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Despite loss to Predators, Lightning play extremely well as playoffs loom

Wayne Masut | Staff Photographer

With the playoffs looming, the Tampa Bay Lightning welcomed in the Nashville Predators. Tampa Bay looks to make it 2-0 on the season against Nashville tonight. Their only regular season game this season ended in a 4-3 overtime victory for the Lightning on January 23rd. In that game Yanni Gourde scored the winner less than two minutes into OT.

For the fifth consecutive game the Tampa Bay Lightning allowed the other team to open the scoring. Early in the season the Lightning had little trouble in the scoring department. Tonight, the Nashville Predators scored first. On Friday night against the New York Rangers the Bolts allowed the Rangers to open the scoring, but then the Lightning went on a 5-goal run to take a commanding lead.

Cooper now has a franchise record of his own

With the Lightning beating the New York Rangers Friday night, Jon Cooper took over the lead for most wins by a head coach for the Lightning. The previous record holder John Tortorella had 239 career wins. Those 239 wins came in 535 games behind the Bolts bench. Cooper needed only 422 games to do it. Cooper could over take Tortorella in playoffs wins this season as well. Tortorella has 24 wins in 45 games for the Lightning, while Cooper has 14 wins in 26 career playoff games.

Opening period effort, but not the score goes to the Lightning

While they finished the period down 1-0 to the Predators, the Lightning controlled a lot of the play in the first period. At the 7:50 mark of the first period Ryan Johansen would skate into the slot and wrist a shot past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Both teams have played more than once this season, but only one game during the regular season in Nashville Jan 23rd. In that game Louis Domingue faced 33 shots, stopping all but three. Tonight’s starter for the Predators Juuse Saros was also the starter in Jan for that game. He faced 31 shots that night stopping all but four, including the game winner by Gourde in overtime.

It’s all about the forecheck

While the Bolts controlled the play in the first period, Nashville took control early in the second and it paid off. Just 2:46 into the second the Predators would swarm in front of the goal crease and a puck would bounce off a Lightning defender. Filip Forsberg would eventually be credited with the goal that gave Nashville a 2-0 lead. Nine minutes later the Lightning would get on the board do to a great forecheck by Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat. With the Bolts being down 2-0 Palat would notch the Bolts first goal of the game. Since returning from an injury that sidelined him since January 20th, Palat has two goals and one assist.

The Captain leaves the game

Steven Stamkos has been dealing with a “lower body” injury for a couple weeks now. It doesn’t seem to be anything serious, but after getting tangled up with a Predators player in front of Vasilevskiy in the 1st period he left the game. Watching the bench throughout the 1st and 2nd periods he hadn’t returned to the bench, and then it was announced he would not return to the game.


Predators seal it in the third

The Lightning played well all night long despite the score telling a different story. The third period though Nashville just got the better looks on Vasilevskiy. Forsburg and Craig Smith would each tally a score to extend the Predators lead. While you don’t normally smile following a loss, the Lightning did a lot well in this game. Saros was on his game tonight and the Bolts just couldn’t squeak more than one past him.

Three Stars of the Game

3rd Star – Ondrej Palat: If I could I’d give this to everyone on his line as they were the Lightning’s best line of the night.

2nd Star – Filip Forsberg: Notches two goals on the night including the game winner.

1st Star – Juuse Saros: Stopped all but one shot on net to get his 10th win of the season.

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