This is the second in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster.
TAMPA — He didn’t have to race down the ice and chase after the puck like it was the last shot he would ever take. It was already heading that way without his help.
He didn’t have to flash his speed in the final seconds of a game that the Lightning had decisively handled.
But right winger Yanni Gourde decided to race the clock.
As the puck sailed towards an empty net with less than 10 seconds against the Capitals, it might have slowed to a crawl as the horn sounded. Gourde wasn’t having it. He bolted from the other side of the ice, shot past Washington’s John Carlson and taking long stride after long stride, reached the puck and drilled it into the back of the net with a fraction of time remaining in the game.
The goal put an exclamation point on Tampa Bay’s 6-3 victory over the Caps on March 16 and showed once again why Gourde’s teammates call him “greyhound.”
The fourth-year veteran’s speed and play-making abilities sparked the third and fourth lines for Tampa Bay this season and contributed in pivotal points throughout the season.
Gourde’s steady hand even proved valuable when necessity moved him up to the top two lines. Like teammate J.T. Miller, he was the kind of player that found a way to play and produce well on any line, and the positive results often came from the extra time he put in during practice.
After team workouts, Gourde often stood just outside the crease working on tipping the puck into the net after practices with Braydon Coburn as his teammates filed back into the locker room. Coburn took shots from the right and left sides of the blueline and Gourde would try to tap them in the net with the toe of his stick.
The work paid off. Gourde used the same technique to score against other teams. A shot from the Lightning’s offensive zone blueline from Mikhail Sergachev set Gourde up perfectly as he stood just outside of the center of the goal crease in the Lightning’s first game of the playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The tip gave Tampa Bay a three-goal lead with about two minutes left in the first period. A highlight in a series that featured a string of lowlights for Tampa Bay.
There’s little doubt that the 5-foot-9 winger is one of the fastest players on Tampa Bay’s roster. The Lightning forward’s overall production, down from last year’s career-high 64 points, still proved crucial for a historic 62-win season. Gourde, 27, will likely return for the 2019-20 season with a scheduled raise, the same speed and the same work ethic.
When it comes to Gourde: nothing slows him down.
Gourde’s season in review:
High: Gourde’s first and only multi-goal game of the season, which helped Tampa Bay notch its 60th win of the year in a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Low: Gourde’s illegal check to Carolina’s Jordan Staal on March 21, which forced the Lightning forward to serve a two-game suspension, missing games against St. Louis and Boston. Gourde logged a career-high of 66 penalty minutes this season, 16 more than he had last year.
By the numbers:
5 game-winning goals, the same number he notched last season
296 shots on goal, a career-high by 160
48 points, combined for 22 goals and 26 assists
15:50 average time on ice
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow her @faiello_mari.