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A Wild Victory for the Bolts as Fan Favorites Return

Photo: Alex Walworth, The Scrum Sports

Our beloved boys in blue returned to the ice tonight following a five-night hiatus. When last we saw our Bolts, they were defeating the Anaheim Ducks handily. In that game, Amalie fans celebrated the return one of the big fan favorites over the years, Alex Killorn. And tonight was another “welcome home” for a fan favorite as Pat Maroon (aka “The Big Rig”) made his first visit to Tampa wearing Minnesota Wild colors. Would rust be a factor for the Lightning tonight after their extended pause? Would the excitement of Maroon’s return help spur our boys to victory?  The crowd at Amalie certainly had reasons to be excited for this one!

The Lightning and the Wild faced off against one just two weeks ago when the Bolts did something they hadn’t done in almost thirteen years. They won in Minnesota! Tonight, the Wild were looking for revenge.

Rust Factor?

The Bolts looked fired up to start this one. Nikita Kucherov even got a mini breakaway. But he couldn’t quite get off the shot he wanted. And then the defense started to sputter. Minnesota was controlling play in the offensive zone for quite a while and it was almost expected when a shot from Joel Eriksson Ek beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for the first goal of the night.

But less than a minute later, the Lightning stormed right back with yet another goal from a defenseman. These have become a habit as of late! This time, it was Victor Hedman as he rifled in his eighth of the season.

The teams exchanged chances for the remainder of the period. Again, Minnesota controlled play in the offensive zone for extended stretches with the Bolts unable to clear the puck. As the period wound down, the Lightning got a power play. The Wild ended up with the best scoring chance on that one, as Victor Hedman lost the puck to Connor Dewar who went in on a breakaway. Vasilevskiy made the save the keep the score knotted at 1-1 as the first frame ended.

A Quick Start to the Second

The Bolts started out the second period with 16 seconds remaining on their power play from period one. And they made the most of those 16 seconds! Anthony Cirelli ripped home his ninth of the season at the 16 second mark just as Patrick Maroon was preparing to step back on the ice from the Wild penalty box.

You Never Forget Your First

The Lightning continued to press and were rewarded for their efforts just under three minutes later in a special moment. Defenseman Nick Perbix fed the puck to Conor Sheary who found recently called up Waltteri Merela open in front of the net. Merela drilled the puck past netminder Filip Gustavsson for the first goal of his NHL career to put his team up 3-1.

Right around the halfway point of the period, the Lightning defense collapsed a bit in their own zone. They left Marco Rossi with pretty much a wide open net and he made no mistake finding the back of the net for his 13th of the season.

But once again, the Lightning would strike back quickly. Not even two minutes later, Nikita Kucherov carried the puck around behind the net and found his linemate Brayden Point open in front. Point took a shot and then got a second chance when his rebound came right back to him. Second time was the charm as number 21 tallied goal number 21 on the season to restore the two-goal lead and make it 4-2.

With time ticking down in the middle frame, the Wild got one back. Jacob Middleton beat Vasilevskiy for his sixth of the season to make it 4-3 with just 15 seconds remaining in the period.

Another Quick Strike

Goals scored against a team in the final minute of a period can be very deflating. The Lightning headed into the third ahead by the slimmest of margins with the Wild now likely carrying the momentum. Fortunately for the Bolts, they would be starting the period on a power play.

The Bolts had scored on a beginning of the period power play in the second period. Would Lightning strike twice in this game? We had to wait just 1:09 to find out as the captain hammered his 19th of the season past Gustavsson to once again restore a two-goal lead. Nikita Kucherov assisted on the goal to mark the 500th assist of his career. He also became the first player in the league this season to hit the 75-point mark.

Moments later, the Wild got a power play of their own. They looked dangerous but the Lightning managed to hold them off the scoreboard.

Shortly after that, it was the Lightning’s turn on the power play again. This time, Mikey Eyssimont got some time with the man advantage and made the most of his opportunity batting in a puck that had bounced up in the air for his seventh of his season and a 6-3 Lightning lead.

The Bolts put one final nail into the Wild’s coffin for tonight with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. Anthony Cirelli notched his second of the game and tenth of the season to put the Lightning up 7-3. And that would be all she wrote for tonight (a fitting score as Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield watched from the stands).

The Lightning take all eight possible points on this homestand and are showing real signs of coming together as a team to start the second half of the season. Let’s home this is just the beginning!

3 Stars

1- Victor Hedman- 1 goal, 3 assists- 4 points

2- Nikita Kucherov- 3 assists and reached a milestone of 500 for his career

3- Waltteri Merela- first career goal

Up Next

The Bolts hit the road for a game in Buffalo Saturday afternoon. Note the 12:30 start time.



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