Lightning Officially Playoff Bound

Last night’s win over the Montreal Canadiens officially put the Lightning in the fifth clinched playoff position for the 2014-2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The team had the chance to clinch their spot for the past two games, but had lost both Nashville and Detroit. Finally, Lightning fans rejoiced as the Bolts topped the Canadiens 5-3.

This has been a week of records for the Lightning, including setting the franchise records for wins in a season, 47. They tied the season win record last Tuesday night that was set in 2013-14, 2010-11, and 2003-05. Sitting at 101 points, the Lightning have broke the 100 point mark in consecutive seasons for the first time in team history.

Securing their berth in the 2014-15 playoffs, means that in the 22 seasons of play, the Lightning have been in the playoffs eight times, winning the cup during one of their runs in 2004.

Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop was solid in his first season in a Lightning uniform and Evgeni Nabokov’s veteran presence should only help Tampa Bay. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Last night was not just a huge night for the team as a whole, but for one player in particular. Ben Bishop tied his career-best and Lightning franchise records for victories by a goalie in a season, 37. A mark that Ben, himself, established last season. The star goalie became the first ever Lightning goalie to record two assists in one game. Bishop moved to 37-13-4 on the year after making 25 saves.

With Jason Garrison, Andrej Sustr, and Tyler Johnson out of the line-up it meant that others had to step up to the plate.  Vladislav Namestnikov was just the player to do so. He scored two of the biggest goals in his career, one of which was the game winner. Namestnikov also tallied an assist that helped garner the Lightning their five-goal win and regular season sweep of Montreal.

This was the 22 year-old Russian recorded his first multi-point game, since being recalled from the Crunch on March 4th, he has registered seven points in 12 games. This was his ninth goal on the season.

(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

It was Canadien Jeff Petry’s goal 23 seconds into the third period that shifted the game into Tampa’s favour. After Victor Hedman left after his first shift, it seemed as though the game was going to shift in Montreal’s favour. The Lightning would miss out on clinching their playoff spot for a third straight game.

That was when Namesnitkov stepped up and scored what became the game-winning goal. It put his team up by two and gave them the momentum they needed to win. Ondrej Palat had the lone assist on the goal, and with his second assist he overtook Tyler Johnson in assists for the team lead.

The 5-3 win put Tampa within one point of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. They have managed to outscore the Canadiens 21-8 in five victories this season, giving them their first every sweep of the legendary team. Last night they outshot Montreal 44-28.

“I thought we played extremely well, and with a lot of the regulars out of the lineup, I can’t say enough about the effort those guys gave,” Cooper said.

Thanks to Jonathan Drouin, the Lightning’s three game, 0-for-15 power play drought was finally snapped. Drouin scored his first goal since December 15, to put the Bolts back in the lead. The goal came a mere 33 seconds after Montreal had tied the game.

“The big response was Jo’s goal because…we’ve had all these power plays, we’re getting shots but not great looks and then they get the shorty,” Cooper said. “We had every chance to put our tail between our legs and for Jo to score that goal, that was a huge boost for us. I thought it was a big turning point just for our morale on the bench, and I think after we scored that goal, the ice was slanted for most of the second period.”

Going into Tuesday night’s game, the Bolts are 19-4-3 against the Atlantic Division. They will play the second half of their back-to-back against the Maple Leafs tonight. They have two more games left on the road, Thursday’s in Ottawa and Saturday’s against cross-state rival, Florida. They will return home on April 9th for two final home games, one against New Jersey and a second, on April 11th, against Boston.