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\Where Thursday night’s Game 3 lacked in positive outcome, it blustered in home-ice spectacle and typical playoff revelry. Which is why we’re back with Sights & Sounds: Obscure thoughts and observations from everything Bolts Nation both on and off the ice. Thursday brought much to talk about from pregame to the final horn. Let’s dive into the best of it. \

The Varsity Spirit and Bolts pregame crowd combusted into one of the wildest public masses you’ll ever see

Returning cheerleading competition Varsity Spirit is expected to bring up to 26,000 attendees to the Tampa Convention Center throughout Thursday to Sunday. And ahead of Thursday night’s game, it felt like all 26,000 of them descended upon AMALIE Arena. There were Cheer Dads with green beards and Bolts Dudes with blue beards, both of which equally deserving—albeit for much different reasons—of a frosty beverage under a hot sun.

Godspeed to whoever accidentally visited Tampa for the first time this weekend and stepped out of the JW into a lawless mosh of distressed fanhood and parenting. We swear it's not usually like this.

Overheard on Water Street

Approximately 45 minutes before puck drop, a girl not possibly older than 11, accompanied by two friends and seemingly no adults, stopped her fellow BFFs in front of Small Giant Bar & Restaurant and said aloud:

“Wait, I need another mocktail.”

And just walked in.

It was perhaps the most South Tampa thing I have ever seen in my life. A mercurial sign of the times? A simple “kids say the darndest things” moment? A highly lucrative youth T-shirt idea? I'm still not sure, but probably a touch of all three.

Get ready to see a million APMAT hats this summer

And while we have one on, a tip of the APMAT hat to another phenomenal Lightning pregame show

Lightning founder Phil Esposito’s still got panache. And all of it was on display in full LED glory as the Bolts sprawled their hype video across the ice before the game.

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Lightning Vision’s innovation and spectacle somehow manages to up the ante every year in the playoffs. And the word-of-mouth trickles to the streets. Ahead of last night’s game, there was no bigger subject of talk than getting in early for the pregame festivities. (If you haven’t noticed, we do our fair share of harmless eavesdropping in Sights & Sounds.) It was wonderful and endearing to hear.

Classic Panthers Fans, Ranked

3. The Panthers fan wearing a Panthers jersey and a New York Knicks hat
2. The Panthers fan wearing a Panthers jersey and a New England Patriots hat
1. The Panthers fan wearing a bathing suit and FiveFingers

Classic Lightning Fans, Ranked

3. The Lightning fan in hyper-stressed fetal position
2. The Lightning fan wearing a Masters polo spotting and high-fiving another Lightning fan wearing a Masters polo
1. Tristan Wirfs

The crowd adrenaline in the second period could be bottled up and sold illegally

For the first ten minutes of the second frame, the Bolts played like they had Roman Candles strapped to their skates, taking their first lead in the series with a pair of goals from Steven Stamkos and Tyler Motte. The deranged peppering of pucks on net sent the crowd into a frenzy—the kind of heart-palpitating mayhem you only get in the playoffs. Despite the end result, it was good to have that feeling again.

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Screw it, let’s go nuts for Game 4

There’s no question Tampa Bay boasts one of the more special hockey communities in the NHL. There’s an untouchable sellout streak and the unassailable opinion of Steven Stamkos to corroborate that sentiment. But what constitutes an elite and proper “Hockey Town”? I’m not sure it has as much to do with things like history and depth of knowledge as it does communal spirit. And while Tampa Bay has that in droves, Saturday night is a great opportunity to back up the proclamation it’s long decreed. Do you stand by the boys until the final horn? Do you show up with reckless abandon despite your chances being statistically slim? In order to place yourself in the upper echelon of American hockey towns, I think you have to. And you might as well do it your way.

Have a Saturday. Let it rip. Holler a GO BOLTS until you can’t anymore. Who knows? You just might catch a miracle in the process.

Until then, we’re going to need another mocktail.