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Lightning lose second straight as Capital’s T.J. Oshie gets a hat trick

And suddenly, the Tampa Bay Lightning is going in the wrong direction.

The Lightning, which entered the week on a hot streak, lost its second straight key matchup Saturday night in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Caps clinched the playoffs with the victory.

Tampa Bay, which has 11 games to play, is certain to finish with its worst record in four years.

Saturday night, the Bolts gave up the game’s first two goals and its last three. Along the way, T.J. Oshie had a hat trick. Oshie has played 14 games aginst Tampa Bay and has 10 goals and 19 points.

Nikita Kucherov scored twice for the Bolts. Alex Killorn scored the other goal.

“They’re a really good team,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. “You sit here and say, tie game going into the third. We were going to take our chances. That was tough. We take the penalty and we get through it and then we just stopped playing. Our defensive awareness, it was, we can’t let that happen. They’re changing, coming off the bench. To give up that chance, that’s a tough one. It’s a one goal game, but you can’t give up that fourth one. Killer.”

 Cooper thought the Lightning scored enough to at least get a point.

“We got three,” Cooper said. “When you get three, you’ve got to get points. Yes, you want guys to come out of their goal droughts and stuff like that, which they did. We scored three. You can’t give up five. You can’t give up four. It’s too tough to win in this league. I’m not as concerned about the amount of goals we’re scoring. It’s what we’ve given up. They’re battling. You’ve got to feel for them because they’re laying everything on the line. As I said, if you had told me we were going to score three against Washington, I was hoping we could get some points out of it.”

Tampa Bay is home Tuesday night against Arizona.

Rowdies lose final exhibition game to Miami; season opener next week

It was hardly the way that Tampa Bay Rowdies’ head coach Stuart Campbell wanted his team’s final tuneup to go.

The Rowdies lost a 3-0 decision to Miami FC in an exhibition game Saturday, when “two crazy minutes” led to their downfall.

Tampa Bay gave up two goals in two minutes, then another seven minutes later, in losing their final game before next week’s season open against Orlando B.

“It’s a very flattering score for Miami,” Campbell said. “For 88 minutes, it was a good performance by us. We dominated a really good team and created more than enough chances, but then there were two crazy minutes.”

In the 67th minute, Miami’s Stefano Pinho pounced on a loose touch in the Rowdies’ defensive ranks to bear down one-on-one against goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. A minute later, Kwadwo Poku picked off another soft pass in the Rowdies’ end and fed Pinho for his second goal in two minutes.

Enzo Rennella scored Miami’s third goal.

“The first goal was a big deflection that ended up with one of our players basically assisting their goal, which can happen from time to time,” Campbell said. “But the biggest disappointment is to go on and concede a second right away. That’s a sucker punch. We fell behind against the run of play when we were the team in the ascendency. We have to be more disciplined in that situation.”

“It was a very good performance, yet we lost 3-0,” Campbell said. “It’s preseason and I got more than what I wanted from the team because they really played a good game apart from those two minutes. But preseason or not, you still want to win and we didn’t do that so it wasn’t enough. It may not be such a bad thing in the end because there will be no complacency from the team going into the season opener.”

Lightning clobbered by Toronto in its race toward the NHL playoffs

Think of the ice at Amalie Arena as a giant windshield.

Now think of the Tampa Bay Lightning as a bug.

Splat.

Got it?

The Lightning, playing so well as of late, were clobbered at home in Thursday night’s game, losing 5-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bolts, who had just passed the Leafs in the standings, now are playing chance once again.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it was his team’s defense, which had been good lately, that led to the defeat.

“The thing that was missing was the defending of shots,” said Cooper. “That’s the thing we weren’t doing. There is a spot 10 feet out, this little 10×10 area in front of our net. That was the only area of the ice we didn’t play. Clearly, that’s the most important part (on the ice.) We’ve been so good defending as of late. That’s why we’ve had success, and tonight, we didn’t (defend.) It looks bad on (goalie Andrei) Vasilevskiy, but there’s not much you can do when guys are tapping them in and winning battles.”

Vasilevskiy, who was 6-0-1 in his previous seven games, was pulled after giving up his fourth goal on 15 shots in the second period. Cooper said, however, the problem was the defense. “It was a rest pull more than anything,” he said.

It was only the third time all season the Bolts had lost by five goals and it’s first since a Jan. 5 loss to Columbus.

Twelve games remain for Tampa Bay. If the team is going to salvage this season, it needs to take advantage of Saturday night’s home game against Washington.

Victor Hedman scores in overtime as Lightning wins another

Just like that, they’re back in it.

The torrid Tampa Bay Lightning won again Monday night, beating the Ottawa Senators 2-1 in overtime to tie – momentarily, at least – the New York Islanders for the last wild-card slot with 77 points.

Victor Hedman scored the winning goal for the Bolts, taking a perfect pass from Ondrej Palat and scoring with 55 seconds left in the overtime. Brayden Point had scored the first goal for Tampa Bay.

Andrei Vasilevski continued his solid play in net, stopping 32 of 33 shots. Vasilveskiy is 5-0-1 in his last six games.

The Bolts have now picked up at least a point in 15 of its last 17 games.

“To be perfectly honest, we haven’t been looking ahead, it’s just, ‘Who are we playing tonight?’” coach Jon Cooper said. “Now we can sit here and say clearly the Toronto game’s a big game for us. Last night was the Rangers, tonight it was Ottawa. Those boys, man are they battling hard. It’s been a lot of fun to be behind the bench with these guys. It was a lot of fun. That was a heck of a hockey game by the way. I don’t know if you guys saw the same thing, but oh man was it fast.”

The Bolts come home Thursday night for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“The last time we played them – we haven’t played them in a while — I think we took the penalty in overtime and they scored,” Cooper said. “Does it add a little bit because it’s the Leafs and the position we’re in? It should be a fun time Thursday night. But there’s still a lot of hockey left to play. Just because it’s the Leafs and we’re battling them, we’ve just got to keep getting points, regardless who it’s against. These two are going to be just as big as the two against Toronto and the two we’ve got to play Washington on Saturday. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we are.”

Rookie Brayden Point leads the Lightning as its hot streak continues

So how did you spend your 21st birthday?

Odds are, Brayden Point has you beat. On Monday night, the rookie Point took over Madison Square Garden, scoring two goals to lead the Lightning to a 3-2 victory and brought the team to within one point of the final wild-card spot.

Point scored in the first and third periods, bringing his season total to 11 goals.

“I know this is cliché, it’s been used a million times, but he’s a hockey player,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s what he is. You saw it in the first development camp he came to us, he was more undersized than he is now, but I truly believe when you have commitment and the work ethic, that’s your first thing that you notice on a player, everything else will fall into place. And that’s what that kid has. He goes into a corner, and it doesn’t matter the size of the guy he’s going in against, I’m always sitting there thinking, ‘He’s going to come out with this.’ And you’ve got to have a will, and he does.”

Goaltender Peter Budaj notched his first win for the Bolts, stopping 26 of 28 shots. Rookie Gabriel Dumont also scored a goal, his second of the year.

“Just exceptional effort on a night where I actually thought both teams were off,” Cooper said. “And so that game was up for the taking. You’ve got to tip your hat to (Budaj) for making a big save on (Chris) Kreider in the opening minute. If he doesn’t stop that, who knows where our momentum goes. We weather the storm in the first, pretty fortunate to come out 1-1. The power play’s kind of chipping away for us, and then after that, it was anybody’s game. Our goalie just happened to make one more save than there’s and then the little engine that could, Point. He came through big for us.”

The Lightning has now pointed in 14 of its last 16 games (11-2-3). Tampa Bay plays at Ottawa tonight.

Lightning overcomes two-goal deficit to take big win over Florida

The Tampa Bay Lightning is treating this playoff race like something real.

The Lightning won a memorable game against the Florida Panthers Saturday night, coming from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 victory. The Bolts are now 10-2-3 in their last 15 games.

After falling behind 2-0, the Bolts came back on a power-play by Nikita Kucherov, a short-handed goal by Yanni Gourde (his first in the NHL) and a tiebreaking goal off a deflection by Ondrej Palat. It was Kucherov’s 31st goal, and it tied him for the league lead in power-play goals.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper didn’t seem concerned that his team was down two goals in a hurry.

“To be honest, we were in the room thinking that there’s no way we should be down 2-0 in that game,” Cooper said. “I think the scoring chances were pretty even, shots were pretty even. Coby’s untimely break of his stick keeps the puck in the zone, and that was a tough break. The first one, I guess you realize why Jagr’s got 700-plus goals, to score a goal like that from that angle.

“So we thought, OK, maybe a couple of these weren’t getting the breaks, but we thought we were earning ours. We could’ve easily been up 2-0 in that period going into the break, but there was a lot of fight in the boys we had left. We felt we were playing well enough. It was keep working the way we were, and things will pay off, and they eventually did.”

For the Bolts, it was one of the team’s more impressive home stands of the season.

“Sometimes a little youthful exuberance injected in there, and guys don’t really care,” Cooper said. “They just want to go and try their hardest and try and win. Everybody knows where we are right now and it is desperation mode. The guys are playing with it.

“I don’t know how many kids we had that started the year in the minors that were in the lineup tonight. We talked earlier in the year. It’s not the 22 guys or the 23 guys at the start of the year that make this team. It’s 30-plus that are a part of our team. You need everybody to win.”

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is 5-0-1 in his last six games.

The Bolts travel to New York to face the Rangers on Monday and then on  to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Bucs add former Dallas safety J.J. Wilcox to free agent signings

The Tampa Bay Bucs added safety J.J. Wilcox to their free agent signings Saturday.

Wilcox, 26, is a former third-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys who should compete for former safety Bradley McDougald’s old job.

He has started 38-of-58 regular season games played for the Cowboys over the past four seasons (2013-16), totaling 196 tackles, 15 passes defensed, five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

 A native of Cairo, Georgia, Wilcox played collegiately at Georgia Southern. He played only one year of college football.

 

Signing of DeSean Jackson puts Tampa Bay Bucs in NFL’s top half

How much did the free-agent signing of DeSean Jackson help the Tampa Bay Bucs?

Well, according to Bleacher Report, it vaulted them into the top half of the league.

Bleacher Report did its latest power-rankings Friday, and the Bucs came in at No. 13. Not bad, when you consider that Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta was No. 12.

“There are free-agent signings I really like. And there are free-agent signings I absolutely love,” wrote Chris Simms, the former Bucs’ quarterback.

New England led the Power Rankings at No. 1, which should surprise no one. Following are Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Dallas.

In the NFC South, Carolina was No. 17 and New Orleans was No. 21.

Injuries mar big victory by Tampa Bay Lightning over Stars

The Tampa Bay Lightning is learning one of the oldest lessons in hockey.

Every time it gets a little bit of a gain, it finds itself in a little more pain.

The Bolts took a big victory Thursday night, beating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 at home. The Wild, 32-17-6, has been the best team in the Western Conference, while the Bolts are still struggling to make the playoffs.

As big as the win was, however, it came with a sting. The Bolts lost Tyler Johnson, Vlad Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette — all centers — to injuries to their left legs. Coach Jon Cooper had no further information on the injuries.

“It doesn’t sound encouraging for any of them,” Cooper said. “If we got one of them back for Saturday, it would be a blessing.”

Nikita Kucherov scored two goals for the Lightning, one on a power play (the first in 12 games for the Stars). Victor Hedman had a goal and an assist. Andrej Sustr also scored a goal for Tampa Bay.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won for the Bolts, continuing his play since the trading deadline.

“He’s definitely holding down the fort,” said Anton Stralman. Vasilevskiy stopped 32 of 33 shots.

“You’ve got to put that one up there (with the Lightning’s best wins),” Cooper said. “Especially that last 12 minutes when were limited in our players. We were responsible, gritty, gutty, getting in shot lanes.”

The Lightning is home Saturday night against Florida.

Bucs add speed, strength in free agency to try to improve their team

The Tampa Bay Bucs, trying to improve their team for the coming season, have added strength and speed from the nation’s capital.

The Bucs signed the defensive tackle and wide receiver DeSean Jackson Wednesday on the first day of free agency.

The big catch, so to speak, is Jackson, who led the NFL last year with an average 17.9 yards per catch. He will immediately slot opposite Pro Bowler Mike Evans, and immediately promises to help the rest of the offense.

Quarterback Jameis Winston has had trouble with his deep ball; Jackson gives him a game-breaker who can separate from a corner. It will be harder to double-team Evans, and tight end Cameron Brate should be able to work underneath.

“It is rare to find a player in free agency with the combination of speed and natural playmaking ability of a DeSean Jackson,” said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. “DeSean is a smart, gifted athlete who has averaged more than 17 yards per reception throughout his nine-year career and brings the type of veteran experience and deep threat receiving ability that will have an immediate impact on our offense.”

Baker should move into the starting lineup opposite Gerald McCoy.

Per Stats, Inc., Baker has 64.5 combined quarterback knockdowns and hurries over the past two seasons. Dating back to 2015, Baker is one of six NFL players to post 100+ tackles, 9+ sacks, and 5+ forced fumbles, joining Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Carlos Dunlap, Melvin Ingram and Brandon Graham.

“Chris has excellent size and what really jumps out at you is his ability to flash dominance at times during games and his explosive quickness,” said Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter. “His versatility will make him a great complementary player alongside Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald on our interior defensive line.”

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