MAY 3, 2016: BOYLE DELIVERS THE KNOCKOUT BLOW
The Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a goal deficit three separate times in Game 3 of their second round series versus the New York Islanders in Brooklyn.
And less than three minutes into overtime, Lightning forward Brian Boyle dealt the final, knockout blow to the Islanders.
Boyle gained possession of the puck entering the offensive zone and skated down the right side before dropping a pass across ice to Victor Hedman. The Lightning defenseman whizzed a shot at the Islanders’ net but missed the target. The puck, however, caromed off the end boards to the opposite side of the goal, where Boyle was parked.
Boyle skillfully trapped the rebound with his skate to settle the puck then slammed it into the open net to cap a wild, back-and-forth Game 3 and give the Lightning a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
Boyle drew the ire of Islanders head coach Jack Capuano for a perceived head shot on Thomas Hickey during the battle for the puck at the blue line that set up the game-winner. After knocking Hickey down, Boyle took possession of the puck and scored seconds later.
“It was a great hockey game,” Capuano said in his post-Game 3 press conference. “Unfortunately, a blow to the head, a head shot, had to end the game.”
Capuano was convinced his view of the play would be vindicated via video review and Boyle would be disciplined for Game 4.
No such discipline was deemed necessary as Boyle suited up for Game 4, and his timely Game-3 winner proved to be the turning point in the series.
FEBRUARY 28, 2016: SLIP AND FALL
The Tampa Bay Lightning extended their win streak to six games courtesy of a satisfying 4-1 victory over their division nemesis from Boston.
And an untimely miscue from a Bruins defenseman contributed to the Bolts’ winning goal.
With the score tied 1-1, Adam McQuaid set up for a slap shot along the blue line but fell as he began to wind up.
The Lightning astutely pounced on the mistake, Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn starting a two-on-none the other way. Callahan and Killorn passed the puck back and forth as they skated down the ice. Killorn got the puck in deep, baiting Tuukka Rask into thinking he’d be the shooter. At the last possible moment, Killorn dished once more to Callahan, who had nothing in front of him with Rask off to the other side of the goal.
Callahan extended his point streak to four games with the goal. The Lightning took over sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division with the victory and helped push the Bruins down in the standings and eventually out of the playoffs.
Bishop Gets in the Way vs. Kucherov Goes Beast Mode
DECEMBER 30, 2015: BISHOP GETS IN THE WAY
Tampa Bay didn’t have much success against the New York Rangers in 2015-16, a season after dispatching the Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.
After winning the opening matchup, the Lightning lost the next two. The Rangers defeated the Bolts 5-2 in the final game of 2015, but Ben Bishop’s two-on-one save early in the third period proved worthy enough to make our Top 32 list.
With the Rangers up 3-2, Chris Kreider and Kevin Klein started a break the other way with only Anton Stralman back to defend for the Bolts. Klein took the puck down the right wing and drew Stralman his way before sliding a pass underneath Stralman to Kreider on the back post.
All Kreider had to do was neatly tuck the puck into the net. Bishop, though, read the play and was able to react quick enough to hurry over and shut the door.
That save would keep the Lightning in the game a little longer, but the Rangers scored two empty-net goals late to leave Amalie Arena with a 5-2 victory.
FEBRUARY 12, 2016: KUCHEROV GOES BEAST MODE
Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov scored a career-best 30 goals in 2015-16.
His most impressive, arguably, was this determined sprint toward goal with Nashville’s Ryan Ellis draped all over his back.
From behind the Tampa Bay net, Nikita Nesterov sprung Kucherov with a stretch pass up the middle of the ice, hitting Kucherov in stride near the Predators’ blue line. Ellis struggled to catch up to Kucherov, grabbing, clutching, holding, anything to slow the Russian down.
Despite drawing a penalty, Kucherov would not be denied. He remained on his feet, fought off Ellis’ challenge and jabbed the puck toward Predators’ goalie Pekka Rinne. When Rinne blocked the first attempt, Kucherov jabbed again, sliding the puck under Rinne’s pads to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead in a game the Bolts would win 4-3 in overtime.
Boiling Point vs. Hedman Fills in at Goalie
JANUARY 19, 2016: BOILING POINT
Lightning forward Brian Boyle isn’t known for his speed.
In a home game against the Edmonton Oilers, however, Boyle used what burst he had to beat Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson to a loose puck for the game-winning goal, sending the Bolts to their sixth win in a row.
On a third-period penalty kill, Braydon Coburn lifted a puck out of the zone to clear it. The puck bounced on the ice at the opposite blue line and checked up, allowing Boyle the chance to catch up to it.
Nilsson saw the potential for a Boyle breakaway, so he came well out of his net and into the left circle to try and beat Boyle to the loose puck.
Boyle, however, would not be denied.
He outraced Nilsson to the puck, got Nilsson to fall to his knees then, from a tight angle, fired a shot into the open goal ahead of Nail Yakupov, who was scurrying back to try to fill the voided net.
The goal gave the Lightning a 5-4 lead in a game they would eventually win 6-4.
JANUARY 8, 2016: HEDMAN FILLS IN AT GOALIE
On July 1, the Tampa Bay Lightning star defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year contract extension, keeping him in a Bolts sweater through the 2024-25 season.
It turns out, the Bolts are also getting a pretty good emergency goalie during the length of that contract too.
In a midseason game at Edmonton with Tampa Bay already behind 1-0, the Oilers were hammering Ben Bishop’s goal with chance after chance. Bishop kept the first few out but slid out of position as a result. Hedman slipped into the vacated net and dove to keep a shot from Leon Draisaitl out right before the end of the first period.
The Lightning would fall behind 2-0 in Edmonton before rallying for three goals in the third period to win 3-2, a come-from-behind victory that ignited a seven-game win streak for the Bolts, their second longest of the season.
And credit Hedman, an unlikely source, with the biggest stop of the night.
Fil-ing the Net vs. Killorn Finishes off the Red Wings
NOVEMBER 25, 2015: FIL-ING THE NET
The Tampa Bay Lightning were just average in shootouts in 2015-16, going 3-3 in games that made it past 60 minutes of regulation and another five minutes of 3-on-3.
After dropping their first two shootouts of the season, the Lightning finally broke through in a Thanksgiving eve matchup against the Los Angeles Kings.
Jonathan Marchessault gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead after the first round of the shootout, but Anze Kopitar answered for the Kings in the second. After Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Toffoli both came up empty, Valtteri Filppula had a chance to win it for the Bolts with the final attempt of round three.
Filppula used a beautiful move to beat Jonathan Quick and give the Lightning their first shootout win of the season. Filppula baited Quick into thinking he was shooting glove side, then quickly pulled the puck back to his forehand and lifted the puck over Quick’s right shoulder to find the back of the net.
The victory over the Kings would cap a three-game win streak for the Lightning, all three wins coming against playoff opponents in the Kings, Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers.
APRIL 21, 2016: KILLORN FINISHES OFF THE RED WINGS
Alex Killorn has a knack for rising to the occasion.
The higher the stakes, the greater Killorn’s impact.
Last season, the 26-year-old forward delivered the winning goal in Game 7 against the Rangers to clinch the Eastern Conference crown and a spot in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
And who could forget his wonder goal in the opening game of the SCF when he tipped a shot down onto the ice with his backhand, bouncing it past Corey Crawford for the first goal of the series.
In 2016, Killorn continued to save his best for when it counted most.
With a chance to close out the Detroit Red Wings on home ice in Game 5 of a first round series, the Lightning labored to find a way to get a puck past Petr Mrazek. Through 58 minutes, neither team had been able to score.
Mrazek misplayed a puck behind his goal in the closing seconds, however, and the Lightning capitalized. Ryan Callahan grabbed possession, and Killorn went to an open area of the net.
The Lightning scored
And the Red Wings were finished, for the second year in a row, at the hands of the Lightning.