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Friday, May 7, 2021

The beauty of hockey (and life) is not what you do in a game but what you do afterwards

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Steven Stamkos will be out for 4 to 6 weeks with a broken tibia. He was forced to exit the ice after delivering a no-look pass from behind the net. He’ll leave a hole in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s lineup. With Steven Stamkos out of the lineup, Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman stepped up. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Leigh Sauve put Tampa Bay’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in perspective. There are still 53 games left on the Lightning’s schedule. His team’s skaters face a Herculean task to stay relevant in the Western Conference playoff race. And yet, one more loss does not mean the season is over.

“We would have liked to win this game. But we can’t get too wrapped up in one game,” he said. “We have 53 more to go.”

Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman stepped up big for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

His point. Standing in the middle of a scrum of reporters after the game, he spoke like a man who was happy to be a part of the action.

“It’s a good feeling. When you come to a point in the season, everyone’s,” he said, paraphrasing a quote attributed to a New York Yankee, “working on getting one of these.”

“No one expected us to be in the playoffs or not even to play in the first place. We battled hard and we got better,” he said. “To finish up with three points, it’s a positive sign, and I’m really happy with the way we played.”

Victor Hedman, the 6-foot-6 defenseman, has been Tampa Bay’s best player. He’s one of the NHL’s best skaters and the anchor of Tampa Bay’s top defensive unit. Three points and a goal doesn’t quite make up for the heatless performances of first-round pick Mikhail Sergachev, as well as the missed backhands and passes of Steven Stamkos. But Hedman continued to do the little things to put points on the board. He picked up an assist on Tampa Bay’s first goal, on a nifty feed from the point from Brenden Dillon.

He’s also notched six hits in 19 shifts, a number that surely merits a certain amount of punishment from his own teammates. He also doesn’t let the rough treatment get to him. He’s not a tone-deaf prima donna, but he also has an old school delivery to his game. He welcomes it.

“Not getting blocked shots is a good thing,” he said. “Our PK did a great job killing [tackles] and creating chances for us, especially after they scored the first goal.”

Is it fair to be compared to Jake Gardiner, who is the best defenseman in the group (which may be the case for a while) but has struggled, post-Carey Price, to find his offense?

“He’s playing great. We’re happy he’s here. This is a great position. He’s playing great,” Hedman said. “But again, you’re going to have to deal with something. Our guys put up seven, eight goals on this year. It’s never easy.

“Again, I’m glad we’re keeping pace right now. If you lose one or two, all of a sudden you’re not [in the playoff] picture.”

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