Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Lightning’s toughness defined by willingness to grind through injuries

Last season’s team learned the power of physical sacrifice. It used that lesson to win a second straight Stanley Cup.
Lightning wing Barclay Goodrow (19), down on the ice after blocking a shot against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday at Amalie Arena.
Lightning wing Barclay Goodrow (19), down on the ice after blocking a shot against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jul. 10

TAMPA — The impact of taking a puck shot at 101.6 mph to his left leg was enough to make Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow crumble to the ice.

With just over seven minutes remaining in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-clinching win over the Canadiens Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Goodrow skated in front of the Tampa Bay net, taking away an open look by Montreal defenseman Shea Weber with his body.

Goodrow fell. He tried to get to his feet but dropped back to his knees. He skated off slowly, each stride more painful to watch than the previous one. His return for the final minutes of a one-goal game seemed doubtful.

But Goodrow returned for his next shift and made the final block with 27 seconds left in the Lightning’s 1-0 win, sending Tampa Bay to its second straight Cup title.

After the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper called Goodrow’s block the moment that exemplified the character of his team and the physical sacrifice the players made for a shot at history.

Goodrow said he took cues from his teammates.

Forward Nikita Kucherov played the postseason’s final six games with a cracked rib after he was on the receiving end of a Scott Mayfield cross-check in Game 6 of the semifinal series against the Islanders. Forward Alex Killorn broke his left fibula in Game 1 of the final, had a metal rod surgically inserted to make the bone stable and nearly returned for the series.

Captain Steven Stamkos was “good enough to play,” in his own words, after a lower-body injury sidelined him for the final month of the regular season. And defenseman Victor Hedman played through a lower-body injury suffered March 30 against Columbus. And those are just the injuries that have been revealed so far.

“Some stuff that some of the guys played through is pretty remarkable,” Goodrow said. “When you see one guy battling through it, it just makes you want to battle through whatever you’ve got going on that much more. You want to be there for your teammates, you want to just do whatever you can to help out the team. So you see one guy battling, you’re going to start battling, another guy’s going to see you playing through whatever it is, they’re gonna do the same thing.”

Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) goes down hard after a hit by New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) goes down hard after a hit by New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Kucherov, who led the league in postseason points for the second straight season, received multiple injections and played with protective padding under his jersey to keep him on the ice. When the Lightning had an extra day between Games 3 and 4 of the final, he left Montreal to return to Tampa for additional medical care.

“He played through some pretty grueling injuries here in the postseason,” Lightning forward Blake Coleman said. “And that’s something that’s not skill, that’s just all heart.”

Like Goodrow, Killorn skated off the ice in pain after blocking a shot in Game 1. Unlike Goodrow, he didn’t return and Cooper considered him day-to-day even though his leg was swollen from surgery. Killorn tested his leg during warmups before Game 4 Monday in Montreal but couldn’t go. He still held out hope, saying Wednesday that if the final went to six or seven games, he might have had a chance to return.

Killorn said he will be back to full strength in three to four weeks, which still sounds like a remarkable timetable. But that process might be slowed by the swelling he’s experiencing while celebrating with the Cup.

“There’s not a ton of rehab just because there’s a rod in it now, so the bone is stable,” Killorn said. “It’s just about managing it and the swelling is obviously a factor, so it’s not good for you when you’re drinking a little bit, so you’re making it a little bit worse.”

Ultimately, this team learned its toughness from last season’s squad.

Stamkos missed all but 2:47 of last postseason. He scored one of the biggest goals in Game 3 of the Cup final. He reaggravated a core muscle injury, prompting a second a second surgery over a seven-month stretch. Kucherov pulled his groin in the first round, an injury that eventually contributed to the hip surgery that forced him to miss the 2021 season. And Hedman played the entire postseason with a left leg injury.

“I think we found out last year that’s what you need to do to win,” Goodrow said. “And I feel like this year there were just a lot of guys playing through a lot of things that it’s pretty crazy.”

• • •

The Tampa Bay Times will commemorate the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Pre-order now.

Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.