Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 to stave off elimination for another day. After making Stanley Cup Final and Eastern Conference Final appearances in consecutive seasons, the Lighting could have been eliminated before the dance even started this year with a loss tonight.
Instead the Bolts’ victory makes the Capitals first-round opponent slightly more muddy. The Lightning moved within one point of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second and final wild card spot in the East.
The Lightning are still riddled by injuries to forwards Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, J.T. Brown, Cedric Paquette, and Joel Vermin as well as defenseman Jason Garrison. Tampa has been threatening the return of Stamkos for a few weeks, but on Thursday he told tampabay.com that his recovery has hit a plateau and it is unlikely he’ll play in the final regular season game.
The Capitals could now end up playing either the Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs (most likely), or Lightning in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lightning can only get into the playoffs if they win their final game of the season and the Leafs lose both of their games this weekend against the Penguins and Blue Jackets.
In regards to tonight’s Lightning-Habs game, Montreal attempted a come-back, twice coming within one goal, but the game-winning tally ended up coming off Alex Killorn’s stick in the second period.
Nikita Kucherov hit the 40 goal plateau after scoring the Lightning’s second goal in the first period. He joins five other Russians, including Alex Ovechkin, as only Russian-born players with a 40-goal season at 23 or younger.
Kucherov joins A. Ovechkin, E. Malkin, I. Kovalchuk, P. Bure, A. Mogilny as only Russian-born players with a 40-goal season at 23 or younger https://t.co/CQbMU8TiI1
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) April 8, 2017
Get your popcorn out, readers. That eighth spot is going to come down to the wire.
Headline photo: Francois Lacasse
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