Zach Bogosian steps up, helps to keep Lightning alive in NHL playoffs

The veteran defenseman has filled in admirably for injured Erik Cernak as Tampa Bay tries to battle back in its series against Toronto.
Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian (24) fist-bumps teammates in the tunnel prior to Game 3 of the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday at Amalie Arena.
Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian (24) fist-bumps teammates in the tunnel prior to Game 3 of the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published April 28|Updated April 28

TAMPA — Hours after the Lightning held off the Maple Leafs on Thursday in Toronto to force Game 6 in their opening-round playoff series, defenseman Zach Bogosian kept things simple while answering questions.

What was the biggest thing the Lightning, who trail three games to two in the series, took from the series-extending win?

“We’re still alive,” Bogosian said, laughing, minutes after getting off the team’s charter flight Friday.

The Lightning again face elimination when they host the Maple Leafs tonight at Amalie Arena. But Bogosian likes how his team is giving itself a chance by having everyone contribute and focusing on the next task at hand.

“We understand what we did (Thursday) night,” he said. “Take what you can from the game and just get ready for (today). We’re not in a position where we’re going to sit on a win and be happy about it. We have another job to do (today), and we’ll go from there.”

Bogosian, 32, knows a little about staying alive in this game.

The veteran often was a healthy scratch before being cut loose by the Sabres in February 2020. He signed as a free agent with the Lightning not long after that, then left after that season to sign with the Maple Leafs before returning to Tampa Bay as a free agent in July 2021.

After missing the playoffs during the first 11 seasons of his career with the Thrashers, Jets and Sabres, Bogosian now has played in 53 postseason games, including 46 with the Lightning.

In 46 games in this regular season, Bogosian had five points (one goal) and was minus-4. His playing time diminished late in the season as the Lightning turned more to rookie Darren Raddysh. Bogosian played in just three of the final eight regular-season games.

He got his chance in the playoffs in Game 2 against the Maple Leafs after Erik Cernak took a hit to the head from Toronto forward Michael Bunting during Game 1.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Cernak will be out for a fifth straight game today.

Tampa Bay has handled these kinds of losses before.

They have big names that have led them during the regular season, including forwards Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. But in the postseason, those players have largely been contained, so the Lightning have had to look elsewhere for offense.

“If you’re going to win in the playoffs, you need everybody’s scoring,” Cooper said. “And so we’re still around in the playoffs, and the guys used to scoring all the goals haven’t quite scored yet. It’s probably a good sign for us. Eventually, they’re going to score.”

Though clearly not an offensive-minded player, Bogosian has helped in that effort. On Thursday, he made a near-perfect pass to set up forward Mikey Eyssimont’s go-ahead goal in the second period of the 4-2 win, picking up his ninth career playoff point.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Bogosian knows it’s those types of plays — and players — keeping the Lightning’s hopes alive. Forwards Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn lead the team with three goals each in these playoffs. Kucherov and Stamkos have one apiece.

That everybody contributes is what Bogosian likes most about playing for the Lightning, and why he likes their chances of staying alive again today.

“I think what’s given us success over the last few years is that depth,” Bogosian said. “I still think the guys like the (Stamkoses), the (Points) and (Kucherovs) that you’re talking about, they’re doing a lot of really good things, whether you score or show up in the score sheet or not.

“In the playoffs, it’s all about the little things that probably don’t show up that win you hockey games, and those guys do it every single night. They’re so talented that I guess a goal or an assist will happen, but it’s more of the little things that add up for the team win.”

• • •

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.