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Wildcard Battle Ends with Lightning Strike in Overtime

Photo: Alex Walworth, The Scrum Sports

Two nights ago, Coach Jon Cooper celebrated his 500th career win with the Tampa Bay Lightning in dramatic fashion. His team rallied from a 2-0 third period deficit to prevail 3-2 in overtime. But the NHL rarely affords teams on opportunity to savor their victories. And so, the Bolts get right back at it tonight in a battle for wildcard spots. The New Jersey Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning pretty much locked in their playoff spots fairly early last season. But everything is different this season as seven teams in the Eastern Conference currently find themselves with between 44-46 points. Entering this game, the Bolts did have the second wildcard spot, but the Devils were just a point behind them in four fewer games. Which team would take a positive step toward their wildcard future tonight?

A Luke-y First Period

New Jersey has not scored the opening goal too often this season. In their 38 games thus far, their opponents have scored first 27 times. But the Devils would strike the opening blow tonight. Dawson Mercer scored his 13th of the season on a shot from the corner at 7:42 that bounced off the back of Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.

But moments later, Luke took over the period. No, not the Luke fans might have been expecting. Not the Devils’ star defenseman Luke Hughes. Instead it was an unlikely Lightning Luke- Luke Glendening.

Right around seven and a half minutes in, Tuesday’s surprising overtime hero Nick Perbix took a shot from the blue line. Proving that good things happen when you go to the front of the net, the puck ricochets off Glendening’s stick and past Vitek Vanacek to tie the game at 1-1.

With 2:01 remaining in the first, the Devils would get the first power play of the game. Luke Hughes did contribute to the goal on this one, but not in the way he wanted to. An uncharacteristic giveaway in his own zone landed the puck right on the stick of Luke Glendening. Glendening slammed his second goal of the period past Vanacek to give the Bolts the lead.

The Lightning killed off the rest of the power play to end the period with a 2-1 lead.

Wildcard Battling Teams Exchange Goals in the Second

The Devils and Bolts are among the top power play teams in the league. New Jersey’s first power play of this game ended up with a short-handed goal. Early in the second period, the Lightning got their first opportunity with the man advantage. It did not look good for them as they struggled to make anything happen.

Moments later, they were going to get another opportunity. But, on the delayed call, the Bolts pulled Vasilevskiy for the extra attacker and Brayden Point notched his 20th of the season to give his team a two-goal lead at 3-1.

Once the Lightning took that lead, the Devils really started to fight back. After several high-pressure shifts, another shot bounced off Vasilevskiy’s back and into the net to bring New Jersey within a goal at 3-2 as the period wound down.

On to the Third

The Lightning took their slim lead into the third period. But the Devils are one of the top comeback teams in the league and they showed it tonight. Nick Perbix, who had been providing the Bolts with some much needed offense from the blue line recently, committed an unfortunate turnover that gave Nathan Bastian a breakaway. Bastian beat Vasilevskiy to tie this one at 3-3.

Moments later, the Devils appeared to take the lead as they pushed away at the puck and Vasilevskiy could not quite hold onto it. But the Lightning challenged the goal for an offside entry into the zone. Replays showed that the play was, indeed, offside and the goal came off the board to keep the game tied at 3-3.

Both teams had their chances for the remainder of the third period and both goaltenders stood tall in their respective nets. The horn went to end 60 minutes of regulation with the game knotted up at three.

Back to Overtime

For the second straight game, the Lightning headed to overtime. And for the second straight game, a Lightning defenseman would earn the Bolts the much-needed second point. Tonight, Nikita Kucherov set up Darren Raddysh for his third goal of the season. Lightning win it by a final score of 4-3!


3 Stars

1- Darren Raddysh- Game winning goal in OT

2- Luke Glendening- 2 goals

3- Nikita Kucherov- 2 assists for another multi-point game, including a great set up in OT

Up Next

Alex Killorn returns to Amalie Arena with his new team- the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7pm.


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