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Wild delay Lightning’s ability to clinch playoff spot

Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographer

Heading into tonight’s game the Tampa Bay Lightning had a chance to clinch the first berth in the NHL Playoffs. Having won 12 out of 13 the Lightning are on a tear that they hope to continue for a few more months. 

TAMPA BAY – If the Tampa Bay Lightning want to clinch, it won’t be as easy as just winning tonight against the Minnesota Wild. They will need a tiny bit of help from the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks.

So it is NOT impossible to clinch that first playoff berth, but it could be Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings when it actually happens.

Leading the franchise

With his power play assist against the Winnipeg Jets, defenseman Victor Hedman passed Bolts alum Dan Boyle for most power play points. Boyle had 126 points in 394 games, while Hedman now has 127 in 685 games played. In third place is Pavel Kubina with 103 in 662 games. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos enters tonight’s game needing one goal to pass Vincent Lecavalier for the all time goal scorers record in franchise history. In third is Martin St Louis with 365, compared to Lecavalier 383 and Stamkos 382. Nikita Kucherov is also seeking to surpass Lecavalier for the single season record for points. Currently heading into the game Lecavalier has the record with 108, Kucherov is currently tied with him with 15 games remaining.

Wild strike first

Through one period both teams were buzzing up and down the ice, each getting their chance. Andrei Vasilevskiy and Devin Dubnyk both flashed the leather for their teams early on. Just past the midway point of the opening period, Stamkos would burst into the Wild’s zone off a Hedman pass. As he tried to move past a few Minnesota players he lost the puck. The Wild capitalized as Jason Zucker entered the zone and dished off a pass before cutting to the slot. As he cut into the front of the net Ryan Donato would fire a puck towards Vasilevskiy, that ultimately went off Zucker’s stick and deflected past the Lightning goalie for a 1-0 Wild lead. Through the final half of the period the Lightning were unable to get a tally on the board.

Goose egg in the second

For the best team in the NHL and a team clinging on for their playoff lives, this game was a lot closer than it could have been. One could say the inability for the Lightning to truly get a foothold in the offensive zone is one reason they trailed 1-0 as the second period came to an end, another could say it was the play of Dubnyk. Through two periods, Minnesota stifled the Lightning at every turn. When the Lightning tried to make adjustments, it seemed like the Wild had all the answers through 40 minutes.

Zucker bunts home #2

Just a hair over the six minute mark of the third, Minnesota was once again taking it to the Lightning in front of Vasilevskiy. While the Lightning continued to pour it on the Wild, it just wasn’t the Bolts night. With the Lightning goalie pulled for the extra man, Zucker finished off the hat trick on an empty net goal for a 3-0 lead. Kucherov and Stamkos will have to wait a couple more nights to try and pass Lecavalier’s records.

Up Next

The Detroit Red Wings head to Amalie Arena on Saturday to face the Lightning, who will once again attempt to clinch the first playoff spot.

Three Stars

3rd Star – Ryan Donato: Two assists on the night on both of Minnesota’s goals

2nd Star – Jason Zucker: Three goals tonight to lead the Wild to a win

1st Star – Devin Dubnyk: Shut down the Lightning who had scored 14 goals in the last three games.

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