Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning falls to Pens in Game 7 of East final (w/ video)

PITTSBURGH — One by one, starting with captain Steven Stamkos, Lightning players slowly and somberly skated over to embrace goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the only reason Thursday's riveting Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final was even close.

It began to sink in: Their special season was over.

"It's a terrible feeling, horrible," center Brian Boyle said. "Just in disbelief that (today) it's the offseason."

But as the Lightning watched the Penguins celebrate their 2-1 victory, the Consol Energy Center crowd roaring, the stinging loss provided a stark realization for the Lightning that the right team from the East will play for the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay got outshot 39-17 (64-42 in attempts) in Game 7 and was dominated in possession.

"They deserved to advance," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "They played better hockey this whole series."

Said Stamkos: "They had an extra gear (Thursday)."

The Lightning, trying to become the first team since the 2008-09 Penguins and Red Wings to reach back-to-back Stanley Cup finals, thought it was destined to do it, having already overcome so much. It advanced two playoff rounds without Stamkos and Stralman, who returned in Game 2 of the East final from a broken left leg. It played most of this round without Vezina Trophy finalist goalie Ben Bishop, who was carried off a stretcher in Game 1. Not even Stamkos' surprising and dramatic return Thursday after missing two months because of a blood clot was enough.

The Lightning, which held a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series, let a chance at the Cup get away.

"It's always tough going out like this," Stralman said. "You go into every year thinking, 'This is it. This time we're going to go all the way.' We just couldn't pull through."

Tampa Bay heads into an uncertain offseason, starting with Stamkos, due to be an unrestricted free agent July 1. He said he wasn't thinking about his future after the game, but his teammates were.

"You hope you can stick together, but you just never know," Boyle said.

The good news for the Lightning is wing Jonathan Drouin, whose trade request, holdout and return became one of the sport's top stories, said he expects to be back next season. Drouin's monster postseason included his team's only goal Thursday.

"It just stinks to lose," Drouin said.

Vasilevskiy was spectacular again, making 37 saves for his fifth 30-plus-save performance in six starts this series. He'd want to have back Bryan Rust's winning goal midway through the second. He failed to cover the puck after it caromed off the boards. Rust put in the rebound.

"Let's be honest," coach Jon Cooper said, "I don't think we're where we are in this series without (Vasilevskiy)."

Said Stralman: "He was our best player."

Stamkos nearly had a storybook return, just missing on a chance to tie the score at 2 late in the second, his slap shot from the right circle trickling through goalie Matt Murray and just wide.

"I thought I beat him," Stamkos said.

Stamkos said he was extremely proud of his team, believing it had to learn from this and "come back stronger."

"We thought we were destined for some pretty special things," Boyle said. "We accomplished a fair amount but not the ultimate goal."

Penguins 0 2 0 2
Lightning 0 1 0 1
Penguins 0 2 0 2
Lightning 0 1 0 1

 

FirstNone. PenaltiesMalkin, Pit (interference), 6:52; Boyle, TB (slashing), 7:23.

Second1, Pit, Rust 4 (Kunitz, Malkin), 1:55. 2, TB, Drouin 5 (Filppula, Hedman), 9:36. 3, Pit, Rust 5 (Lovejoy, Malkin), 10:06. PenaltiesPaquette, TB (roughing), 2:55; Cole, Pit (elbowing), 2:55; Callahan, TB (high-sticking), 12:23; Drouin, TB (holding), 14:54; Letang, Pit (tripping), 15:13; Hedman, TB (slashing), 16:54.

ThirdNone. PenaltyKucherov, TB (delay of game), 10:38. Shots on GoalTB 5-5-7—17. Pit 8-21-10—39. Power-play opportunitiesTB 0 of 1; Pit 0 of 5. GoaliesTB, Vasilevskiy 3-4 (39 shots-38 saves). Pit, Murray 11-4 (17-16).

Lightning falls to Pens in Game 7 of East final (w/ video) 05/26/16 [Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2016 7:59am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494