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Senators Win in Shootout as Bolts Focus on Playing the Right Way

Photo: Alex Walworth, The Scrum Sports

Around the National Hockey League, there are several playoff races still going on. Some teams are battling it out for a wildcard spot; others are jockeying for a higher seed. But the Tampa Bay Lightning pretty much have their position locked in. With their win on Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Bolts clinched at least the top wildcard position. They still have an outside chance at third place in the division, but it is quite unlikely. And so, the Lightning are settling into their position. As a result, they do not need the points. To a man, they all articulated what was important for tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators (and the remainder of the regular season)… play the right way. Getting Nikita Kucherov a few more points wouldn’t hurt, either!

A few lineup notes for the Bolts tonight. Andrei Vasilevskiy gets a rest and with Jonas Johansson still nursing an injury, Matt Tomkins will get the start in net. It’s his first regular season start at Amalie Arena. Top liner Anthony Duclair is a scratch for this game as he is sick. Filling in will be Conor Sheary. It’s been a tough season for Sheary. He never seemed to find the success everyone had hoped for and has been a healthy scratch for seven of the team’s last nine games. Would joining the top line with the likes of Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point provide the spark to get Sheary going?

Kucherov Continues to Play the Right Way

The Bolts had some jump to their game to open the first. But it would be the Senators who opened the scoring as Brady Tkachuk beat Tomkins at the 8:45 mark.

But exactly one minute later, the Lightning struck back. The new line did, indeed, seem to spark Conor Sheary. Then again, who wouldn’t benefit from being on a line where Nikita Kucherov and his ability to put a spin-o-rama pass right onto a teammate’s tape? It was a thing of beauty as Kucherov notched assist number 97 on the season when Sheary drilled that pass over Anton Forsberg. Tie game.

Moments later, that line would spark more magic. This time, Sheary fed the puck to Kucherov and Kucherov found Point. Point dazzled the home crowd with goal number 45 on the season. Assist number 98 for number 86.

The Bolts took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room after one.

Penalty Plagued Periods

The first period had no penalties. The second period made up for that. Just over 5 minutes in, Jacob Bernard-Docker took a penalty for interfering with Brandon Hagel. And one minute into that penalty, Thomas Chabot was assessed two minutes for a high stick on Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning had a five on three for just over a minute. They had some good looks but could not put the puck in the net and in fact, gave up a few shorthanded opportunities to Ottawa.

As the period wound down, it was time for the Lightning to start piling on the penalties. Matt Dumba took a penalty for interference at 17:05 and just as that penalty was coming to an end, another call! Nick Paul to the box for tripping at 19:03. The Senator power plays looked dangerous, but the horn went to end the period with the Bolts clinging to a 2-1 lead. Also as the horn went, a rash of penalties got called. Tampa Bay took the extra two minutes and an additional ten-minute misconduct to Victor Hedman. The Bolts would start the third down by two men and with their top defenseman out for a full ten minutes.

Killing Penalties the Right Way

The Lightning began the third period with a big penalty kill. They successfully killed off the five on three. But seconds later, Drake Batherson scored to tie the game at two.

Each team got one more power play in that third period, but neither team found the back of the net.

To overtime we would go. Five minutes of overtime could not decide anything, so the teams headed to a shootout. Both teams came in with records of 3-0 in shootouts this season. Brady Tkachuk was the only one to score in this one, giving his team a 3-2 victory.

And so the Lightning move up to 96 points and Kucherov to 141 points (98 assists). For the most part, they did play the right way. The power play was a bit disappointing and the boys took too many penalties. They know what they need to clean up as the playoffs approach.

Three Stars

1- Anton Forsberg- stopped 24 of 26 shots

2- Matt Tomkins- 25 of 27 shots

3- Conor Sheary- one goal, one assist, stepped up nicely in relief of a sick Duclair

Up Next

The Bolts will head to Washington for their final road game of the season. Note the 5:30pm scheduled start time.

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