Off the Dot: The most thrilling three-minutes of Lightning hockey I’ve seen all season


Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Dot is an ongoing column of opinions, feelings and thoughts on all things Tampa Bay Lightning.  This is a knee-jerk reaction column for the many things that a fan maybe feels or thinks throughout a hockey season.

This is NOT a stat by stat analysis of the Bolts, but rather a theater of words concerning the Lightning and the many emotions tangled up in supporting your favorite NHL team; a theater for all fans to come to for a more personal take on Tampa Bay hockey.

That’s why I call it “off the dot”.  Because if we were “on the dot”, as in face-off mode, well, things would be decidedly more on-point and specific.  While off the dot, while we’re still just milling around the face-off circle, as I am now, waiting for the whistle to blow, then we’re just being conversational.  We’re just talking about our thoughts on strategy maybe or whatever random concept happens to come to mind, needing to be expressed.  The fun off-key banter of fans before someone (whoever) decides to hunker down, spread out their skates, and get nose-deep over the dot for the real face-off, and maybe say, statistically speaking, what happened in a win or loss in their more researched opinion.  And we have those articles all over Bolts by the Bay, and I very much encourage you to check out those articles too.

These are just my opinions, my feelings, and my thoughts – while we’re off the dot.

The game last night against the New York Islanders was, for the most part, pretty pathetic in my opinion (excluding the opening minutes of the first period when the Tampa Bay Lightning put an unprecedented amount of shots on goal with no results).

Now bear with me.

I love my Lightning, but this opinion (and maybe some of you share it) is based on past play and the caliber team they were facing.  The Isles pretty much dominated the lion’s share of the game, disrupting everything Tampa Bay tried to get going.

Aside from Ben Bishop’s beyond amazing performance in net (the Lightning gave up numerous one-on-one breakaways, even a two-on-no one breakaway at one point that somehow Bishop miraculously came up with a HUGE save), the score would have been far too lopsided in the Isles favor for two-goals to have been enough for the Lightning to comeback from.

Until those final three-minutes of concentrated awesomeness in the third period which saw the Bolts erase a two-goal deficit to draw even with 3.8 seconds left on the clock; force overtime, and then eventually win in another sweat-inducing shootout, I had pretty much concluded the game in the Isles favor with less than 10 minutes left to play.

That is, before Valtteri Filppula sunk his first of two late-game goals to draw even with New York.

I was even talking to my best friend, and fellow hockey nut (an Islanders fan), online during the game, composing my next lines of acceptance over the loss (because you got to be classy when that happens amongst friends) when the first Lightning goal struck out of nowhere.

I couldn’t stop myself from deleting my previously written paragraph of falsely contented words and writing him back, in all caps, “GOALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!  LIGHTNING SCOREEEEEEE!!!!!!!!”

As if he didn’t already know.  He was watching the exact same game I was and probably didn’t appreciate the all-caps blast I hit him with, which is honestly obnoxious (I know this).

Previous to that, after five more minutes of sloppy play by the Lightning, in a very dejected voice of acceptance I told my son, who watches most games with me, there were no way the Bolts were coming back after the Isles scored their second goal more than halfway through the third period.

“They barely seem to get the puck past the neutral zone; let alone score two goals in the next five minutes.”

My son said nothing but “Go Lightning!” a few seconds later, as if I hadn’t said anything at all; his focus was so complete on the game.

And well, as it turns out, I was very, very wrong.  My statement was ill-timed (and now I’m a bit ashamed of not having more faith in the Lightning, but come on, that was some frustrating play) because the Bolts ended up producing one of the most exciting and concentrated three-minute efforts I have seen all season.

The Lightning scored the two required goals in a span of time that has seemed very hard for them to do over the past few weeks of drought after goal-drought, and stole the win away from an Islanders team who looked to have two points firmly in their possession for much of the game.

My son and I jumped from our couch in unison and collectively screamed out into the room our complete joy and incomprehension at how this had suddenly happened.

We did our little secret (not so secret) celebratory dances which we always do after a Lightning goal or victory.  The dances looked hauntingly similar to the way Bill and Ted air guitar.

I, for one, was primarily surprised at the sudden turn of events.  Things had changed so rapidly from pure despondency to over-whelming pride in, well, three-minutes.

But my son, who smiled, and traded high-fives with me through our many goofy celebrations, just said “Go Lightning” with joy and his own sense of reserved confidence.  He might have known the Bolts had that comeback in them all along.

He could have told me, because it sure seems like I needed a clue.

From my son, Gavin, and Off the Dot, Go Lightning!