-1 lead.

“You have to give them credit,” Johnson said. “They play hard, they use each other very well. I thought we had a great first period. We were all over them, but that second period we had a little bit of a let down and that just can’t happen.”

Ondrej Palat also scored for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning does have hope that Ben Bishop, of the league’s finest goalies, will be ready to play on Friday night.

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Lightning thinks it can play better against Pittsburgh in playoffs

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 9-3 in the playoffs.

They have discovered a beast in Nikita Kucherov. They have found a star of tomorrow in Jonathan Drouin. They have discovered defensive stability in Victor Hedman.

And for the next trick of the Lightning?

They want to be better.

The Lightning were disappointed with its performance in a 3-2 overtime loss Monday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite not losing until the extra frame, the Bolts were outshot 41-21 and spent most of the third period searching.

“We’ve got to play better to win this series; there’s no doubt,” coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t think — we haven’t put our best foot forward. I think — you know, now that we’ve played them two times, we know a little bit more what to expect, but I know we’ve got more in the tank than what we’ve showed.”

Cooper said the team’s problems included puck possession.

“It’s a concern, there’s no question,” Cooper said. “I think we’ve put ourselves in positions to have the puck more, but we’re not being very smart about how we’re playing. We’re not playing as a group of five on the ice. We’re kind of — we’re in all like different segments, playing in different zones, changing when we shouldn’t, and when you’re not in unison, you’re not going to have the puck a whole lot of time. So definitely something we have to improve on.

“By no means am I sitting here saying, oh, gosh, we’re a way better team. Not at all. They have a lot to do with it as well. You don’t get to the conference final by fluke, I don’t believe. They’ve got a really good team, and there’s a reason they, I guess, have the best record since February, whatever it is, and they’re playing well.”

The Bolts have their next two games in Tampa, where they expect to play better.

“I like the fact that we don’t have a couple of days to sit here and digest what happened,” Cooper said. “It’s a loss. We lost the game. I don’t think anybody’s going to sit here and say, well, Tampa won Game 1. We were just going to sweep our way through the series. That wasn’t going to happen.

“We expect this is going to be a long, tough series. I don’t think we’re really happy with the way we played, although that game went to overtime. We could have handled ourselves in some situations a little bit better. But to get back on right away is probably a bonus for us.”

The teams play Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Amalie Arena.

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Lightning loses a chance to take hold of NHL Playoff series

Perhaps the Tampa Bay Lightning are still in good shape in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals.

After all, they split their two games in Pittsburgh, and the next two games will be in Tampa Bay. After all, they got a good performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had 38 saves.

But, man, would this one have been sweet.

The Lightning lost a 3-2 overtime game to the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night. Playing without Ben Bishop, without Ryan Callahan and, once again, without Steven Stamkos, the Lighting rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game before losing.

Pittsburgh outshot the Lightning 41-21 in the game, but had to extra time before Sidney Crosby scored 40 seconds in.

It is an easy strategy for the team on the road to talk about winning one of the two games. However, Jon Cooper said: “we came here to win two.”

“We may not have been the better team tonight,” Cooper said, “but we were one shot away. We’ve got to up our game.”

Cooper said the Lightning had too many “one and done” shots in the third period.

Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game on goals by Matt Cullen and Brad Kessell. The Lightning pulled even with goals by Anton Stralman – who returned to play for the Bolts – and Jonathan Drouin.

Wednesday night’s game begins at 8 p.m.

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Resilient Lightning find a way to beat Pittsburgh without Ben Bishop

By now, would you really expect another injury, even to an important player, to slow them down?

The resilient Tampa Bay Lightning, already without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, lost goaltender Ben Bishop with 7:35 left in the first period against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bishop was taken from the ice in a stretcher. Early X-rays showed there was no structural damage.

“I think a lot of that comes from last year and the confidence we have in this group coming in,” said forward Ryan Callahan. “We’ve that mentality it’s the next guy up. We have a deep team, and that’s been a big key for us.”

The Lightning, a slight underdog in the series because of the powerful Pittsburgh offense, scored one goal in the first period on a nice move by Alex Killorn. In the second period, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin also scored.

Patrick Hornqvist scored for Pittsburgh.

Andrei Vasilevskiy came in for the Bolts and stopped 25 of 26 shots to get the 3-1 win.

“We lead the league in penalties,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s something we have to correct.”

Cooper was optimistic that X-rays showed no serious damage to Bishop’s knee. He pointed to the experience of Vasilevskiy, who is only 21 years old.

“I know it was a year ago, but he’s already played in a Stanley Cup Final,” Cooper said. “There are all kind of cliches in this game about working hard, but in his case, it’s true. He’s a rock.”

The Lightning and Penguins play again on Sunday, then turn to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. Tampa Bay is 9-2 in these playoffs.

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