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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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Lightning learns schedule, but will be underdogs vs. Pittsburgh

The Tampa Bay Lightning have their times and dates.

Now, they just need their results against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Lightning open in Pittsburgh Friday and Monday with both games at 8 p.m. The Bolts came home on Wednesday and Friday. Game Five would be on Sunday. The Lightning would be the host of Game Six on Sunday, May 22. Game Seven would be Tuesday, May 24.

Every game starts at 8 p.m.

The Bolts beat Pittsburgh in all three games the teams played this year. But the Penguins finished higher in the standings and hold a home-ice advantage.

The matchups.

Defense: If the Lightning can get Anton Stralman back, and he doesn’t have any rust, this should be an advantage for Tampa Bay. But Pittsburgh isn’t bad. The Penguins allowed only two fewer goals than the Lightning all season.

Edge: Lightning.

Offense: Not many teams can match the firepower the Penguins have with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh is the top team in the playoffs. The Penguins scored 245 goals this season, third in the league in scoring.

Edge: Pittsburgh.

Goaltender: The Lightning have to hope Ben Bishop can slow down the Penguins’ offense. Bishop won 35 games in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs. The Penguins have turned things over to  Matt Murray (seven playoff wins), who has starred.

Edge: Lightning.

Special teams: Pittsburgh has an excellent power play in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has the best penalty kill.

Edge: Even.

Coaching: Jon Cooper’s team was second in the league last year, and will be at least tied for third this season. That gives him an edge over Mike Johnston.

Edge: Tampa Bay.

The problem with a matchup box, however, is that all edges are not created equal. Pittsburgh’s edge on offense is more distinct than Tampa Bay’s on defense. The Penguins are deeper, more talented.

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Lightning to face Penguins in Eastern Conference Final series

The Tampa Bay Lightning got their dance partner Tuesday night.

The Lightning will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh closed out the Washington Capitals in Game Six with a 4-3 overtime win.

To a lot of people, the Penguins are probably the favorites in the series. They have home ice after totalling 104 points. The Lightning had 97.

But Tampa Bay beat Pittsburgh in all three of their meetings this year. The Bolts won 4-0, 6-1 and 5-2.

In the first game, Anton Stralman and Steve Stamkos, both out injured, scored the Lightning’s first two goals. In fact, Stralman scored in all three of the Lightning victories.

In the third game, Vlad Namestnikov had a hat trick. Ben Bishop was 2-0, allowing five goals on 69 shots.

The league has yet to announce which nights the games will be played.

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Could Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman return for Lightning?

Do the Tampa Bay Lightning have reenforcements coming?

As good as the Bolts have been, dismissing two teams in 10 games, they will face their biggest challenge against either Washington or Pittsburgh, both of whom were better in the regular season than they were.

But what if the Bolts get Steven Stamkos back?

And what if they get Anton Stralman back?

For Tampa Bay, there was no need to rush either player against the Islanders. Not when they won four straight. But both Stamkos and Stralman have been seen hanging around the team’s locker room. A return date for either might not be that far off.

The Lightning could use both. Stamkos was once again the Lightning’s leading scorer with 36 goals. Stralman was a steady defensive player. And the loss of both has provided extra minutes for others to have to fill. With them both, the Lightning are deeper, more dangerous.

Who knows? It could be enough to get the Bolts past another round and into their second straight finals.

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Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop leads Lightning to Eastern Conference finals

He is in charge of turning off the lights.

He is in charge of hammering in the final nail in the coffin, in charge of stepping on the necks, in charge of slamming the door.

He is Ben Bishop, and what he does is end things.

Bishop, the goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning, did it again Sunday. Once again, the Lightning had a chance to send an opponent home, and once again, he provided the directions. Bishop stopped all 28 shots in a 4-0 victory, suffocating the New York Islanders in their five-game NHL Series and sending Tampa Bay to its second straight Eastern Conference finals.

For Bishop, it was old hat. The Lightning has now won five playoff series in the last two seasons, and he’s starred in all of them. He’s thrown four shutouts in the five games, and he’s allowed one goal in 134 shots.

“Two words,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “And both of them start with ‘B.’”

After two overtime wins in New York, the Lightning was fairly hungry to close out the Islanders. They took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Victor Hedman and Brian Boyle. They made it 3-0 in the second period on Hedman’s second goal, then closed it out on the ninth goal of the playoffs (in 10 games) by Nikita Kucherov.

For Tampa Bay, it was an impressive feat. None of the major teams in Tampa Bay have ever reached back-to-back conference titles. That this one did it after losing Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman to injuries was notable.

“I’m not surprised,” Cooper said. “Did I think we’d get there in 10 games? No chance. Do I believe we could advance? No question. You have to be a special group to weather this in terms of what we have. I’m sure not a lot of people were checking our box to move on.”

The Islanders were never able to get going. Star forward John Tavares was shut out for the fourth straight game, and the Islanders lost their fourth straight game.

Hedman was a workhorse again, playing 27:43 of the game, the most of any skater.

In the next round, the Bolts will play either Pittsburgh (who they are 3-0 against) or Washington (0-3).

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Lightning beats Islanders again for 3-1 lead in playoff series

The Tampa Bay Lightning is one game away from returning to the NHL’s Conference Finals.

The Lightning won its second consecutive overtime victory in Brooklyn, beating the New York Islanders 2-1 in overtime. The Bolts lead 3-1 and can close the series out on Sunday at Amalie Arena.

Once again, Tampa Bay started slowly, being outplayed in the first period and outshot. They fell behind 1-0 on a goal by Kyle Okposo. That lead held until the third period, when – who else? – Nikita Kucherov tied the game on a one-timer 7:49 into the third period.

It was Kucherov’s eighth goal of the playoffs, which leads the NHL.

“He’s proving he’s not a one-hit wonder,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He continues to amaze.”

Ben Bishop had his moments, too, stopping 27 of 28 shots.

The Lightning took the win on a deep shot by Jason Garrison only 1:34 into overtime.

“He’s got a bomb,” said Cooper.

Cooper was asked what his team needed to do in its next game. “We need to realize it starts at 7 instead of 8,” said Cooper, unaware the game actually starts at 3. Still, he has a point about the Bolts getting off to a slow start.

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Lightning’s Brian Boyle set to play the villain against Islanders

The noise will start when he enters the building. It will continue through warmups. It will linger until game time.

Brian Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lightning has become public enemy No. 1.

And furthermore, boo.

Oh, he wasn’t guilty of a cheap shot. Even the NHL shrugged when it saw footage of his hit on Thomas Hickey in Game Three. He was cleared before lunch, no matter how loudly New York Islanders’ coach Jack Capuano complained. Of course, Capuano is the coach who blew a lead with 38 seconds to go while at home. Don’t you think he wants the public to be talking about something else?

But it won’t matter. Boyle has become a place for the Islanders to vent their frustrations, their scorn, their anger. He is Darth Vader. He is Hannibal Lecter. He is Justin Abdelkader.

In a way, it’s right out of pro wrestling. Fans love a villain.

Remember the way the fans of the Philadelphia Flyers booed former Lightning coach John Tortorella. It’s going to be like that.

For Boyle, a role player with some grit, it’s going to be a little different. He played in New York where, like here, he was known for being a good teammate, but not a star. He has scored only twice in the playoffs. Only 13 times all year.

Tonight, however, he gets it from the cheap seats (provided there are any in the playoffs). Capuano will doubtless use it as an excuse that those roughnecks from Tampa are rampaging through Brooklyn. Grrr. Hey, why not?

If you’re Capuano, it beats having people talk about your coaching.

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