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Magic Number Down to 2 with Bolts Win

Photo: Joe Tomasone, The Scrum Sports

It was not an easy road trip for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They led it off with embarrassing losses in Montreal and Ottawa. With upcoming games against the top two teams in the league, the situation was starting to look grim. But the Bolts shaped up! Although they lost to the Bruins, it definitely was a much improved effort. The game could have gone either way. The Lightning followed that up with an impressive shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes to bring their magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to just 4 points. Tonight, they return home looking for a win to bring their magic number down to 2. Standing in their way- the Washington Capitals. The Caps currently cling to the faintest of hopes for a playoff spot of their own. To get there, they a lot of wins and a lot of luck over the next 7 games. So which team will emerge with the highly coveted 2 points tonight?

Questionable Call

The Bolts looked like a team on a mission from the opening puck drop tonight. They dominated the shot clock early on. At the 5 and a half minute mark, we got a questionable penalty call. Brandon Hagel was pushed into Washington goaltender Darcy Kuemper and Kuemper held him down. Somehow, Hagel ended up in the box for 2 minutes for goaltender interference. But no harm, no foul. Before the Amalie faithful could even take a breath from their initial booing of the referee’s call, the Caps were called for holding and we went to 4 on 4 for 1:45.

Power Play Clicks

Just over eight and a half minutes in, Anthony Mantha went to the box for tripping Alex Killorn. Killorn was quick to make him pay as he tipped Mikhail Sergachev’s point shot past Kuemper to give the Bolts a 1-0 lead.

Late Period Fireworks

As the final minute of the first period ticked away, we saw chances at both ends. Andrei Vasilevskiy made a couple of big saves for the Lightning, and Darcy Kuemper stood strong for the Capitals. Almost until the horn sounded. But the captain, Steven Stamkos, drilled his 32nd goal of the season past him with the clock showing just 2.8 seconds remaining in the period.

Caps Fight Back

The Capitals definitely got better as the game and both teams had their chances in the second period. Shots were close, favoring the Capitals 10-9. But only Craig Smith managed to find the back of the net for his 7th of the season, closing the gap to 2-1.

Pat Maroon Steals the Third

The Lightning began the third period holding tight to a one-goal lead. They needed some insurance. And they got it from a rather unlikely candidate. At the 4:30 mark, Pat Maroon tipped home a rebound from Anthony Cirelli to restore the two-goal lead.

And then, with just about three and half minutes remaining, the two teamed up and did it again! Maroon, who’d had just 3 goals the entire season, had two in the third period tonight!

Unfortunately, he missed his chance at the hat trick. At 17:27, the Bolts were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice and Maroon served the penalty. The Capitals pulled Kuemper for an additional extra skater. If only Maroon had been on the ice, perhaps he could have equalled his season total in that one period. And every hat at Amalie would undoubtedly have come flying onto the ice. But instead, he watched from the penalty box as Erik Cernak fired the puck into the empty net to seal the victory at 5-1.

Magic Number Shrinking

With 2 points tonight, the Lightning’s magic number is down to just 2. One more win this season (in the 6 remaining games) will clinch a playoff berth. Or, one loss by Florida and one by Buffalo could also seal the deal.

3 Stars

1- Pat Maroon- 2 goals in the third period to solidify the victory

2- Steven Stamkos- 1 goal, 1 assist

3- Andrei Vasilevskiy- stopped 30 of 31 shots

Up Next

The Bolts face off against the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena at 7pm on Saturday, April 1st. A win brings the magic number to 0 and clinches a playoff berth. And that’s no April Fools joke!




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