Tampa Bay Lightning
1992/93: With interest in Hockey picking up in the United States the NHL decides to add a team in one of the most unlikely place, Tampa, FL. Led by NHL legend Phil Esposito the city of Tampa had been lobbying actively for an NHL team hosting an exhibition game at the Suncoast Dome in 1990 that drew a record crowd of 25,581 to see Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins take on Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. The Lightning would begin play with a people with a solid pedigree running the team as Phil Esposito was named club president and Terry Crisp who only a few years earlier led the Calgary Flames to a Stanley Cup was named coach. During the preseason the Lightning would get wide attention as goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an exhibition game as she stopped seven of nine shots in one period during a September 23rd exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues. What started out, as publicity stunt would become extended as Rheaume was signed to play for the Lightning’s top minor league club in Atlanta. However, she would never be called up to play in a regular season game. Playing at the Expo Hall at the old Florida State Fairgrounds the Lightning would get off to a rousing start in the regular season, beating the defending Campbell Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 led by Chris Kontos, who netted 4 goals. The Lightning would come back to earth a bit finishing last in the Norris Division with a 23-54-7 record, which was considerably better than their expansion partners the Ottawa Senators.
1993/94: After a season in tiny Expo Hall the Lightning sign a two-year deal to play in the Suncoast Dome, which was renamed Thunderdome for the occasion. In their first game in the Thunderdome the Lightning would lose 2-0 to the expansion Florida Panthers as a record 27,227 fans watched. The Lightning would go on to draw an NHL record 805,901 fans over 41 games for an average of 19,656, despite finishing in last place in the Atlantic Division behind the expansion Panthers with a record of 30-43-11.
1994/95: The momentum of the Lightning establishing a large fan base is disrupted as the NHL season is delayed by a 4-month lockout that wipes out nearly half of the season. The Lighting would go on to finish the lockout shortened season by finishing in sixth place with a record of 17-28-3.
1995/96: The Lightning would take a huge step forward in their fourth season as a late surge gets them into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history as they beat on the defending Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils for the final playoff spot with a record of 38-32-12. After splitting the first two games on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Thunderdome was jam packed with 25,945 fans screaming as Alexander Selivanov scored the game winner in overtime to give the Lightning a 5-4 lead. However, the Flyers would recover and win the next three games to take the series in six games.
1996/97: After one year in a tiny Exhibition Center, and three years in a spacious converted baseball stadium, the Lightning finally get a true arena of their own as they open the Ice Palace on October 20th by beating the New York Rangers and Wayne Gretzky 5-3 in front of a sold out crowd of 19,500. However, the Lightning would be major disappointment on the ice as they finished in sixth place with a disappointing record of 32-40-10.
1997/98: With one of the Lightning’s top scorers John Cullen missing the entire season while receiving chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a former of cancer, the Bolts would struggle immensely finishing in last place, as original Coach Terry Crisp is fired and eventually replaced by Jacques Demers who would also go on to replace Phil Esposito as General Manager as the Lightning post an NHL worst record of 17-55-10.
1998/99: John Cullen would make an inspirational return, by playing in four games, and retiring to become an assistant coach with the Lightning. However, not even the inspiration of Cullen could halt the Lightning’s struggles as they finished in last place in the newly formed Southeast Division with a 19-54-9 record that was even worse than the expansion Nashville Predators.
1999/00: The Lightning continue to play lackluster hockey as they finish in fourth place with a miserable record of 19-54-9-7, as only two players Vincent Lecavalier (25) and Fredrik Modin (22) even manage as many as 20 goals.
2000/01: The Lightning continue to have no spark as they finish in last place for the third time in four years with a terrible record of 24-47-6-5, as the team only manages to have three players score more than 20 goals, as Brad Richards (21) joins Fredrik Modin (32) and Vincent Lecavalier (23).
2001/02: The Lightning celebrate their tenth anniversary by missing the playoffs for the ninth time in franchise history with a third place 27-40-11-4 record. However, along the way there were several glimmers of hope, as Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had a stellar season with a 2.32 GAA, while shining at the All-Star Game. Nicknamed the Bulin wall, Khabibulin held the North American team scoreless in the 3rd period while the European team came back and won the game. However, voting for the All-Star MVP had been done early and Khabibulin was denied, even though he was clearly the game’s MVP.
2002/03: The Lightning came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, as they were unbeaten in the first seven games on the way to a solid 7-1-2 record in October. In November the Lightning continued to play solid hockey as Captain Dave Andreychuk on November 23rd against the New Jersey Devils on the road became the 14th player in NHL history to reach the 600 goals scored milestone. In December and January, the Lightning would struggle falling back to .500. However, in the second half the Lightning made a strong push as they battled the Washington Capitals down the strengths for the Southeast Division Title. The Lightning with the diminutive Martin St. Louis scoring a team high 37 goals would go on to beat out the Capitals by one point for first place with a solid record of 36-25-16-5. However, they would not be done with the Caps, as they had to face them in the first round of the playoffs. Things looked bleak for the Lightning as they dropped the first two games at home to the Capitals while being outscored 9-3. As the series shifted to Washington the Lightning caught a break as they won Game 3 in overtime as Vincent Lecavalier scored in overtime on a 5-on-3 power play. The Lighting would go on to even the series as Martin St. Louis scored twice in Game 4. St. Louis would provide the spark again in Game 5 back in Tamp as he scored the game winner midway through the 3rd period. The Lighting would go on to win the series in six games as St. Louis scored the game winner in triple overtime as Nickolai Khabibulin made 60 saves as the Lightning savored their first ever playoff series victory. However, in the second round the playoff tested New Jersey Devils would overwhelm the Lightning taking the series in five games. However, the Devils would need to win two of the games in overtime including Game 5 in triple overtime as Coach John Tortorella decided to start backup goalie John Grahame while facing elimination, who stopped 47 of 48 shots before being beaten by Grant Marshall midway through a third overtime period.
2003/04: The Lightning got off to a fast start as they finished the first month of the season unbeaten through their first seven games. The Lightning continued their solid play into November holding an 11-2-2-1 record on the 22nd. However, over the next six weeks they would struggle falling out of first place in the Southeast Division as they struggled through December winning just four times. During the slump Coach John Tortorella tried several ways to recharge the Lightning benching Goalie Nickolai Khabibulin while calling out star Vincent Lecavalier, as they held a mediocre 16-15-6-1 record on January 6th. The moves would work as both played better and the Lightning caught fire in the second half losing just five games in regulation the rest of the season as the move seemed to spur on Lecavalier the rest of the season as he scored 32 goals while dishing out 34 assists. However, doing even better was Tampa’s mighty might spark plug Martin St. Louis who won the leagues scoring title with 35 goals and 56 assists earning him the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP, as the Lightning posted an Eastern Conference best record of 46-21-8-6. Winning the best record would also earn John Tortorella the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year. In the playoffs the Lightning faced the New York Islanders in the first round, after exchanging 3-0 wins at the St. Pete Times Forum the Lightning struck down the Islanders on the road winning Game 3 and Game 4 as Khabibulin stopped 61 shots in the two games. The Lightning would close the series out in Game 5 as Martin St. Louis scored netted the 3-2 winner in overtime. In the 2nd round the Lightning faced the tradition rich Montreal Canadiens, taking the first 2 games at home in dominant fashion winning both games 4-0 and 3-1. As the series shifted to Montreal the Lightning continued to roll taking a commanding 3-0 series lead as Brad Richards scored in overtime for a 4-3 win. The Lightning would go on to complete the rare sweep of the Habs with a 3-1 win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the conference finals the Lightning got off to a fast start taking the opener 3-1. However, in Game 2 the Lightning struggled, badly losing 6-2. As the series shifted to Philadelphia the Lightning needed to rebound quickly and they did win 4-1. However, the Flyers would rebound to take Game 4 evening the series at two games apiece. Back in Tampa the Lightning would take back control of the series with a 4-2 win as Brad Richards scored twice. With a chance to close the series out in Game 6 in Philadelphia the Lightning and Flyers battled back and forth as the game went to overtime tied 4-4. In overtime the Flyers would score right away forcing a decisive seventh game at the St. Pete Times Forum. In Game 7 the Lightning would jump out to a 2-0 lead. However, the Flyers cut it to 2-1 midway through the 2nd period from there they would rely on Nickolai Khabibulin to hold the lead as he stopped a total of 31 shots as the Lightning held on to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2004 Stanley Cup Finals: In the Stanley Cup Finals against the upstart Calgary Flames the Lightning got off to a rocky start losing dropping the first game 4-1. The Lightning would rebound in Game 2 with a 4-1 win of their own. As the series shifted to Calgary the Lightning were thrown into an impossible situation as the Flames hosted the first Stanley Cup Finals game in Canada in a decade winning 3-0 as an overflow crowd at the Saddledome was loud throughout the game. Facing the prospect of falling behind 3-1 the Lightning scored first in Game 4 on an early first period goal by Brad Richards from there it was up to Khabibulin as he stopped all 29 shots as the Lightning evened the series with a 1-0 win. With the series shifting back to Tampa the Lightning and Flames continued to battle in tough tight games as Game 5 went to overtime tied 2-2. In overtime the Flames would quiet the crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum winning on an Oleg Saprykin goal. Facing elimination, the Lightning went back to Calgary facing elimination in front of a rowdy crowd. The game would go back and forth with Brad Richard scoring twice in the 2nd period as the second straight game went to overtime tied 2-2. With the crowd roaring with every play the Lightning were in goal away from losing the cup as both teams were kept off the board in the first overtime. In the second overtime it would not take the Lightning long to get the game winner as Martin St. Louis scored 33 seconds into double overtime to send the series back to Tampa for Game 7. In Game 7 the hockey world was focused on Tampa-St. Pete as the Lightning jumped out to a 2-0 lead on two goals by Ruslan Fedotenko. Trying to hold on the Flames made it 2-1 on a power play goal by Craig Conway in the 3rd period. From there the Flames threw everything they could at the net but Khabibulin stopped every shot as the Tampa Bay Lightning held on to a 2-1 win to win the Stanley Cup, as Brad Richards who scored 12 goals and had 14 assists won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.
2004/05: The Lightning would not be able to defend their Stanley Cup Championship as the entire season would be cancelled by a lock out.
2005/06: Emerging from the lock out the Lightning had the Stanley Cup, but they were nowhere near the team that won it as Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was not re-signed, while Captain Dave Andreychuk was 42 and a shadow of his former self. With John Grahame getting a bulk of the time in the nets the Lightning managed a strong October but hit a wall in November as they lost seven of eight games to start the month as the managed a mediocre record of 19-17-3 heading into January. Eventually the Lightning would seek a change as Andreychuk was released ending a solid Hall of Fame Career. While Andreychuk was released Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis was unable to repeat his MVP performance as the Lightning stayed on the playoff bubble all season long. Eventually the Lightning would squeak into the playoffs as the eighth seed with a 43-336 record. However, the playoffs would be just a cameo appearance for the Lightning as they were quickly eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in five games.
2006/07: After a disappointing season, the Lightning traded Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for goalie Marc Denis. However, Denis struggled, as the Lightning got off to a mediocre 18-19-2 start. In January with Johan Holmqvist seeing more time in goal the Lightning, began to turn their season around winning nine games. The Lightning would also win nine games in February as they climbed up the Southeast Division standings. One play responsible for the Lightning’s turnaround was Vincent Lecavalier who set a new franchise scoring record at 105 points, while leading the NHL in goals at 52. The Lightning would fall short in their late challenge for the division title as they qualified seventh in the Eastern Conference Playoffs with a record of 44-33-5. In the first round the Lightning faced off against the New Jersey Devils. After losing Game 1, the Lightning won two straight games 3-2, and had a chance to take a 3-1 series lead as Game 4 went to overtime in Tampa. However, the Devils would win the game on a goal by Scott Gomez to even the series. After being shut out on the road in Game 5, the Lightning came home needing a win just to stay alive. The Devils would get off to a fast start leading 3-1 early in the 2nd Period. The Lightning would cut the lead to one midway through the second, but in the last 30 minutes they could not beat Devils goalie Martin Brodeur as their season ended with a 3-2 loss.
2007/08: Before the season started the Lightning lost their captain, Tim Taylor to condition called hip dysplasia, a condition that required season ending surgery, which would eventually lead to his retirement. When the season started the Lightning were able to count on their big three Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis, but got little help from the supporting cast, as they struggled from the start of the season, posting a 10-13-2 record through the season’s first two months. Things would not get better in December as the Lightning slipped down the standings in the Eastern Conference, winning just two games during a 13-game stretch. Stuck in last place the Lightning decided to focus on the future and were among the league’s big sellers at the trade deadline; sending Vaclav Prospal to the Philadelphia Flyers for Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick. However, the biggest deal came when they traded Brad Richards and starting Goalie Johan Holmqvist to the Dallas Stars for r Mike Smith, and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern, as well as a 4th round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Following the deadline deals the Lightning would win just five more games the rest of the season as they posted an awful 31-42-9 record. The lost season would see an end to the John Tortorella era, as the Coach who brought the Stanley Cup to Tampa Bay was fired and replaced by Barry Melrose.
2008/09: Finishing with the worst record in the NHL enabled the Lightning to get the top pick in the draft, which they used on Steven Stamkos. Beginning the season in Prague against the New York Rangers, the Barry Melrose era got off to a horrible start, as the Lightning lost both games. Returning to North America, things did not get any better, as the Lightning were winless in their first five games. However, Melrose clashed with players and management and was fired on November 14th, with the Lightning holding a 5-7-4 record. The Lightning would continue to struggle after dismissing Melrose as they managed to win just one of their first 12 games under new Coach Rick Tocchet. The Lightning would go on to spend much of the season at the bottom of the Southeast Division as they posted a terrible 24-40-18 record.
2009/10: As the Lightning continued to build for the future it was a year of transition in front office, as the team was sold to Boston investment banker Jeffrey Vinik. On the ice the team showed significant signs of improvement early as Steven Stamkos emerged as a superstar scoring 51 goals to share the Maurice Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins as the leading goal scorer in the NHL. The Lightning would stay in the playoff race most of the season, as they held a 26-21-11 record on February 9th. However, they would lose their final three games before the Olympic Break. The struggles would continue in March as they posted a 5-10-1 record that would see them eliminated from the postseason as April began. The Lightning would go on to finish with a record of 34-36-12, finishing fourth in the Southeast Division. Following, the season more changes were made, as legendary Detroit Red Wings Captain Steve Yzerman became the team’s new General Manager, replacing Brian Lawton. Meanwhile, Coach Rick Tocchet was also fired and replaced by Guy Boucher.
2010/11: On the ice to improve the team, Steve Yzerman acquired Goalie Dan Ellis, and brought back Pavel Kubina in two different off-season signings, as the Lightning were one of the busiest teams. When the season began, it appeared the moves paid off as the Lightning got off to a strong start, posting a 7-2-1 in October. In November, things would be tougher for the Lightning, as they only won one for their first seven games. Things got even worse, when Captain Vincent Lecavalier to a thumb injury. Lecavalier would miss a month, but the Lightning played well in his absence, posting a 9-4-2 record. The Lightning would go into the New Year with a record of 22-11-5. With Goalie Mike Smith injured, and Dan Ellis not performing to expectations, the Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders on January 1st for Ty Wishart. In his first start for Tampa, Roloson stopped all 34 shots as the Lightning beat the Washington Capitals on the road 1-0 in overtime. The move would help the Lightning post a solid 9-4-0 record in January. The Lightning would play well into February, but as the month ended the Lightning began to falter, suffering a three-game losing streak. Things would get even rougher in March as the Lightning endured a stretch where they won just two games in a 12-game stretch. However, they would finish the season strong, winning seven of their last eight games as they reached the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 46-25-11. Helping to guide the way, was Martin St. Louis who finished second in the league in scoring with 31 goals and 68 assists. In the playoffs the Lightning would face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. After losing the series opener 3-0, the Lightning got a big performance from Eric Brewer and Simon Gagne who each had three points as the Lightning won 5-1 to even the series. However, as the series shifted to Tampa, the Lightning failed to take advantage losing both Games 3 and 4 by scores of 3-2. However, as the series returned to Pittsburgh, with the Penguins needing just one to advance, the Lightning found their offense, as Steve Stamkos, Pavel Kubina, and Simon Gagne each scored two goals as the Lightning won 8-2. The Lightning started the third period of Game 6, with a 2-1 lead only to see Jordan Staal tie the game. However, Steve Downie scored just 67 seconds later to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead as they went on to win the game 4-2 to send the series to a seventh game. In Game 7 in Pittsburgh the Lightning turned to Goalie Dwayne Roloson to save the day, as Sean Bergenheim netted the only goal. Roloson would stop all 36 shots he faced as the Lightning completed the comeback from down 3-1, with a 1-0 win in Game 7 to advance to the second round. Facing the top seed Washington Capitals, the Lightning continued their momentum, winning the opener 4-2. In Game 2, the Lightning would win in Washington again 3-2, as Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, including the overtime game winner. As the series shifted to Tampa, the Lightning got third period goals by Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone to take a commanding 3-0 series lead with a 4-3 win. The Lightning would go on to complete the sweep with a 5-3 win in Game 4. In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins, the Lightning would continue to roll, winning the opener in Boston 5-2. Despite a four-point game from Vincent Lecavalier, the Bruins would even the series with a 6-5 win in Game 2. As the series shifted to Tampa, the goalies took over as the Bruins won 2-0 in Game 3. The Lightning would bounce back to even the series, with a 5-3 win in Game 4. After a 3-1 loss in Game 5, the Lightning faced elimination in Game 6 at home. With Martin St. Louis leading the way with two goals and an assist, the Lightning would force a seventh game with a 5-4 win. Like Game 7 against the Penguins in the opening round, the game would be lacking in goals as neither team had found the back of the net for the first two periods. However, the Bruins finally solved Dwayne Roloson with 7:33 left on a goal by Nathan Horton. It would stand up as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2011/12: After missing the Stanley Cup Finals by one game, the Lightning started the season their 20th in the NHL with a new look. The blue and white colors and simplified logo was aided to match the red and white tradition of the Detroit Red Wings, who Team President spent more than 20 years serving as captain with. The Lightning started the season with a solid 5-1 road win over the Carolina Hurricanes, but came home on a four-game losing streak. The streak would continue as they lost to the Florida Panthers 7-4. The Lightning seemed to suffer a letdown most of the first half as they went into January holding a mediocre 17-17-3 record, despite a three-game winning streak to close out 2011. Struggles in goal were a main reason for the Lightning holding a poor record, as Mike Smith was allowed to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes, while Dwayne Roloson could not match his postseason matchup, posting a 3.66 GAA before being benched in favor of Mathieu Garon. The Lightning would start 2012, with seven straight losses as they plunged further and further out of playoff contention. As the trade deadline approached and the playoffs out of reach, the Lightning would begin re-tooling for the next season as they made several small trades for youth. The biggest of these deals would see Pavel Kubina sent to the Philadelphia Flyers for Jon Kalinski and two draft picks, while Steve Downie was sent to the Colorado Avalanche for Kyle Quincey. The Lightning would go on to finish the season with a record of 38-36-8, finishing third in the Southeast Division.
2012/13: Coming off a disappointing season, in which they failed to return to the playoffs the Lightning were chomping at the bit to get back on the ice, as the season was delayed by a three-month lockout. When the season began on January 19th, the Lightning looked sharp doubling up the Washington Capitals 6-3, as they won six of their first seven games. However, the Lightning would quickly cool off dropping their next six games, as they continued to struggle to find consistent goaltending and defense. This was made all the more frustrating as Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were ranked first and second in the NHL in scoring, with St. Louis winning his second Art Ross Trophy with 60 points, while Stamkos who had 57 points, also finished second in the NHL in goals with 29. However, due to the poor defense the Lightning could not translate their offense into wins, as they held a 13-18-1 record on March 24th, which led to the firing of Coach Guy Boucher. Boucher would be replaced by AHL Coach Jon Cooper; the Lightning would also make a move to address their goaltending struggles, acquiring Brian Bishop from the Ottawa Senators for Cory Conacher. The moves would not salvage the season, as the Lightning missed the playoffs again with a record of 18-26-4. Changes would continue in the off-season as the Lightning released longtime Captain Vincent Lecavalier.
2013/14: After two straight disappointing seasons without the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning hoped they solved their goaltending woes with Ben Bishop who was starting his first full season in Tampa. Early on the returns were good, as the Lightning won 12 of their first 16 games. However, on November 11th the Lightning suffered a big loss when Steven Stamkos, who was leading the NHL in scoring through the first six weeks, suffered a broken right tibia after crashing into one of the goalposts in a 3-0 road loss to the Boston Bruins. Stamkos would miss 45 games. Thanks to Bishop having a strong season the Lightning remained competitive during Stamkos’ absence, as they managed a winning record over the next three months into the Olympic Break. Another player who was key to keeping Tampa alive without Steven Stamkos, was Martin St. Louis who prior to the season took over as team captain. St. Louis led the Lightning in scoring with nearly a point a game, as he set a new franchise record with four goals in a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks on January 18th. However, not all was well with Martin St. Louis who was feuding with Lightning President Steve Yzerman over his place on Team Canada’s roster in the Sochi Olympics. St. Louis only made the roster after Stamkos was unable to make the trip to Russia. While the Lightning went into the Olympic Break with a record of 33-21-5, St. Louis was requesting a trade. When the season resumed, the Lightning would grant Martin St. Louis’ trade request making a rare captain for captain swab with the New York Rangers for Ryan Callahan. With the departure of St. Louis, the final player from the Lightning Stanley Cup Team in 2004, the Captain’s C was handed over the Steven Stamkos who was ready to return for the stretch drive Despite some initial struggles after the trade, the Lightning finished the season strong, posting a record of 12-3-2 over their final 17 games as they finished second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 46-27-9. Despite being dealt away at the trade deadline Martin St. Louis led the Lightning in scoring with 29 goals and 32 assists in 62 games, while Steven Stamkos scored 25, with 15 assists in 37 games.
2014 Playoffs: Ben Bishop was strong all season, winning 37 games, with a 2.23 GAA and a .923 save percentage, and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. However, in final week of the regular season, Bishop suffered an injury and would be unavailable as the Lightning faced the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Anders Lindbank would start in Game 1 and struggle allowing five goals as the Lightning lost the opener the St. Pete Times Forum in overtime 5-4, with Steven Stamkos scoring twice. Lindback struggled again in Game 2, as he allowed three goals before being benched in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis as the Habs won 4-1. Things did not improve as the series shifted to Montreal for Game 3, as the Habs won 3-2 to take a 3-0 series lead. The Canadiens would go on to complete the sweep with a 4-3 win in Game 4, as Max Pacioretty’s power play goal with 43 seconds left thwarted Tampa’s hopes for a comeback.
2014/15: Despite their disappointing finish, there was plenty of excitement surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning when the season began as they were expected to be one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. Starting the season with a 3-2 overtime win at home against the Florida Panthers, the Lightning would not disappoint, posting an 11-3-1 record in their first 15 games. With Ben Bishop missing several games in December, the Lightning hit a rough stretch losing seven games early, but they finished the month with four straight wins and went into the New Year holding a record of 24-11-4. One place the Lightning excelled all season was at Amalie Arena as they posted 32-8-1 record on home ice. The Lightning would battle the Montreal Canadiens all season for first place in the Atlantic Division, falling just two points short of a division championship, posting a record of 50-24-8. However, when Tampa faced the team that eliminated them the previous season, they were more than up for the challenge winning all five regular season meetings. Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson each had 72 points to lead the Lightning in scoring, with Stamkos scoring a team best 43 goals, while Ondrej Palat led the team with 47 assists.
2015 Playoffs: In the first round of the playoffs the Lightning would take on the Detroit Red Wings, the team that General Manager Steve Yzerman played his entire Hall of Fame career with and whose model of consistency Yzerman, the NHL’s GM of the Year wished to duplicate in Tampa. After suffering a disappointing 3-2 loss in the series opener, the Lightning rebounded with five goals to even the series with a 5-1 win. However, as the series shifted to Detroit, the Red Wings defense continued to frustrate the Lightning with a 3-0 shutout win in Game 3. Down 2-0 late in Game 4, Tampa appeared to be heading for another shutout loss in Game 4 when Tyler Johnson scored with just over five-minute left in regulation. The Lightning would get the game tying goal just over a minute later from Ondrej Palat. In overtime Johnson would strike again to win the game 3-2 and even the series. Back in Tampa for Game 5, the Red Wings would get another 4-0 shutout win to regain control of the series. Facing elimination on the road, Tyler Johnson again had a big game scoring twice in a 5-2 win to send the series to a seventh game. In Game 7 Ben Bishop saved the day making 31 saves as the game was scoreless into the third period. Finally, Braydon Coburn scored to give Tampa a lead in third period. Anton Stralman would add an empty net goal as Bishop preserved the 2-0 shutout win. The Lightning would move on to face the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. After sweeping the regular season series the Lightning needed double overtime to take the opener in Montreal, winning 2-1 on Nikita Kucherov’s goal at 2:06 as Ben Bishop made 43 saves. Kucherov poured it on in Game 2, scoring twice as the Lightning won the game 6-2 to take a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 at Amalie Arena appeared to be heading for overtime, when Tyler Johnson took a Viktor Headman pass and slipped it past Carey Price with 1.1 seconds left to win the game 2-1. Looking to complete the sweep the Lightning played their worst game of the postseason, losing 6-2. The Canadiens would also take Game 5 by a score of 2-1 and were one win away from evening up the series. Needing to win Game 6 at home, the Lightning got two goals by Nikita Kuckerov and won going away 4-1 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Facing the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals the Lightning were able to get an important win in Game 2, splitting the first two games at Madison Square Garden. In the 6-2 win it was Tyler Johnson again leading the way with his first career playoff hat trick, as Alex Killorn scored twice. As the series shifted to Tampa, the Lightning offense continued to impress as back forth game went into overtime tied 5-5. Overtime would not take long Nikita Kucherov netted his second overtime goal to give the Lightning a 6-5 victory. The Rangers would rebound to take the next game 5-1 and evened the series. Back in Madison Square Garden for Game 5, Ben Bishop benefited from a strong defensive effort to win the game 2-0. However, looking to close things out the Lightning stumbled and suffered a 7-3 loss that would send the series to a seventh game. Facing a Rangers team that was nearly unbeatable in game sevens the Lightning turned up a strong defensive effort as the game remained scoreless into the third period. The Lightning would finally break the deadlock with a goal by Alex Killorn just under two minutes into the third period. Ondrej Palat added an insurance goal, as Ben Bishop stopped 22 shots in a 2-0 win to send the Lightning on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2015 Stanley Cup Finals: The Lightning would face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals. The opener at Amalie Arena was a tight defense affair that the Lightning held a 1-0 lead most of the game on a first period goal by Alex Killorn. However, the Blackhawks would score twice two minutes late if the third period to win the game 2-1. The Lightning would bounce back in Game 2, winning 4-3 in a back and forth game that saw Jason Garrison net the game winner midway through the third period as Ben Bishop was forced out of the game with an undisclosed injury. Bishop returned for Game 3 as the series shifted to Chicago and was solid, making 36 saves, as the Lightning won the game 3-2 with goals by Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette in the third period. Ben Bishop would be rested in Game 4, as the Lightning tried to use a tight defensive effort to protect backup Andrei Vasilevskiy who was making his first career postseason start. The game was tied 1-1 entering the third period, when the Blackhawks got a goal by Brandon Saad to win the game 2-1 and even the series at two games apiece. Returning to Tampa Bay, Ben Bishop got the start in Game 5, but the result was the same as Game 4, as the Blackhawks won the game 2-1 on a goal by Antoine Vermette in the third period. The Blackhawks would go on to win Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons, blanking the Lightning 2-0 in the clinching Game 6 at United Center. The game was scoreless until late in the second period when Duncan Keith lit the lamp with just under three minutes left, they would later get a goal by Patrick Kane as the Lightning despite a furious a finish could not get one past Corey Crawford.
2015/16: Coming off their appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning were considered a favorite in the Eastern Conference. However, storm clouds were over head at the start of the season as the pending free agency of Steven Stamkos was a major concern. Despite opening the season with three straight wins, the Lightning struggled through much of the season’s first half. As the New Year began, the Lightning held a record of 18-16-4 when things looked like they may begin to unravel as Jonathan Drouin refused to report to the team’s AHL Affiliate in Syracuse. The number three overall pick in 2014 and been limited to 19 games due to injuries and had been a major disappointment in the early part of the season. As result Drouin would be suspended and request a trade. While Tampa dealt with Jonathan Drouin off the ice, the Lightning began to look like the team that went to the Finals in January, as they won 9-of-11 games, including all six at Amalie Arena. The Lightning continued their strong play in February as they won ten games and carried a franchise best nine game winning streak into March. As the season hit the stretch drive, injuries began to plague the Lightning as Defenseman Anton Stralman suffered a fractured leg on March 26th. A week later Tampa would lose Captain Steven Stamkos, after a blood clot was discovered in his arm. As the season ended the Lightning finished in second place with a record of 46-31-5.
2016 Playoffs: The Tampa Bay Lightning limped into the playoffs and faced the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. In the opener, it was Nikita Kucherov who rose up with two goals while Alex Killorn netted the game winner as Ben Bishop made 34 saves to win the game 3-2. Game 2 would be all Tampa, as the Lightning struck for five goals to win 5-2. As the series shifted to Detroit, the Lightning could not get anything going in Game 3, as they managed just 16 shots and lost 2-0. In Game 4 Nikita Kucherov would net two more goals to give Tampa an early 2-0 lead, but the Wings battled with goals from Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist. The score would remain tied at two until late in the third period Ondrej Palat scored on the power play with three minutes left to give the Lightning a 3-2 win. Game 5 back at the Amalie Arena would be a battle of the goalies as the game was scoreless until late in the third period, when Alex Killorn lit the lamp for the Lightning with 1:43 left in regulation. It would be the only goal of the game, as Tampa advanced with a 1-0 win, as Ben Bishop was brilliant with 34 saves. In the second round the Lightning would take on the New York Islanders. Ben Bishop would have a rough night in the opener, allowing four goals before being removed as the Islanders won in Tampa 5-3. Bishop bounced back in Game 2, allowing just one goal on 20 shots as the Lightning evened the series with a 4-1 win. Game 3 in Brooklyn would be an old-fashioned shoot out as two teams traded the lead back and forth. Down 4-3 late in the third period Nikita Kucherov struck for the Lightning with the goalie pulled to tie the game with 39 second left. In overtime Brian Boyle would score at 2:48 to give the Lightning a 5-4 win. Game 4 would be the complete opposite as the Islanders held a 1-0 lead after two periods. In the third Kucherov with his eighth goal of the postseason evened the score as they game went into overtime. In OT it would take just 94 Jason Garrison to win the game 2-1 and give Tampa a commanding 3-1 series lead. As the Tampa Bay Lightning prepared to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, they got some good news as Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos were preparing to return. However, in the opener they lost Goalie Ben Bishop to a lower body injury. Fortunately, backup Andrei Vasilevskiy was up to task and stopped 25 of 26 shots as the Lightning won 3-1 in Game 1 on the road. Vasilevskiy got the start in Game 2 as Stralman returned to the ice. The two teams each scored a pair of goals in the first period but did not score again in regulation. In overtime it would be Sidney Crosby scoring the game winner, as the Penguins evened the series with a 3-2 win. As the series shifted to Tampa, the Penguins came out firing in Game 3, and peppered Andrei Vasilevskiy with 48 shots. Vasilevskiy kept the Lightning somewhat in the game, but it was not enough as the Penguins took control of the series with a 4-2 win. In Game 4 it would be Tampa that had the fast start scoring twice in the first two periods. However, in the third the Penguins rallied with three goals, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was able to prevent them from getting the equalizer as the Lightning evened the series with a 4-3 win. Back in Pittsburgh for Game 5, it was the Lightning who had to rally from behind as Nikita Kuckerov scored twice to force overtime. In overtime it was Tyler Johnson scoring at 53 seconds to win the game 4-3 and put the Lightning one win away from a second straight Stanley Cup Final appearance. At Amalie Arena in Game 6, the Lightning showed no spark as the Penguins won easily 5-2 to force a seventh game back at the Consol Energy Center. The Lightning appeared to get an emotional lift for Game 7 as Steven Stamkos was able to suit up for the first time in the playoffs. However, it would not be enough as the Penguins advanced with a pair of goals from goals from Bryan Rust to win the game 2-1. Following the season, the storm clouds lifted over Tampa as Steven Stamkos was re-signed for eight years with a cap friendly deal, as the team also settled the difference with Jonathan Drouin. In addition, General Manager Steve Yzerman worked out long term deals with Viktor Hedman and Alex Killorn.
2016/17: After falling one game short of returning to the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning came into the season as one of the favorites to win the cup. Early on, the Lightning looked strong, as they won five of their first six games. On November 16th, the Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on the road but suffered a big loss on the ice as Steven Stamkos suffered a knee injury. Through the first 17 games, Stamkos had nine goals and 20 points and appeared poised for a big season as Tampa had a record of 11-6-1 he would end up missing the rest of the season. The loss of Stamkos would have a deflating effect on the Lightning as they went into the New Year with a record of 19-15-4. As January began so did a rash of injuries adding to Tampa’s troubles, key players like Tyler Johnson and Anton Stralman were sidelined as the Lightning tumbled down the standings, posting a 3-8-2 record. With their playoff hopes on life support the Lightning began focusing on 2018. One move was settling on a goalie as Ben Bishop was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, paving the way for Andrei Vasilevskiy to assume the lead role in the nets. Despite being sellers at the trade deadline, the Lightning made a late push for the playoffs, winning ten games in March. In the end it was not enough as they fell one point short of the second Wild Card with a record of 42-30-10. Without Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov was Tampa’s top scorer with 40 goals and 85 overall points, while Victor Hedman had a team best 56 assists.
2017/18: After a frustrating season in which they missed the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to rebound as they strengthen their defense by signing Dan Girardi. This would prove to be a significant boost for the Lightning as they won ten games in October, on the way to a 15-2-2 start. The Lightning established early that they were going to be a force in the Eastern Conference, as they entered the New Year with the best record in the league at 28-8-2. With the All-Star Game at Amalie Arena, the Lightning had their share of representatives for the home fans to cheer, as Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Steve Stamkos all played, while Victor Hedman was selected but missed the All-Star Game due to an injury. Late in the season, the Lightning would have to fight off the hard-charging Boston Bruins, but held on to win the Atlantic Division with a record of 54-23-5. Nikita Kucherov led the Lightning in scoring with 100 points. While Victor Hedman won the Norris Trophy, given to the league’s top Defenseman.
2018 Playoffs: The Tampa Bay Lightning began their postseason drive against the New Jersey Devils. In the opener the Lightning showed right away they were poised for a long playoff run, as they recorded a 5-2 win, with five different goal scorers. The Lightning also got five goals in Game 2, as Alex Killorn scored twice to lead the way. With the Devils playing their first home playoff game in six years, the Lightning ran into an impossible task in Game 3, as the Devils used the crowd’s energy to record a 5-2 win. In Game 4, the Devils looked to even the series with red towels waving, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong in net, as Nikita Kucherov scored twice to lead Tampa to a 3-1 win to a 3-1 series lead. Tampa would go on to win the series in five games, also winning 3-1 in the clincher. Next up for the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Boston Bruins, who they battled late in the season for first place overall in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins came out strong in Game 1, despite needing seven games to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they crushed Tampa 6-2, with Patrice Bergeron leading the way. The Lightning bounced back with a 4-2 win in Game 2, as Brayden Point was on point with a goal and three assists. In Game 3 in Boston, the Lightning got two early goals from Ondrej Palat and never looked back, winning 4-1 to take the series lead. Game 4 would prove to be the game of the series as overtime was needed with Tampa taking a licking most of the game. Dan Girardi would deliver the game-winning goal in sudden death as the Lightning left Boston up 3-1 in the series after a 4-3 win. The Lightning would go on to win the series in five games, as they won the clincher 3-1. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning would take on the Washington Capitals, who were seeking to erase four decades of frustration after finally getting past the Pittsburgh Penguins. The series started off poorly for Tampa, as the Capitals came down Amalie Arena and won the first two games 4-2 and 6-2. The Lightning were able to flip the script, with a pair of 4-2 wins in Washington. In Game 5, the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held off a late charge to win 3-2. However, the Lightning would not score again, as they were blanked in Game 6 in Washington 3-0 and lost Game 7 at home 4-0 as the Capitals went on to win the Stanley Cup.
2018/19: After their disappointing finish, the Tampa Bay Lightning who had consistently been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference looked to finally capture the Stanley Cup as they worked hard to resign Ryan McDonagh who had been acquired late in the season from the New York Rangers. Once again, the Lightning managed a great start, as they went 7-1-1 over their first nine games. In November, the Lightning were forced to rely on backup goalie Louis Domingue, as Andrei Vasilevskiy missed time due to injury. It would not matter, as the Lightning began the best stretch in team history. From November 15th through January 12th, the Lightning had just three regulation losses, posting a 23-3-1 record. A big part of the Lightning streak was Nikita Kucherov, who led the NHL in scoring with 128 points, scoring 41 goals, with a league-high 87 assists. Kucherov would go on to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. Kucherov was one of three 40-goal scorers, joined by Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point as the Lightning we by far the top-scoring team in the NHL. They also had a strong defense as Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. The Lightning would capture the President’s Trophy as they equaled the highest win total in NHL history with a record of 62-16-4.
2019 Playoffs: After 62 wins, the Tampa Bay Lightning were the overwhelming favorite to win the Stanley Cup. At no point in the season did the Lightning have a three-game losing streak, only twice did they lose two straight games. It was all set up; the Lightning were a juggernaut and facing a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had never won a postseason series. The Lightning appeared on their way as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 1. However, Columbus scored four unanswered goals and won 4-3 to take the opener. The Jackets would come in the next game and continued to control the ice, winning 5-1 as Tampa was down 2-0 heading to Ohio. For a team that did not lose three straight all season, they picked the wrong time for their first season slump, losing 3-1 in Game 3. By the time Game 4 arrived, Tampa was lost and could not be found, as the Blue Jackets completed the sweep with a 7-3 win, spoiling everything the Tampa Bay Lightning had done in the regular season.
©MMXX Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Hockey League. This site is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning or the NHL. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
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