Former castoff Drouin shines in Game 2 win for Lightning

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

And to think, there was once a time when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Drouin had no use for one another.

Now, Drouin’s spot in the Lightning lineup is not only firmly secure, but the left winger is making important contributions in playoff victories. Drouin scored his first career post-season goal and added an assist in a 4-1 Game 2 win on Saturday as Tampa Bay evened its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Islanders.

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The Tavares & Greiss Show continues in Islanders Game 1 win over Lightning

Thomas Greiss.

John Tavares and Thomas Greiss are willing the New York Islanders to playoff win after playoff win. Three days after the Islanders star center and goalie led them to a first-round win over the Florida Panthers, they teamed up again to take Game 1 of the second round over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tavares had the game-winning goal and an assist and Greiss made 33 saves in New York’s 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

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Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, and Jonathan Quick are your 2016 Vezina Trophy finalists

Braden Holtby (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Unlike a year ago when Montreal’s Carey Price was the no-doubt-about-it winner of the Vezina Trophy, the 2015-16 season had no sure thing.

Three weeks ago, THN made the case for the 10 goalies who were deserving of votes. On Wednesday, the NHL unveiled the three finalists for the award given to “the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position.” They are Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Washington’s Braden Holtby, and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.

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2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs second-round preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders

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TB_NYI

SERIES STARTS: Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET, in Tampa Bay.

THE LIGHTNING WIN IF…

It’s a testament to the Lightning’s depth of roster talent that, without their best player Steven Stamkos and their second-best defenseman Anton Stralman, they still shoved aside the Detroit Red Wings in five games in Round 1. Tampa reached the Stanley Cup final a year ago for a reason. If it was a one- or two-man team, that wouldn’t have been possible.

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Lightning get good news as Stamkos practices, Stralman closing in on return

Jared Clinton
Jonathan Drouin, Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning came two wins shy of winning the Stanley Cup last season, but they’re already through Round One as the franchise chases its second championship. And as difficult as the pursuit of Cup No. 2 is going to be, the Lightning’s chances are going to improve that much more if they can start to get healthy as the playoff wear on.

Tampa Bay got some good news in that regard ahead of Game 1 of the second-round matchup against the New York Islanders.

At Tuesday’s practice, Steven Stamkos took the ice for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot that was in his arm. The most incredible part about Stamkos’ return is that it comes three weeks after he had surgery to remove the clot, which is one week ahead of what was given as the earliest timeline for return, and well ahead of the worst-case scenario, which was a three-month absence from the lineup for Stamkos.

Stamkos took part in line rushes, but sat out contact drills. The issue moving forward will be when Stamkos will be cleared for contact, and there’s no definite timeline on when that could be. According to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith, Stamkos said the “million dollar question” will be how long he needs to remain on blood thinners before getting back in the lineup. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Is friendship with P.K. Subban enough to lure Steven Stamkos to Montreal?

Steven Stamkos. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

If center Steven Stamkos fails to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer, it’s assumed the Toronto Maple Leafs will be his destination of choice via free agency. However, he could entertain an offer from another major Canadian franchise.

In an interview with Richard Labbe of La Presse, NHL Network analyst and former Lightning GM Brian Lawton said he believes Stamkos would consider a contract proposal from the Montreal Canadiens. He suggests Stamkos’ long-time friendship with Habs star P.K. Subban could be among the factors working in Montreal’s favor.

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Life without Steven Stamkos ain’t so bad for the Lightning. HINT, HINT

Matt Larkin
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning looked like a complete hockey team, a.k.a one not missing something or somebody, in Tuesday’s Game 4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Tampa held Detroit to exactly two goals for a fourth straight contest. The Bolts converted three times on the power play, Nikita Kucherov twice and Ondrej Palat once, all assisted by Jonathan Drouin. They head back to Tampa Bay up 3-1 in their Atlantic Division semifinal having scored at least three goals in three of four games.

Would the Lightning be in better shape with captain and top goal scorer Steven Stamkos in the lineup? Of course. Same goes for top-pairing defenseman Anton Stralman. Pencil those two in and we’d probably have a sweep on our hands. But the Lightning have shown something noteworthy with regards to Stamkos, the game’s most famous unrestricted free agent ever: they are a damn good team with or without him.

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Kucherov, Drouin bring Lightning power play to life, Tampa Bay takes 3-1 series lead

Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat celebrate (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Before the post-season had even begun, the Tampa Bay Lightning knew their power play had to improve. And with Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman on the shelf, the Lightning had few options better than calling up Jonathan Drouin, who had walked away from Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate earlier in the season.

Drouin’s effectiveness on the power play was clear upon his return to the AHL. Only days before he was called up to the NHL, Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler was singing the youngsters praises, pointing out Drouin’s skill with the man advantage and noting how he had the ability to put the puck into tight spaces. It makes sense then that with the Lightning power play struggling through three games to the tune of a 1-for-13, 7.7 percent clip that coach Jon Cooper would look to work on the man advantage ahead of Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings. That included giving Drouin a look with the top unit.

“As these games go on, you need to score that power-play goal,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson. “We’ve been trying to find our way there of late. Jonathan Drouin has come back up here, hasn’t had a ton of time to work on the power play with us, but he’s clearly an asset for us in that area, so this is clearly a chance to work on it and we did.’’

Well, that move by Cooper paid off, to say the least. Read more