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Lightning defensemen net first goals this postseason

Goalless through 12 playoff games, Tampa Bay’s blueliners came through with two on Tuesday.
Lightning wing Blake Coleman (20) and defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrate with defenseman Jan Rutta (44) following Rutta's third-period goal.
Lightning wing Blake Coleman (20) and defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrate with defenseman Jan Rutta (44) following Rutta's third-period goal. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jun. 16
Updated Jun. 16

TAMPA — Lightning defensemen took it to heart when asked about the group’s absence from the scoring sheet this postseason. Tuesday night, they did something about it.

Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman scored the first goals by Tampa Bay defensemen this postseason in the Lightning’s 4-2 win over the Islanders in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series.

And the timing couldn’t have been better.

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Rutta’s goal — a slapshot from the blue line early in the second period — extended the Lightning lead to 3-1 and became the eventual game-winner. It was Rutta’s first goal of the season and first-ever playoff goal.

Hedman added an insurance goal on the power play later in the period, making the score 4-1. Nikita Kucherov threaded a cross-ice pass through traffic to Hedman, who scored from the left circle.

“It was huge (to get involved in the offense),” Hedman said. “Like I said before, the first game, no one mentioned that the defense hadn’t scored any goals. ... All of a sudden it gets mentioned, so we wanted to put an end to that (Tuesday).”

Combined, Lightning defensemen have 27 points this postseason. Hedman, a five-time Norris Trophy finalist, leads NHL defensemen in points this postseason with 13, including 12 assists.

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Through 12 games last postseason, defensemen had accounted for six of the Lightning’s 36 goals, four by Hedman, the eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

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Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said he wasn’t worried about the lack of scoring from his blue line to this point in the postseason.

“I think it’s a rarity that our D hadn’t scored, to be honest, in this, and part of it, too, is the teams you play,” he said. “We knew that against Carolina we probably weren’t going to get a ton of defensive scoring just because of the way we had schemed how we were going to play offense.

“But I think it was just a matter of time with some of the weapons we have back there.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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