Five reasons not to write off the Lightning

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Chisel the epitaph of the Tampa Bay Lightning at your peril.

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Their long faces after Game 3 blew up on them aren’t likely to carry into Monday, another Amalie Arena home game by the way. They’re trailing Toronto 2- in the series, not exactly an untenable position for a team with three straight Stanley Cup final appearances.

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In the Steven Stamkos-Victor Hedman era, the Bolts have been behind 2-1 in a best-of-seven series eight times and recovered to win four, including last year against the Leafs.

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Five reasons not to cancel Game 6 travel reservations back to the Gulf:

Playoff-savvy Bolts have been here before

Hedman thinks that playoff legacy, part of 13 series Tampa has come through the past four years, will be a playoff pay-off.

“There are guys in that room who’ve been there a very long time and guys who’ve never been in this situation before.” he said in a Zoom call Sunday as the Bolts rested.

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“We had a really good chat after the game. They’re all on board, hopefully they feel that we (veterans) are calm and they can fall in line when it comes to that.”

Rookie defencemen Darren Raddysh and Nick Perbix haven’t been overwhelmed in the series.

“It doesn’t look like this is their first rodeo in the NHL,” Hedman said approvingly of the two home-grown blueliners. “They’ve fit right in. Big goal by Raddy (the go-ahead strike in Game 3) and Perby doesn’t seem to be bothered by being on the biggest stage in hockey.”

Coach Jon Cooper has worked a few new players in since the 2020 Cup, part of a winning culture much deeper than the Leafs.

“Including myself, we’ve all been through this and more,” Cooper said. “Raddysh has been in the organization, (Michael) Eyssimont, (Tanner) Jeannot are new, but the other guys know how we roll and they follow our leaders.

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“All these guys play for each other and that’s a big thing of what we do. You don’t have that, you probably won’t be here very long.”

Brayden Point is still a go

While Cooper expressed concern Point’s rib or upper body injury from Saturday’s collision might yet sideline him Monday, the speedy sniper did come back from the controversial play with Leaf Morgan Rielly.

“It looked awful,” Cooper said. “Regardless if it’s Brayden, that’s a tough visual. Morgan, I know personally, he’s not a dirty player, (but) was the incident reckless? For sure.

“Point (gets examined by medics), but because he is such a tough kid when you see that, you’re thinking the worst. So many precautions went on, so the fact he came back was amazing. He went through so many different tests, he was struggling, no doubt.

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“I don’t know how he’s going to feel (Monday) but it looked like he was in a car accident the way he went into that wall.

A really scary situation and hopefully he’s okay to play tomorrow.”

Cooper has not lost his gift of glib

Presented with Sheldon Keefe’s rant about how the Lightning “manipulated” the referees into taking out key Leafs Auston Matthews and Ryan O’Reilly in the scrum after Rielly’s hit, Cooper went into lawyer mode, his first career choice.

“Manipulated?,” a bemused Cooper said. “I’m not sure what that means.

“When that hit happened, everybody watching at home and in the building, including us, thought we were going on the power play (for two and maybe five minutes).

“Our two best power play guys (Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos) I don’t think would ever take themselves off a power play unless they thought something unjust happened. Matthews doesn’t kill penalties (so) that actually worked against us. We ended up being short-handed.”

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Hedman is healthy again

Whatever ailment kept ‘The Viking’ out of Game 2 and much of the opener, didn’t look like it hampered him Saturday. He played 32:35, second only in the game to teammate Mikhail Sergachev’s 37:27.

“It’s the worse feeling not being out there,” Hedman said. “This is the time of year you want to be in these kinds of games. I felt pretty good (but) I expect more out of myself. “We have the depth, but at the same time, it’s nerve-wracking not being able to contribute.”

Defenceman Erik Cernak, out since Michael Bunting’s head shot in Game 1, will miss Monday, though the two-day break in the series that follows might help a few bruised players on both sides.

Vasilevskiy still has a hundred more playoff starts than Samsonov

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Though it’s the second straight series the Leafs have rattled him, the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner has much more to contribute.

“He’s the man,” Cooper said. “That kid, we’re nowhere without him, he’s the best in the world.

“The one thing about him, he gets stronger as the series goes on and I see that in him. It’s nice to have him back there.”


Hockey Night In Canada listed the Matthews-Stamkos fight as the first time two 60-goal scorers had fought in league history … Keefe now has 10 playoff game wins, two more than predecessor Mike Babcock, though neither won a Toronto series yet … Cooper continues to marvel at Jeannot making it back from a gruesome-looking leg injury in the waning days of the regular schedule. “I’m shocked, everyone thought it was season ending. He’s fought his way back. But when you’re off and not allowed to skate, the hard part is to keep yourself sharp. From a compete standpoint and physicality, he’s been outstanding, he’s just slowly waiting to get his hands back (missing a couple of Game 3 chances.”


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