It would be easy to write off the Tampa Bay Lightning after their Game Four loss in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche. After all, they’re down 3-1 in the series and have to beat the Avalanche three times in a row with two of those games happening in Colorado. For the most part the Avs have looked like the faster, more dangerous team.
The Lightning are without their best center, Brayden Point. Injuries are starting to pile up as Erik Cernak left Game Four after blocking a shot. Nikita Kucherov left Game Three early. Nick Paul is skating on one leg. Ryan McDonagh may be playing with a hand injury suffered against the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Avs seem to be getting healthier - Nazem Kadri returned for Game Four in time to score the overtime winner.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was his usual game-stealing self, but it didn’t matter. The power play can’t score and the penalty kill can’t stop the Avalanche. So, yeah, things are looking pretty bad, but....
We’ve tried to count this team out before. Several times during the regular season it looked like they were done, but they would whip off a winning streak. Remember the end of the season scuffle that included a loss to Detroit and it looked like they might drop into the final wild card spot? Then they beat Toronto 8-1, Nashville 6-2, and the Panthers 8-4 and looked like the Lightning we remembered.
In Round One they were down 3-2 to the Leafs and it seemed that Toronto would finally shake off their first round woes. The Lightning won the next two. Just last round it seemed the Rangers had their number after winning the first two games. Then they rolled off four straight.
Just when this team is counted out, they find a way to win. Can they do it one more time (well, three more times technically)? Why not? Yes, they’re down 3-1 in the series, but two of those losses came in overtime. Heck, last night they were a Nikita Kucherov shot off the post and a Brandon Hagel shot off the mask from winning the game. Despite Darcy Kuemper’s Patrick Roy impersonation in Game Four, the Lightning have the better goaltender. If you needed to win three in a row against a potent offense, isn’t Vasilevskiy the guy you want in net?
So let’s not stop believing in the three-peat just yet. Win Game Five and it’s back to Tampa. Win in Tampa and it’s on to Game Seven where anything can happen. This team has experience. They have talent. They know how hard it is to win that fourth game because they’ve done it twice in a row. Until the final handshake line, they are the defending champs. They’ve earned our support until the very end.
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning lose Game Four [Raw Charge]
The had the lead twice, but Colorado fought back. Nazem Kadri finished off the narrative by scoring the winner in overtime.
Erik Cernak missed portions of the game after blocking a shot early. He only played 7:37 after taking this shot off the leg.
Lightning special team woes continue [Tampa Bay Times]
Another power play goal conceded and another night without a power play goal. Getting that fixed in Game Five would help out... a lot.
Cooper not happy after the overtime goal [Sportsnet]
It seems Hockey Twitter is only happy if there is something to be mad about. For the next 36 hours they can argue about what does or doesn’t constitute too many men on the ice. If the Lightning had won, they could have been mad about when the refs should blow the whistle after the goaltender loses their helmet.
Florida Panthers hire Paul Maurice as head coach [Florida Hockey Now]
Getting swept by the defending champs is apparently more important than putting together a record-breaking regular season. Oh, and while it might have been a sweep for the Lightning, all four of the games were pretty competitive heading into the third period.