Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Yet again, rally and OT demonstrate Lightning's resolve (w/ video)

NEW YORK — This team is something. Absolutely something.

You doubt these guys. You question their effort at times. There are moments, such as Friday night, when you count them out.

Then the Lightning does it. It finds a way.

And, you know, the more you see this team, the more you have to ask: Why would you ever doubt it? Why would ever question its ability to win a game that it seemed certain to lose? Why would you ever suggest that it doesn't have what it takes to win on any given night, even if it is outplayed?

The legend of the Lightning continues to grow, and now it's time to add another chapter to this stunning story.

Tampa Bay, down and seemingly out for much of Game 4, once again crawled off its death bed and stunned the Islanders with another come-from-behind victory.

"It's not always going to be pretty," goaltender Ben Bishop said. "Sometimes you have to fight and claw your way into the game."

Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, the Lightning got a tying goal from leading playoff scoring Nikita Kucherov, then won on Jason Garrison's blistering slap shot only 1:34 into overtime.

It was something. Absolutely something. Absolutely stunning.

"There's no real panic button anymore," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You don't know whether it's the first period or the third period on our bench. Everybody, it's just positive. … It has been a lot of fun being around this group."

For much of Game 4, it just didn't look like the Lightning's night. It started slow. It didn't take advantage of power plays. It took dumb penalties.

Early on, it looked lackadaisical. At times, it seemed rattled. At times, it looked ordinary.

For a big chunk of the game, Tampa Bay wasn't doing enough to win and, despite hanging around all night and always one well-placed shot or lucky deflection from tying the score, it didn't look like it would have a chance to win.

Then again, as much as Tampa Bay struggled, it knew it was only one goal away from saving the night.

"We talked about that in between the second and the third (periods)," Bishop said. "We had 20 minutes to get a lead in the series."

Bishop was the true star of the night. His 15 first-period saves kept Tampa Bay in it despite falling behind 1-0 only 4:20 into the game.

"A lot of the game, we were fighting it," forward Alex Killorn said. "But Bish gave us a chance to win the entire game."

Bishop's outstanding play simply bought time until Tampa Bay could find a hero.

No surprise that one of the heroes was Kucherov, whose league-leading eighth playoff goal tied it and saved the night.

"When we got that one, you could tell on our bench that we had a good feeling of what could happen," Cooper said. "And it happened."

It was a bit of a surprise that the other hero was Garrison, a defenseman with a heavy shot that he probably doesn't use enough. He had only five goals during the regular season.

"When he winds up, you just hope it hits the net because it is so hard," Bishop said. "It's just a great feeling, especially on the road."

Meantime, the Islanders must be wondering: What does it have to do to beat Tampa Bay? Their coach, Jack Capuano, talked in the postgame about how well his team played, yet it is one loss from elimination.

See, the Islanders actually deserved better. Give them credit. They came to play Game 4 and turned in a heck of a performance. They played with determination. They played with desperation. They played like their season was on the line. In many ways, it was.

Getting an extra jolt from a passionate fan base that was electrifying Friday night, New York started strong.

"It's easy to get low when they score goals, especially in their building," Killorn said. "But you weather that and come back with a better shift."

That was what Tampa Bay did. A big key, aside from the goals the Lightning scored, was the ones it didn't allow.

"It's hard to beat that team when you only score one goal," Capuano said.

It was a weird game. There was a delay when Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss broke a skate and, ultimately, had to leave the game for five minutes while seldom-used backup Jean-Francois Berube kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard. "Never seen that before," Capuano said.

Then there was a delay to start the second period because the Zamboni driver veered off course and warped part of the boards, forcing repairs.

In between all that, the Lightning got better and showed signs of life. And now it's alive and kicking with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to wrap it up and advance to the conference final with a win Sunday back home at Amalie Arena.

The Islanders, with their season truly on the line, will undoubtedly give Tampa Bay its best shot. But even they have to wonder if that will be enough.

That's because the Lightning refuses to give up, refuses to lose.

It is something that way. Absolutely something.

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