TAMPA — The Lightning as a franchise has never blown a 2-0 lead in a playoff series.
The Lightning, the NHL's top scoring team, scored five goals in each of the first two games against the New Jersey Devils.
At no time in Game 1 or Game 2 did it seem as if it would lose.
Now the series shifts north. Does the Lightning shift with it?
A lot good things happened Saturday afternoon. There were silver linings, there were dark clouds. In the end, the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy's 41 saves to not blow a 5-1 lead.
It's on to Monday night.
The Lightning's best player looked like its best player Saturday. Nikita Kucherov, who scored 100 points in the regular season, provided performance art, the kind this team will need sooner rather than later. Kucherov had a goal and two assists behind some moves out of highlight reels. He assisted on both of Alex Killorn's goals, sweet dishes, and slipped the puck past a Jersey defender at the blue line to set up a shot that produced a Jersey own goal. He built off the confidence from that empty-netter late in Game 1. It matters. Grade: A
No one knows what it is about Killorn and the playoffs, but the power forward powered home two power play goals to give him three in the series. Don't look now, but the line of Killorn, Yanni Gourde and Anthony Cirelli has been the best Lightning line so far. It might need a nickname. Grade: A
The playoffs have officially begun
It was a physical game. The hits just kept on coming. But both Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi left Saturday's game, which left their team short-handed and gassed during its attempted third-period meltdown. No word on their status, but can this help? And don't expect any news bulletins on their status. This is the NHL and these are the playoffs. It's a story as old as the ancient Greeks: Achilles, lower body injury. Grade: D
The Lightning outscored opponents 111-75 in the second period during the season, and Saturday was more of the same, as it put up four goals, two on the power play (2-for-3 on the day) in building a big lead. Grade: A
New Jersey was all over Tampa Bay down the stretch and outshot the Lightning 44-25. Not good. And don't forget an icing call and bad clear by Anton Stralman that led to the Devils' second goal. The Lightning were running around far too much, out of position, and had to hold on as fans sweated the final minutes. Vasilevskiy was pelted with 19 shots in the final period. Take that to Jersey and the Lightning will come back two games apiece. Grade: F
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] Follow @mjfennelly