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Lightning’s Ben Bishop remains hot as Bolts get points again

Well, look who might be getting warm.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, which has spent most of the season as just another team, beat Winnipeg 4-1 Saturday night to earn at least a point in four consecutive games. The Lightning has three wins and a shootout loss in the games.

The Bolts are now in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 57 points, five points out of third.

It is the kind of effort that Lightning fans have waited most of the season for. Goalie Ben Bishop was solid with 32 saves in 33 shots, and came within one shot of having his second straight shutout. Bishop is now 14-12-3 on the season, and he’s allowed only three goals in his last three games.

The Lightning had goals from Brayden Point, Brian Boyle, Ondrej Palat and an empty-netter from Victor Hedman. Tampa Bay held a 3-0 lead until Jacob Trouba scored in the third period.

The Bolts are now off until next Saturday night when they play at Dallas.

Lightning wins its second in a row to show it still has life

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, there might be life to the Tampa Bay Lightning, after all.

And if so, nights such as Tuesday night give fans a reason to believe.

The Lightning won a 5-0 game that should serve as the team’s blueprint for the rest of their playoff run. They got good goaltending, they got goals from their speediest skaters, and their penalty kill was strong in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

It was the first regular season shutout by goalie Ben Bishop since last March 28, when he stopped 34 shots against Toronto. This time, Bishop stopped 19 shots in the first period, but had to face only nine the last two periods.

“Bish played extremely well in the first period when we needed him,” said coach Jon Cooper. “I looked up and they had 19 shots. We felt extremely fortunate to go to intermission with the lead. Clearly Bishop had a lot to do with that. But once that happened, we gave up nine shots the rest of the game. That’s the team helping each other out. Ben bailed us out in the first, and the team said ‘Ben, we’re not going to try to need you in the last two periods. That’s how it went.”

The Bolts also got two goals from Nikita Kucherov and one from Jonathan Drouin. Gabriel Dumont had his first goal for the Lightning, and Braydon Coburn added a goal.

For the Lightning, it was the first time the team has won back-to-back games since December 20th and 22nd.

“We need to get consecutive wins,” Drouin said. “When you win one , lose one, win one, lose one, you don’t get points out of it. We want to make it three and four. That’s what we need. We need points on the road.”

For Bishop, it was his second straight win. He’s struggled much of the year to remain above .500, and so it is encouraging to think he might get on a roll.”

Tampa Bay visits Minnesota on Friday night.

Who’s on first? Rays re-sign Logan Morrison to roster

If a Tampa Bay Rays fan was looking for something new, Tuesday was a disappointing day.

The Rays, whose interest in slugger Chris Carter had been well reported, missed out on the former Milwaukee slugger, who signed with the New York Yankees for $3.5 million. Carter would have been an intriguing addition after a 41-home run season.

Later in the day, the Rays reached a new agreement with Logan Morrison, who hit .238 for the team a year ago.

He hit .275 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI and a .350 on-base percentage over his final 79 games (72 starts), from May 16 through the end of his season. He appeared in 107 games, but his season was cut short by two injuries: a right forearm strain put him on the disabled list for 16 games at the end of July, and a left wrist strain sidelined him for the final 20 games of the season.

The Rays training camp begins on Feb. 12 when pitchers and catchers report.

Lightning struggles again in disappointing loss to Boston

This is the way it’s going for the Tampa Bay Lightning: Badly.

This is the way it’s going: The Bolts finally get a game with three goals … and goaltender Ben Bishop gives up four.

This is the way it’s going: The Lightning finally gets a breakaway in the third period of Thursday night’s game…and Tyler Johnson passes the puck backward instead of taking a shot.

This is the way it’s going: Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman is hit from behind by Boston’s Brad Marchand, and no penalty is called. The Bruins promptly score twice in the last two minutes of the second period.

In other words, it was business as usual in the Bolts’ 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins, another in a series of games the team has designated as important. Yet, as usual, the Lightning stubbed their toes and failed to make up any ground.

It would be mystifying if only it had not happened so often.

“Fifty games in?” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I guess it’s not too mystifying anymore. It’s happened too often. How many times do you have to say ‘consistency.’ It’s tough.

“Why do they change the way they play? You pat them on the back and say ‘good first period’ and they go out there and play not so good.”

The Bolts are now 22-23-6 on the season. They are six points out of the final wild-card spot.

Goaltender Ben Bishop fell to 11-12-3 with the loss. He faced 35 shots, but four of them got past him.

After taking a 1-0 lead and playing a solid first period, the Bolts gave up two goals in two minutes – the second with .09 seconds to play – to fall behind.

Alex Killorn’s second goal tied it, but Boston scored two to close out the game. The Bolts had only 13 shots in the second and third period and only 21 for the game.

“We have to have more consistency,” said Killorn. “It’s kind of disappointing. We show a little fight at the end of the third period, but it wasn’t enough.”

The Lightning plays Ottawa on Thursday night in an effort to keep up with a league that is moving farther away from the team.

Rowdies’ first USL schedule is set with 16 home matches

If the Tampa Bay Rowdies are to contend this year in the USL, they will have the opportunity to get hot.

The Rowdies of coach Stuart Cambell play three games in a row three times during the year, including the first three of the season against Orlando B, Toronto FC II and the Ottawa Fury.

Later in the season, the Rowdies have a three-game set against Charleston, Pittsburgh and Harrison City. The Rowdies close out their home schedule against Charlotte, Bethlehem and the New York Red Bulls II.

In all, the Rowdies will play 32 games, playing each team home and away for 28 of the games. The other four will be games against the Charleston Battery and Ottawa Fury FC, plus an extra visit to Orlando City B and a trip to Texas to play San Antonio FC.

All 16 home matches will start at 7:30. Season tickets can be purchased by calling (727)-222-2000. Single game tickets will go on sale later.

49ers pick former Tampa Bay star John Lynch as general manager

It’s been quite the year for former Tampa Bay Buc great John Lynch.

He entered the team’s Ring of Honor, his second such designation. (He had already joined the Broncos’ Ring of Honor). He is a finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Sunday, he was named as the new general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

Lynch, 45, agreed to go through the interview process only if it was kept private. Lynch, who last played in 2008, has never had any front office position in the NFL. He has, however, worked a broadcaster, meeting with coaches and executives around the league as part of his job.

As a player, Lynch made nine Pro Bowls for Tampa Bay and Denver. As a safety, much of his job was evaluating the play. Now, he’ll do the same thing for a living.

Former player Matt Millen tried to leave broadcasting to become a general manager with Detroit and failed miserably, including a 0-16 season.

Lynch never played for the 49ers, although he is a graduate of Stanford.

Uber ‘pirates up’ for Gasparilla with new rules for no-hassle, safe experience

On Saturday, thousands of pirates (and pirate wannabes) will descend on the shores of Tampa Bay for the annual Gasparilla spectacle.

And as Uber knows, as does anyone who has ever attended the city’s premiere pirate-themed event, neighborhood roads will be just short of impassable.

To help make traveling to and from the event as smooth as possible, Uber is setting some simple ground rules to take some hassle out of the ridesharing experience.

“Due to the extensive road closures and pedestrian traffic in Bayshore and downtown Tampa,” says the Uber blog, “there may be some cases where your driver cannot drop you off at your destination.”

Uber has set a “green zone” of the area most impacted by Gasparilla. Between noon and 9 p.m. Saturday, riders within that area will need to walk a few blocks away from the parade route to request a ride. While in the green zone, they will not be able to ask for a ride.

For Downtown Tampa, riders should walk east toward North Florida Avenue, before requesting a ride. Those going to Harbor Island need to walk east of Harbor Island Boulevard and south of Knights Run Avenue. Only then can they tap “Request.”

In the Hyde Park North neighborhood, head north toward the University of Tampa. After reaching Cleveland Avenue, users can then get an Uber driver. And for Hyde Park Center, head north of Swann Avenue and east of South Boulevard; from there, they can ask for a ride.

And, of course, those celebrating in true pirate fashion – from the middle of the high seas of Hillsborough Bay – must head back to land before requesting a ride. The Uber app will not connect with a driver until the phone’s GPS shows the user is back on land.

Uber suggests that if a Gasparilla crew is more than 4 pirates, the best way to go is to request an uberXL, which use vehicles that accommodate up to 6 people, thereby minimizing the number of rides requested. Also handy is Uber’s fare split tool, so multiple riders can share the cost.

In the confusion of a massive party, it’s possible there will be several Uber drivers in the area. The company reminds riders to make sure they’re getting in the right car by confirming the license plate and car model matches what appears on the Uber app.

With Uber, and a few simple ground rules, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy Gasparilla.

Another penalty in overtime dooms the Lightning in loss to Panthers

The hollow feeling was familiar. Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning had let an opportunity slip away.

Once again, the game went into overtime. Once again, Tyler Johnson – the hero of the upset of the Chicago Blackhawks – was called for a penalty. Once again, the opponent quickly scored to win a 2-1 game. It was, in other words, just like the team’s loss on Jan. 17 to Anaheim.

This time, the loss was to the Florida Panthers, who got a goal 1:49 into overtime from former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault for the win.

“Obviously, we’re extremely frustrated right now,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Let’s be honest, that was a long road trip. It was so long we sat through two presidents. But for us to point, we pointed in four of the six games, it’s just a little bit frustrating because you sit here and say, ‘It could have been an unreal trip, but it turns into a mediocre trip just because we got six points out of it.’

“Ultimately, we defended extremely well for most of the game. It’s tough when you’re only scoring one a game. Some of the Grade-A’s we have, we’re not finding a way to bury them. We’ve got to bear down and put these in the back of the net. When you get to overtime and take penalties, you’re pretty much almost giving the game away, and we’ve done that twice now and it’s hurt us.”

The Bolts gave up a shorthanded goal to Jussi Jokinen, another former member of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one on a power play goal, his 19th goal of the year, but the Lightning couldn’t score again.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.

“I haven’t been in this spot before,” Cooper said, “but, ultimately, I’m sure every team that hasn’t made the playoffs at the end of the year looks back and says, ‘We left points here, we left points here, we left points here.’ That’s ultimately how it adds up. Now in saying that, we’ve played fairly well here. We’ve just got to find a way to push ourselves over and get the two points that we feel a lot of these games we’ve deserved. But there’s no moral victories here. We ended up losing. We can’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say ‘good effort.’ We need to find a way to win games. But going into the break, pick up three out of four points and hopefully a little bit of momentum for Boston in a few days.”

The Lightning is now 2-17-5 this year when scoring two goals or fewer.

The Bolts have the weekend off for the all-star game (except for Victor Hedman and Kucherov, who are playing) before returning to play Tuesday night against Boston.

Earlier Thursday, the Lightning traded Nikita Nesterov to Montreal for defenseman Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round draft pick.

For Evan Longoria, losing teammates has to be getting old

If the trade of Logan Forsythe by the Tampa Bay Rays was tough for you to see, imagine it through the eyes of Evan Longoria.

He is  31, and his chances are fading away. His team keeps trading todays for tomorrows, and the payroll remains low, and the team’s place is in the cellar. And now, a trusted comrade is bound for Los Angeles, following the departure of so many others. David Price and Ben Zobrist and James Shields and Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton and the rest of them.

And so you have to wonder: Are the Rays running out of time? Is Longoria?

Perhaps that is why it didn’t sit well with Longo when the team turned loose of Forsythe to obtain the Dodgers’ Jose De Leon.

“I’m surprised and upset at losing a player, clubhouse presence and friend like Logan,” Longoria told the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s a rare player.”

For the Rays, it’s the only way to keep afloat. The farm system hasn’t done well, and there is no money for the top free agents. So the only way the Rays can survive is to trade veterans, and their high paychecks, for younger players.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always a good solution for the players, who watch teammates leave.

And Longo. The guy in the third row?

He knows just how you feel.

Lightning star Tyler Johnson scores back-to-back goals to lead win

One game after losing to one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat one of the best.

The Lightning, still struggling in its effort to make the playoffs, came from behind to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Tuesday night. Coming one game after losing to Arizona, it was a needed win.

“This is desperation mode for us,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “This was a winnable hockey game. A lot of good things came out of tonight.”

One of those good things was the play of Tyler Johnson, who gave the Bolts the lead when he scored two goals in 30 seconds in the third period. Brian Boyle, Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov all scored for the Bolts as well.

“Johnny (Johnson) been playing hard,” Cooper said. “We had a passion to go and win this game. It was led by Tyler Johnson. It was big.”

Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy won for the first time in seven games. He stopped 34 shots in an excellent outing.

“Vasy gave us a lot of life,” Cooper said.

The Bolts play at Florida on Thursday night to complete a six-game road trip. They are home next Tuesday night against Boston.

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