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Lightning loses first game of series to Islanders as Ben Bishop pulled

The Tampa Bay Lightning started off their second-round playoff series Wednesday night by stubbing their collective toe.

The Lightning wasted their home ice advantage in dropping a 5-3 decision to the New York Islanders, including two goals in two minutes and 29 seconds.

For all the discussion about the team’s five days off since the Detroit series, coach Jon Cooper pointed out that the first few minutes could not have gone better for the Lightning. They scored 3:05 into the game on a goal by Ondrej Palat and seemed to be sailing.

But Travis Hamonic scored to tie the game with 5:44 to play in the first period, and then Shane Prince scored twice at the end of the period. (Obligatory Prince reference: When Bolts cry.)

The Islanders scored a fourth goal in the second period by John Tavares.

“What hurt us was giving up two goals in the last 2 ½ minutes,” said Cooper. “It’s 1-1, and you’re plugging along. Then you go into intermission and it’s 3-1. It burned us. We gave up a goal with three seconds left. We were kind of soft in those last few minutes.”

The Lightning pulled within 4-3 in the third period, but an empty netter sealed the game for the Islanders.

“Obviously, it’s not the first time this has happened,” said goaltender Ben Bishop, who was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 13 shots. “We have to worry about the game behind, not this one.”

Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay tries to draw even in the series Saturday.

“There’s a reason it’s a seven-game series,” said Tyler Johnson.

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Who has the edge: Breaking down the Lightning-Islanders series

Who wins?

The New York Islanders have John Taveres. The Tampa Bay Lightning have Victor Hedman. The Lightning won their first round in five games. The Islanders won three overtime games, two that went to double overtime.

These teams play at Amalie Arena tonight (7 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m.) before traveling to the Islanders.

So which team has the advantage?

Forwards

The Islanders have Taveres, who will be the most talented man on the ice. He led the Islanders to their upset of the Florida Panthers, and he’s been difficult to deal with when the teams have played. The Lightning counters with its latest version of the Triplets: Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn scored 10 of the team’s 12 goals in the Red Wings series. For Tampa Bay to succeed, it will need scoring from other parts of the roster.

Edge: New York.

Defense

If Anton Stralman can get back quickly, this becomes an edge for the Lightning. Matt Carle has played well – he was scratched at times this season – but there is doubt if he can hold up for 20 minutes a night. Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy lead the way for the Islanders, who rallied in three of their four wins.

Edge: New York.

Goaltender

This is the Lightning’s biggest edge, and in hockey, it’s the most important edge to have. Bishop has been spectacular for most of the year, and a fan can still scratch his head and wonder how he lost 21 games this season. Thomas Greiss had an impressive first round against the Panthers, but his body of work doesn’t match Bishop’s.

Edge: Lightning

Special teams

The Bolts need to stay out of the box, but man, have they played well when the other team had an advantage. Against Detroit, they stopped 24 of 25 power plays. The Lightning’s own power play sputters at times. Getting a couple of goals during the series would help.

Edge: Lightning

Intangibles

The Lightning have reinforcements coming. Stralman, and perhaps Stamkos, could rejoin the team soon. Meanwhile, a rested Tampa Bay has home ice advantage.

Edge: Lightning

Coaches

Jon Cooper hasn’t had a smooth ride this season. He was blamed in the contract negotiations with Stamkos, with the handling of Jonathan Drouin. He has lost players to injuries. It’s been much more of a struggle this year than last. But Cooper wins, as the fact he’s into the second round shows. Jack Capuano has New York in the second round for the first time in more than two decades.

Edge: Lightning.

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Lightning to face Islanders in next round of NHL Playoffs

There will be no Sunshine series in the NHL Playoffs.

Instead, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to face a team that, frankly, has given it a hard time.

The New York Islanders eliminated the Florida Panthers Sunday in double overtime and move on to face Tampa Bay. Games 1 & 2, still undecided, will be at Amalie Arena. Three and four will be in New York. If the teams need it, Games 5 and 7 will be in Tampa.

The Islanders, with John Tavares, took two of three games this season from the Lightning.Tavarez scored five goals and had four assists in the six games against Florida.

The Islanders took 50 shots on goal against the Panthers.

The Lightning beat New York in five games on the way to their Stanley Cupin 2004. Tampa Bay is hoping to get defenseman Anton Stralman back at some point in the series from a broken leg.

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Lightning eliminates Red Wings behind 34-save effort by Bishop

Ben Bishop has rarely looked taller. He has rarely looked wider. He has rarely played better.

Bishop stopped 34 shots in a 1-0 shutout over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a first-series win (4-1) over the Wings. In the second period alone, he stopped 14 shots including four breakaways.

The Bolts won with 1:43 left to play when Alex Killorn rushed the net, took a pass from Ryan Callahan and jammed it past goalie Petr Mrazek.

“You want your goalie to keep you in it,” Killorn said, “but I’m not sure he didn’t win it.”

It was the 129th game that Bishop has won in net for the Bolts. Twenty of them have been shutouts. In the playoffs, Bishop has four shutouts, three of them in series-clinching games. In this series, he had a 1.61 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.

“You know sometimes you are feeling it, I guess,” Bishop said. “I was able to make a couple saves there and keep the team in the game, then obviously in the third a big goal by (Killorn).”

The Lightning actually didn’t play particularly well until Killorn’s game-winner. They had 17 giveaways.

“If you give our team a C and you give Detroit an A,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, “the problem is that Bish got an A+, and it trumped an A.”

The penalty killing also played well again for the Lightning, which stopped five power plays and finished the series killing 24 of 25 power plays by Detroit. All of which set up Killorn’s game-winner.

“It was a play where (Mrazek) makes a goalie play and Callahan kind of jumped him and once I saw that (Mrazek) was out of his net I was just trying to gain position in front knowing that if (Callahan) could get it to me I could probably put it in.”

Tampa Bay now waits to find out whether Florida or the Islanders wins their series, which is tied 2-2.

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Lightning’s Penalty Kill might be the death of the Red Wings

If Thursday night is to be the death of the Detroit Red Wings’ season, it will be an easy one to label.

They will have been penalty killed.

The Wings’ power play simply hasn’t gotten started the entire series. Despite repeated opportunities, the team is one-for-21 with a man advantage against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Those scrambling, frenetic efforts are the reason the Lightning has a 3-1 lead in the series.

“They’ve saved us,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s kind of gone a little unnoticed, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the locker room.”

“You look at the games. We’ve won two one-goal games. When you look at that, the margin of error might be our special teams. Everyone’s talking about our power play because it scored three goals, but let’s not forget about our penalty kill.”

For most of the season, it has been that way. The power play has come and gone, but the team’s penalty kill has been excellent. They rank second in the playoffs behind Washington. After a slow start in the season, Tampa Bay was eighth in the regular season.

“I think it’s huge,” said Alex Killorn. “This season, they’ve been great.”

Let’s face it. With 21 opportunities in five games, the Red Wings’ power play could have taken control of the series. They have not.

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Lightning takes 3-1 lead over Detroit behind Nikita Kucherov’s goals

How do you say “resiliency” in Russian?

How do you say “breakout star?”

Perhaps it is time that the Tampa Bay Lighting learned. After all, considering the way that Nikita Kucherov took over Game Four of their NHL Stanley Cup series, all of Tampa Bay may be soon be speaking the language.

Kucherov scored two goals and had an assist to lead the Bolts to a 3-2 lead over the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night. That gives Kucherov five goals in the series, and it gives him 10 multi-goal games, the most in the league.

Jonathan Drouin, suspended not long ago, had three assists on the team’s three power-play goals.

“That was an outstanding result,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “It was the confidence we had. At some point, special teams are going to have an effect on a series. Let’s tip our hat to the penalty kill.”

The Lightning took a 2-0 lead on Kucherov’s two goals. In the second period, Luke Glendening scored when he batted a rebound out of the air and into the net. The Red Wings tied the game at 2 when Gustav Nyquist knocked in a puck it eight seconds to go in the second period.

Despite letting the lead go away, the Bolts came back to score in the third period. Kucherov passed to Drouin who crossed the puck directly to Palat.

Ben Bishop had 26 saves for the game, including 10 in the final period. The Lightning penalty kill has now limited the Wings to one goal in 21 tries.

The Lightning attempt to close out the series Thursday night at Amalie Arena.

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Detroit strikes back to make it a series against Tampa Bay Lightning

Did you think it was going to be easy?

Did you think it was going to be a runaway?

The Detroit Red Wings answered back Sunday night, beating the Lightning 2-0 and reducing Tampa Bay’s lead in their playoff series to two games to one. Tampa Bay managed only 16 shots, only seven of them in the final two periods.

“They played really hard,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Their desperation level was higher than us. The more desperate team won.”

The Red Wings turned to goaltender Petr Mrasek, who shut out the Bolts. With 16 shots, however, Cooper said “I’m not even sure they needed a goaltender.”

Detroit scored twice in a five-minute span for its goals. Cooper protested the second of those, suggesting it was kicked in by Henrik  Zetterberg and that Bishop was interfered with. The goal stood, however. The Red Wings had seven power plays.

“We were killing the whole night,” Cooper said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.”

Detroit did a good job defensively, especially on the Lightning’s Tyler Johnson line. Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn had scored 15 points in the first two nights, but they were held without a goal Sunday night.

“They competed harder than we did, ” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to be way better than that.”

The teams play again in Detroit on Tuesday night.

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Lightning erupts late behind Tyler Johnson to beat Detroit again

Call them the new Triplets.

Call them the Johnson line.

Call them the Detroit destroyers.

Whatever you call the Tampa Bay Lighting’s Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov-Alex Killorn line, they seem to be taking over the NHL playoffs. Certainly, they are outskating the Detroit Red Wings. It is early in the season, but it is fair to say that if Detroit cannot do a better job of slowing them down, this series may be over with in a hurry.

The Lightning took a solid 2-0 lead in their playoff Friday night, getting a pair of goals from Johnson and one each from Killorn and Kucherov. In two games, that line has 15 points (goals and assists) to pace Tampa Bay.

“It’s just two games, and we have to play three and four in a tough building (the Joe Louis Arena),” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

Still, 2-0 is better than the 1-1 start of a year ago.

“We took care of tonight,” said Lightning forward Brian Boyle, who also scored. “That’s all we did. It’s the playoffs; it’s a group of one-game series.”

The Lightning led 1-0 on Kucherov’s goal and 2-1 on Boyle’s. But former Lightning player Brad Richards’s tied the score at two early in the third period.

After that, it was the Johnson show. He scored at 6:32, then again at 14:48 as the Lightning built its lead. Killorn added another at 17:18 to make the final 5-2.

The game ended with a brawl.

“I didn’t think they pulled anything,” said Johnson. “It was just playoff hockey, hard-nosed playoff hockey. You play until the buzzer goes off, and it hadn’t gone off.”

Tampa Bay improved to 31-11-1 this season when Bishop gives up two goals or fewer.

The Lightning plays on Sunday and Tuesday in Detroit. If needed, game five would be played in Tampa on Thursday night.

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Lightning doesn’t let goal reversal stop them in victory over Detroit

No goal.

It can come so fast, so deadly. Victor Hedman put the puck in the top right corner of the net, taking a feed from Jonathan Drouin, and the Tampa Bay Lightning had snapped a 2-2 tie with the Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning had the lead with 13:05 to play.

And then the call was reversed. No goal. The replays showed that Drouin had been offside as he passed the puck before Hedman, and the lead was wiped away.

No goal? No sweat.

Less than three minutes later, the Lightning scored again, this time on a shot by Alex Killorn, to take a 1-0. That is potentially a huge win when you consider that the Lightning trailed 2-0 in last year’s series before winning it in seven.

“Guys weren’t rattled on the bench,” said coach Jon Cooper. “There was not one sense of ‘we’re in trouble.’ Guys were calm. They were disappointed, but they weren’t saying “Oh, poor us. Our response was outstanding.”

Perhaps it was that refusal to hang their heads, and perhaps it was the playoff experience of a year ago, that led the Lightning to its win. Perhaps, too, it was that the Lightning played the way it must to win.

Hedman played 29:26 to lead the Bolts. Ben Bishop stopped 34 of 36 shots. Nikita Kucherov scored twice. The Lightning penalty kill held Detroit scoreless on five power plays. Tyler Johnson, Killorn and Kucherov were all plus three.

Yeah, that’s the way the Bolts have to play to survive the absence of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman.

In particular, Kucherov was sensational with two goals. He scored 30 in the regular season.

“He’s really talented,” Cooper said. “He made the choice when he came into this league to be a player. He had offensive talent, but he learned to play on his own end.”

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5 key players for the Lightning in playoff series with Wings

They’ve been here before.

It was a year ago. The Tampa Bay Lightning had the home ice advantage over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. And they won.

Can they do it again in their playoff series that starts tonight? This time, it will be harder without captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman. But it’s possible if the players who were so good a year ago are good again.

Here we go, then. The top five players who have to shine for the Bolts to pull this series out.

  1. Ben Bishop: The Bolts beat Detroit last season when Bishop won the final two games in their series, including a 31-save victory in Game Seven. Bishop has been stellar this year, although his won-loss record doesn’t reflect it. Still, he led the NHL in goals against this year. He has to keep the Red Wings at bay. A shutout or two wouldn’t hurt.
  1. Tyler Johnson: Johnson has been injured for much of the season, and he has roughly half the goals he had in last regular season. But Johnson was terrific in last year’s playoffs. He scored five goals against the Wings in the playoffs. If he can get it going again on the Triplets line, the Bolts may be better off than you’d think.
  1. Victor Hedman: Without Stralman, he has to be the best player on the ice. At his best, Hedman is a hulking defensive presence with a heavy shot. He’s going to play 24 minutes a night. Hedman will have to do it again, or the Red Wings will run off and hide.
  1. Jonathan Drouin: It must be hard even for Drouin to believe the way things worked out for him. He’s scored in two straight games, though, and if he can keep it up, no one will remember his suspensions. More than most Lightning players, he has a scorer’s gift.5. Nikita Kucherov: A 30-goal scorer, he has more flash than anyone else in a Lightning uniform. He’ll have to show that for the Bolts to strike quickly against the Red Wings. This year, it would be preferable not to fall behind 3-2 in the series.
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