Lightning keep playoff hopes alive with win over Canadiens


The Tampa Bay Lightning are not going away without a fight.

Thanks to their 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, the Lightning kept their playoff hopes alive for one more day and pulled to within a single point of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Now, they have to wait and hope.

For the Lightning to secure the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which is still a three-way fight between them, the Maple Leafs, and New York Islanders, they are going to need Toronto to lose both of its remaining games (against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday and Sunday), the Islanders to lose at least one of their remaining two games (against the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators on Saturday and Sunday) and then take matters into their own hands on Sunday by defeating the Buffalo Sabres.

That is asking a lot, especially since almost all of the teams their playoff competition is facing this weekend have absolutely nothing to play for. Still, no matter how slim the chance might be, one still does exist.

The star for the Lightning on Friday night was Yanni Gourde with a pair of goals, giving him five in his past six games for the Lightning. Before that stretch began he had managed just one goal in his first 12 games this season.

Nikita Kucherov had another huge game for the Lightning by scoring his 40th goal of the season and adding an assist in the win.

Overall this year he is second in the league in goals and sixth in total points even though he has missed eight games. But his performance has gone to a completely different level since with a league-best 40 points (in only 29 games) since Feb. 1.

What makes this late season push by the Lightning so amazing is that they are doing it without Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. Stamkos has been sidelined since November following knee surgery and it is still not known if he will be able to play on Sunday, while Johnson has played just two games since March 9.