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Tampa Bay Lightning battered by Pittsburgh’s potent attack

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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.

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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