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Lightning beats Carolina, even though it really didn’t deserve it

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They didn’t deserve it. They didn’t work hard enough for it. They didn’t play well enough for it.

On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t giving it back.

The Lightning, which has pointed in nine out of 10 games, and won four out of five, somehow rallied in overtime to beat the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night. Hours after enduring the loss of another player — Valtteri Filppula — the Bolts played one of their most listless games of the season, but rallied to win 4-3.

Victor Hedman scored two goals, including the game-winner. Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists, as did Tyler Johnson.

Still, the game was a grind for the Bolts against Carolina, the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

“I don’t think we can sit here and be really proud of how we played,” said Johnson. “We got the win, so that’s good. But there is a lot of room for improvement there. Quite frankly, there are a lot of games we’ve lost that we should have won. I can’t sit here and say for sure that we should have gotten those two points. Lucky for us we were ready to take them.”

Hedman scored 46 seconds into overtime for the game-winner. The win moved the Bolts to within three points of the final wild-card spot.

“We like this group,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “People can talk about the whole buyer-seller thing. We didn’t do anything we thought was going to keep us from making the playoffs. We’re trying to make it. We feel we’ve got the group who can do that.”

While the Bolts traded away veteran leadership in Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle and Filppula, there are other leaders still here. Like Hedman.

“Everyone leads in their own certain way,” Cooper said. “Victor is a really, really good player in this league. An exceptional player. Kuch the other night. That’s the way it’s going to be for us. Someone different every night. The Triplets. We need some other guys to make us a well balanced.”

It would also help if the Bolts could start quicker and show a bit more interest early. Part of that, Cooper said, was because the Lightning shot 23 times and missed the net. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won his second straight start, stopping 28 of 31 shots.

The Bolts are in Pittsburgh Friday night and Buffalo Saturday night.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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