Yanni Gourde led the way with two goals, Nikita Kucherov scored his 40th of the season, and Alex Killorn added his 19th for a decent 4-2 victory over a depleted Canadiens lineup — staving off elimination for another night.
I wrote a pretty good recap of Bolts vs. Stars last Sunday. This is not that recap. I was way too stressed out about the game to do more than watch it from a fan’s perspective, so that’s the perspective you’re getting today. Thank God I’m a blogger!
I entered this game with dread in my heart. What would I write if the Bolts lost? It would be the saddest recap of the season, so of course I was all prepared. “I’ll just post the Invictus poem,” I thought. “As an elegy to a crazy-ass season.” So I did what every hockey blogger does when faced with a hard game — I reached for the Mocha Porter and a few lines of poetry.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
I’ll save the elegy.
This team, which is apparently best when they’re desperate and so far down to the wire that they’ve actually hopped over the wire and are clinging with their fingertips like Lara Croft, totally won. So instead of quoting sad, moving poetry, I’m QUOTING DISCO.
Well now, I get low and I get high,
And if I can't get either, I really try.
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes.
I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose.
You know it's all right. It's OK.
I'll live to see another day.
So about that hockey. It annoys me that for 40 or 50-ish games this season, we’ve seen dispirited crap, and are now once again watching avidly because the team finally has some life to it. The only problem is, unless a miracle occurs, it’s too late. Tampa has to win the last game of the season against Buffalo, and they need the Islanders and Leafs to lose as well. Are you watching those games tomorrow night? A Leafs victory tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins would make the last game of the Bolts’ season pointless.
#tblightning Stralman said waiting for tomorrow's Leafs +Isles games will be nerve-wrecking. "I don't think I'm going to watch."— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) April 8, 2017
Losing to Arizona and Colorado were our season lows; this adrenalized rush toward playoffs is our season high. Remember this game against the Avs back in October? They shut out the Bolts 4-0, AND Steven Stamkos was still in the lineup (Ben Bishop saved 12 of 16 shots). Or how about this game against the Coyotes on March 21, the other side of the season, when every game had become “must win”? Bolts lost that one 5-3. It was a season of too little, too late, and whenever Bolts depleted Syracuse for this desperate run for the playoffs, I felt like we were backing the wrong horse. (Luckily Syracuse has some points to spare.)
On the other hand, there are games like tonight where you can pause and enjoy the kind of talent that Tampa can bring to the game of hockey when they actually play.
It was beautiful to see Ondrej Palat assist Kucherov on his 40th goal of the season. The Palat - Brayden Point - Kucherov line has been fun to watch. Actual 21-year-old first-line center Point jumps right into the middle of every hard battle along the boards and reminds me of when Tyler Johnson used to do that too. For Kucherov’s 40th goal, Palat was along the boards near Andrei Vasilevskiy’s left, and spotted a streaking Kucherov. He made a perfect pass, Kucherov made a perfect shot, and suddenly Tampa was ahead by two.
Tampa didn’t play perfectly. The Habs, who were resting Shea Weber, Jordie Benn, and Alexei Emelin, decided to still put Carey Price in net so that the home crowd could have a superstar to cheer for. Price ended up saving 18 of 22 shots. Vasilevskiy worked much harder, saving 27 of 29 shots. Despite the difference in possession, Bolts were outgunned, but not outmanned — Tampa’s shots were the kind of dangerous quality that would cause even Price to sweat after a while.
Final numbers. MTL with more shots by plenty but TB did a good job of creating and capitalizing on dangerous opportunities. pic.twitter.com/RsMZxhaBCn— You can call me Alan (@loserpoints) April 8, 2017
Gourde’s two goals were of this dangerous, skilled variety. Whenever the season has been on the line, Gourde has been clutch -- especially in March, where he had several game-winning goals. Having him open scoring tonight made my heart ease (and let me set down the beer mug for a little while). There was such a long stretch where nobody scored at all (see these bleak team reports), that I’m sure seeing a player with fewer than 20 NHL games played knock back goals every game has been inspiring to everyone else.
I don’t know what else to say, except, come what may tomorrow, may we play some fun hockey on Sunday.