Hedman absence compounds Lightning problems

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets and without their leading scorer, will now have to contend with the absence of their best defenseman, too.

Victor Hedman, the NHL’s reigning Norris winner, did not take the pre-game warmup ahead of a pivotal Game 3 on Sunday night in Ohio.

The news leaves the Lightning without this year’s likely Hart winner, out due to suspension for a bone-headed hit on Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara, and Hedman, who leads the Lightning in ice-time through the first two games.

Tampa, who matched an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, need a win to turn this series around. Head coach Jon Cooper called his team’s situation a “five-alarm fire” after an ugly 5-1 loss in Game 2.

The Lightning have no points from Kucherov, Steven Stamkos or Brayden Point, all who scored at least 40 goals and had at least 90 points during the regular season.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck