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Tampa Bay clinches a playoff spot with a 7-4 win over Chicago

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There was some old-time hockey in the Windy City.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored early and often in their 7-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. With the win, the Lightning clinched a spot in the postseason. Now that that is out of the way, they can spend the next seven games trying to secure the top seed. On Tuesday, it was the Brayden Point line once again leading the offense as Point had a goal and two assists, Ondrej Palat had two helpers, and Alex Barre-Boulet had a goal for the second game in a row.

Alex Killorn had two goals while Blake Coleman, Erik Cernak, and Yanni Gourde also found the back of the net. Brandon Hagel, Vinnie Hinostrova, Dominik Kubalik, Duncan Keith, and Wyatt Kalynuk scored for Chicago. Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his league-leading 29th win with 36 saves on 40 shots. The Lightning killed off six of seven power plays.

The first period was nothing if not eventful. From the drop of the puck it seemed like the Lightning were going to run rampant on the ‘Hawks as they scored twice in under five minutes. However, their season-long perclivity for self-inflected damage haunted them over the final fifteen minutes. They did manage to outscore their problems while Andrei Vasilevskiy bailed them out (for the most part). It’s a pattern that works against struggling teams like Chicago, but won’t play well in the postseason.

Some goals come from expected sources. Others come from Erik Cernak outracing his opponent and burying a shot.

Erik Cernak (Unassisted)

That’s just a great rush by Cernak, who once again proves that he can skate better than some folks give him credit for.

The second goal was a bit more traditional for the Lightning as Mikhail Sergachev spied Yanni Gourde open down low and bounced the puck off of his stick. Nice pass and Gourde was in position with his stick on the ice. At this point the game was playing out as one would expect between a team looking to clinch a playoff spot and another that was running on fumes.

Yanni Gourde (Mikhail Sergachev, Blake Coleman)

Some of that momentum went by the wayside courtesy of Cal Foote. The rookie was back in the line-up due to David Savard’s lower-body injury. The rust of not playing in sixteen days was apparent as Foote was sent to the box twice in a span of two-and-a-half minutes. Which is kind of impressive since he was in the penalty box for the first two of those minutes.

While Chicago didn’t score on either power play, they did tilt the ice a little during what was basically a four-minute skater advantage. Vasilevskiy was solid in net, as he made several nice saves including a snazzy glove save on Patrick Kane.

The ‘Hawks did finally get on the board at even-strength (even though Tampa viewers didn’t see it due to Bally Sports Sun being in commercial for some reason). It was a goal that probably couldn’t be repeated in 100 tries.

Ryan McDonagh lost track of the puck behind the net and Brandon Hagel’s attempted pass out front hit Blake Coleman’s stick and then Barclay Goodrow’s skate before it shuddered past Vasilevskiy.

Brandon Hagel (Kirby Dach)

Chicago went back on the power play after Luke Schenn was whistled for interference as he unloaded on Dominik Kubalik.

That’s not a great hit.

The Lightning did kill off the penalty and it looked like they were taking control of the game again when the top line struck again. Ondrej Palat fought for a puck in front of Kevin Lankinen, which drew the attention of two ‘Hawks. He managed a weak shot on net but it’s enough to free up the puck and Alex Barre-Boulet cleaned up the mess.

Alex Barre-Boulet (Ondrej Palat, Braden Point)

Luke Schenn has to answer for his late hit on Kubalik because (insert “code”, “unwritten rules”, or “on-ice justice”). The big defenseman knew it was time to dance and shucked off his gloves as the puck was dropped. Unfortunately, the refs decided it was a false start so Schenn had to pick his gloves back up and line up again. On the second drop of the puck Schenn squared up with Nikita Zadarov and the two tugged at each other’s sweaters and threw a couple of punches that were mostly harmless before Zadorov tackled him to the ground.

The period should have been smooth from there on in, but Chicago caught a break when a nice poke check by Victor Hedman led to the puck settling on Wyatt Kalynuk’s stick. The young player zoomed into the zone and whistled a shot that might have gone wide if Vasilevskiy hadn’t chicken-winged it into his own net. Not great.

Wyatt Kalynuk (unassisted)

Some nice saves by Vasilevskiy at the end of the period kept it 3-2 in favor of the Lightning, but it wasn’t the opening twenty minutes they were hoping for.

Lankinen’s night was done after allowing 3 goals on 11 shots in 20 minutes as Malcolm Subban started the second period in net for Chicago. A banged-up Chicago roster took another hit as Cernak threw his hip into Adam Boqvist. Unfortunately, Boqvist’s arm was pinned by his side and took the brunt of the hit. He skated off the ice immediately and went to the dressing room.

The top line cashed in once again six-and-a-half minutes into the second period. After creating some chaos in front of the net, Subban overcommitted to his left a little too much on a loose puck which allowed Brayden Point to slide around behind the net and tuck it inside the post before Subban could kick over. Quick hands are a nice asset for a forward.

Brayden Point (Ondrej Palat)

Following a power play that generated a lot of chances but no goals, the Lightning buoyed their lead to three as Tyler Johnson won a battle to a puck and dropped a pass to Blake Coleman who buried it. Johnson was on the line due to the recent skater advantage, but he’s played his best hockey centering Coleman and Goodrow this season. Just something to think about as the playoffs draw near.

Blake Coleman (Tyler Johnson, Barclay Goodrow)

Following the goal, it felt like the game might be slipping away from Chicago and that, with a couple of hits thrown already some shenanigans might develop. Almost on cue, Cernak and Connor Murphy renewed some of their animosity from earlier this season (you may remember this hit). Murphy picked up an instigator and misconduct which led to another Lightning power play and a Lightning goal.

Alex Killorn tipped home a shot/pass from Sergachev to make it 6-2 with a lot of hockey left to play.

Alex Killorn (Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point) Power Play

I’m not going to lie, but I tuned out the next few minutes. Pretty sure there was a penalty kill for the Lightning, and Subban made a juggling save at one point, but it wasn’t until the ‘Hawks scored at the end of the period that I focused on the game again. That’s the way it goes in a blowout game. Certain stretches just aren’t that interesting.

Duncan Keith (Patrick Kane, Vinny Hinostroza)

The third period happened. There was a breakaway for Chicago. The Lightning had a power play. You know, hockey things. Barre-Boulet had a few solid chances including a howitzer of a slapshot that he unleashed. Things became interesting again after Mathieu Joseph whacked Alex DeBrincat in the face with his stick which led to a double-minor for the Lightning forward.

After the Lightning killed off the first part of the penalty, Sergachev pitchforked a puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty that led to 90 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play for Chicago. After a couple of nice saves by Vasilevskiy, Chicago cashed in with Kubalik rocketing a one-timer past the goaltender.

Dominick Kubalik (Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat) Power Play

With five minute to go, this game was a lot closer than it needed to be. The Lightning woke up a little after the goal and a nice hard attack on the net by Palat led to a penalty to Chicago with 3:19 to go in the game.

After a ho-hum power play in which the Lightning were more interested in bleeding the clock, the ‘Hawks had a great chance from Hinestrova. Vasilevskiy made one of his better saves of the night and that led to Alex Killorn scoring into an empty net to seal the game. Seven goals scored represented a season-high for the Bolts as they clinched a spot in the playoff for the fourth season in a row.

Alex Killorn (Erik Cernak) Empty Net

No videos for empty net goals.