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The morning after holds no joy for Lightning fans

The temperature of Tampa Bay faithful ranges from bitterly cold to frustratingly hot.
Despite the Lightning's loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets that ended their playoff run on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Bolts fans Michael Harris, 27, (middle) and Robert Sherman, 28,(right) remain loyal. ALLIE GOULDING | Times
Published Apr. 18
Updated Apr. 18

TAMPA — Michael Harris woke up Wednesday morning and all of Tuesday night’s memories hit him.

Disappointment. Frustration. Pain.

He watched Tampa Bay’s demise in the comfort of his home with his girlfriend and said it was a game to remember, one he’ll never forget. And he’s already looking to next season.

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“Game 4 hurt a lot,” he said. “Columbus played a hell of a series and (Sergei) Bobrovsky was on point.”

Harris, 27, donned a royal blue Fanatics Lightning hat as he sat sipping beers Wednesday afternoon at Hattricks while watching the Tottenham vs. Manchester City soccer game.

Harris won’t watch the rest of the playoffs unravel over the weeks to come.

“I don’t care anymore,” he said, “and I certainly don’t want to see anyone else succeed.”

From regret to resignation to righteous indignation, the emotions of fans ran the gamut.

Consider Robert Sherman, who sat with Harris wearing a black and grey ’47 Lightning hat. Sherman, 28, said he’ll continue to watch the playoffs intermittently. He has family and friends that live in New York, so he has always been an Islanders fan.

“It’s just disappointing and frustrating,” he said after the loss. “They haven’t played a meaningful game in five weeks.”

At The Press Box, Don Gillespie and his son Eric said watched the game from home.

Following the game, the 60-year-old father went outside and took off his blue Lightning car flags. He wouldn’t need them until next season.

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They said they weren’t angry, they saw this coming before the series began. Maybe not a four-game sweep, but they felt the Lightning wouldn’t make it past Round 2 at best.

“We’ve never played well against a big-muscled team,” said Eric, 33. “(John) Tortorella knew how to beat this team with the same blueprint.”

But for now, they’re okay with the loss.

“At least we don’t have to watch the whole thing,” Eric said.

Anthony Comcolino watched the game unravel at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, where the Lightning practice during the season.

He said the scene was pretty shocking to see.

“It’s sad to see a team that great go down so easily and so fast,” he said.

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Comcolino, 34, is primarily a Maple Leafs fan but considers Tampa Bay to be a very close secondary team after living in the area for about four and a half years.

Coming into the playoffs, he had hoped Columbus would wear down Tampa Bay before a potential Round 2 matchup with Toronto. He wasn’t expecting a sweep, though.

“I’m happy in a sense but the way they (the Blue Jackets) killed them, I’m kind of second-guessing myself,” Comcolino said.

He said from an outsider’s perspective, everyone was saying that Tampa Bay hadn’t faced adversity all season and easily walked through the regular season. The hockey-verse is very surprised right now, he added, but many are happy about the upset.

The sentiment on Wednesday was made all the worse by the outcome on Tuesday night. David Mangione, the manager and partner at Hattricks, had one word to describe the Tuesday scene at the hockey-themed sports bar on Franklin Street: disappointing.

It didn’t start out that way. Fans were excited and amped up for the game, leaving standing room only for the fans walking in before the puck drop.

But then the last 10 minutes of the third period hit and Mangione said the mood turned sour.

“Everybody’s thoughts were we were in for a long playoffs run, and it ends up being the shortest and over in just six days,” he said.

Mangione said almost everyone in the bar was a Lightning fan and most of them stayed until the handshake line.

The fans that showed up in their royal blue and white jerseys, with noisemakers and other kinds of gear were the same fans that left disheartened after the handshake line in Columbus.

“It was just utter shock,” Mangione said. “Disappointment was prevalent.”

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Elayna “Clair” Drooger said she saw the same scene at Sparkman Wharf Tuesday night.

The 31-year-old worked as a floater at the Wharf during Game 4 selling beer and working some of the stationed tents.

She said the energy was pretty amped up for most of the evening and didn’t take a turn until the last empty-netter was scored.

Drooger said her and some fellow employees were expecting people to stick around for a while if the Lightning won.

Instead, they only sold six beers after the loss.

Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.


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