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Fennelly: The Lightning season we gave up for dead is still alive

Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates with teammates Victor Hedman (77), Nikita Kucherov (86) and Jake Dotchin (59) after scoring a goal during the third period Monday against the Rangers. [AP photo]
Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates with teammates Victor Hedman (77), Nikita Kucherov (86) and Jake Dotchin (59) after scoring a goal during the third period Monday against the Rangers. [AP photo]
Published Mar. 15, 2017

It's not make believe. No illusion.

The Lightning is a hunter.

It went into Madison Square Garden and said as much Monday night.

It beat the Rangers, 3-2, to pull within a point of Toronto for the final wild card.

This is for real.

The Lightning is charging. For real.

The Bolts are at it again in Ottawa tonight. No rest.

With two goals from 21st-birthday boy Brayden Point, with back-up goalie Peter Budaj coming up with some big saves for his first Tampa Bay win, the Lightning continue to try and turn a feel-bad season into a feel-good one. Give them credit.

Where all this was in the first half of the season remains a mystery.

But they're doing it now, without Steven Stamkos, who is still out, and without Ben Bishop, without Brian Boyle, without Valtteri Filppula, all traded away. Now they're doing it without Tyler Johnson, out with injury.

Brayden Point, No. 1 center.

The Lightning is doing it anyway.

They're trying to write a story out of nowhere.

This team was picked for greatness this season.

A long playoff run. The Stanley Cup final. The Stanley Cup.

All that was out there.

Now it's just trying to get into the postseason.

The Lightning has come from way back.

It has scrambled, scratched and clawed.

The season we gave up for dead is still alive.

Who knows how much energy the Lightning will have left if it makes the playoffs, where it is guaranteed to face the top seed in the Eastern Conference, possibly Washington or Pittsburgh or maybe even Columbus.

The Bolts against Johnny Torts.

Delectable.

This Lightning season has been disappointing, without a doubt.

They're trying to make something out of all that.

Feels like playoff hockey this week.