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Bolts Qualify Four Pending RFAs; Grant F Alex Gallant Unrestricted Free Agency

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have issued qualifying offers to four players today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Below is the list of players receiving qualifying offers:

Pos. Player
LW Adam Erne
D Slater Koekkoek
C J.T. Miller
C Cedric Paquette

The deadline for NHL clubs to issue offers is at 5 p.m. today. By issuing qualifying offers to the aforementioned players, the Lightning are given the right of first refusal or draft choice compensation should the player sign an offer sheet with another NHL club.

The Lightning did not issue a qualifying offer to forward Alex Gallant.

Bolts Extend G Louis Domingue for Two Years; Name Halpern Assistance Coach

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Louis Domingue (doh-MING, LOO-ee) to a two-year contract worth $1.15 million per season, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. Yzerman also named former Lightning forward Jeff Halpern to the position of assistant coach today.

Domingue, 26, appeared in 19 NHL games this season with the Lightning and Arizona Coyotes, posting a 7-9-1 record. He won seven of his 11 starts while with the Bolts, including four consecutive games from February 22 through March 18. Domingue made his Bolts debut on January 7 against the Detroit Red Wings, recording 34 saves in the Bolts’ 5-2 victory. Domingue was acquired by the Lightning from Arizona on November 14, 2017 in exchange for goaltender Michael Leighton and forward Tye McGinn. He also made one appearance during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, making seven saves on seven shots on May 11 versus Washington.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound goaltender also appeared in 18 games with the Syracuse Crunch this season, posting a record of 13-5-0 to go along with a 2.17 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Domingue has played in 89 career AHL games over five seasons with the Crunch, Springfield Falcons and Portland Pirates, registering a record of 40-35-3 to go along with a 2.89 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Domingue was originally selected by the Coyotes in the fifth round, 138th overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft.

2017-2018 Final Rankings

Introduction
For the third time in the past four seasons, a Lightning team was able to advance deep into May in the playoffs only to see the Stanley Cup remain elusive. With a roster of mainstays that have been together for over a half decade now, is this the summer that Steve Yzerman decides to make some changes? If he does, Tampa Bay is in the rare and envious position of having a surplus of hungry young lions pawing at the gate to get into the NHL.

To some surprise, a very youthful Syracuse Crunch team was able to once again go multiple rounds in the Calder Cup playoffs after a strong regular season where they remained one of the AHL Eastern Conference's best teams even after divesting its roster of a number of quality veteran players. This development, along with the Canadian junior nationals once again looking like the Lightning's own U20 academy team, highlighted the remarkable quality of the club's pipeline. We count, easily, at least 11 legitimate future NHL players on the 2017-2018 Final Rankings, with the club soon to add another draft class into the fold.

A brief reminder of the rules: Only players under the age of 24 on opening night of the 2017-2018 season are eligible for ranking. Skaters with 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more total NHL games are considered graduated from the rankings. Goaltenders with 30 or more decisions in a single season or 41 or more career NHL decisions are also considered graduated. Lastly, NCAA players remain eligible for ranking for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.

Lightning Extend G Eddie Pascale with One-Year, Two-Way Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed goaltender Eddie Pasquale to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Pasquale, 27, appeared in 31 American Hockey League games last season, splitting the season between the Bakersfield Condors and Crunch, posting a record of 16-6-7 to go along with a 2.19 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. In 15 games with Syracuse, the Toronto, Ontario native went 10-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. He ranked fourth in the AHL for goals-against average and fifth for save percentage.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound goaltender has played in 226 career AHL games over seven seasons, compiling a record of 110-84-13 to go along with a 2.54 goals-against average and .914 save percentage with 16 shutouts. Pasquale set career bests for goals-against average and save percentage during the 2017-18 season. He helped lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup Championship in 2017.

Pasquale was originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round, 117th overall, at the 2009 NHL Draft.

Bolts Deal G Peter Budaj to Kings for F Andy Andreoff

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired forward Andy Andreoff from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for goaltender Peter Budaj, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Andreoff, 27, appeared in 45 games with the Kings during the 2017-18 season, posting three goals and nine points to go along with 50 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound forward set career highs for assists (six), shots on goal (47) and game-winning goals (two) last season. Andreoff has skated in 159 career NHL games, all with the Kings, posting 13 goals and 24 points to go along with 214 penalty minutes.

The Pickering, Ontario native has also played in 157 career American Hockey League games, all with Manchester over four seasons, recording 30 goals and 72 points to go along with 259 penalty minutes. Andreoff last played in the AHL during the 2014-15 season when he posted five goals and 10 points in seven games with the Monarchs.

Andreoff was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round, 180th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Bolts Extend F Carter Verhaeghe on One-Year, Two-Way Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Carter Verhaeghe to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Verhaeghe, 22, played in 58 games with the Syracuse Crunch last season, posting 17 goals and 48 points to go along with 30 penalty minutes. He ranked second on Syracuse for points and was third for goals and assists (31). The Toronto, Ontario native led the Crunch for power-play goals with seven. Verhaeghe also appeared in seven Calder Cup Playoff games, recording a goal and eight points.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound forward has skated in 135 career AHL games with the Crunch, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Toronto Marlies over four seasons, recording 39 goals and 93 points. Verhaeghe set career highs for games played, goals, assists and points during the 2017-18 season while with the Crunch.

Verhaeghe was acquired by the Lightning from the New York Islanders in exchange for goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis on July 1, 2017.

Lightning Re-Signs Pending RFA Daniel Walcott

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Daniel Walcott to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Walcott, 5-foot-11, 174 pounds, played in 62 games with the Syracuse Crunch last season, recording five goals and 16 points with a plus-5 rating. He also appeared in seven Calder Cup Playoff games in 2018 and recorded an assist.

A native of Ile Perrot, Quebec, Walcott has played in 180 career AHL games with the Crunch and Hartford Wolf Pack. He has amassed 11 goals and 44 points with four game-winning goals. Walcott has also skated in 20 Calder Cup Playoff games, all with Syracuse in the previous two seasons, recording five assists.

The Lightning acquired Walcott’s rights from the New York Rangers on June 1, 2015 in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2015.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-23-18 Capitals at Lightning

Soul searching time in the Lightning organization.

Eastern Conference Final

WSH-4
TB-0

Washington Wins the Series 4-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss. None of the three goals he allowed were soft, but in this moment he's got to make a big situational save on at least one of the Burakovsky breakaways to give his team a chance. This will be an interesting offseason for Andrei, who is renowned for his work ethic. He had an amazing first half, a subpar second half, and an uneven playoffs. It was altogether more good than bad, but I would think he's going to focusing on improving his consistency and some other minor fixes to his game like making sure he stays more upright when he goes down in the butterfly and making sure he consistently pushes out to cut down the angle on shooters.

First Period
1:02 WSH Ovechkin (12), (Kuznetsov, Wilson)

Second Period
8:59 WSH Burakovsky (1), (unassisted)
16:31 WSH Burakovsky (2), (Carlson)

Third Period
16:17 WSH Backstrom (4), (unassisted)

The simplistic thing to do would be to look at the 4-0 score tonight and say the team didn't show up. I already see some national talking heads doing just that on social media. The fact of the matter is that the Lightning were the victim of the cruel hand of the hockey gods at one of the most inopportune moments imaginable. They outshot the Caps 29-23 and I suspect outchanced them by a greater margin. Did they surrender a goal very early in the game? Sure. But that wasn't because of a flat start. Tip your cap to Ovechkin for being a sniper who can pound that shot off the rush without a ton of room to do so. And then tip your cap to Holtby for being able to hold out wave after wave of Lightning chances, even when Holtby himself had no clue where the puck actually was. The greatest frustration of all came in the Second Period, though, when I thought the team had clearly outplayed the Caps only to see Victor Hedman hit a post and Yanni Gourde whiff in front of a wide open net. A freak play by Dan Girardi having to drop a puck that was shot into his body in the neutral zone leading to one breakaway and then a bad defensive pair change leading to a second, and the game was over after two periods even though the Lightning had carried the balance of play. A three goal deficit is a death sentence in pro hockey after two frames, and especially so against a Barry Trotz coached trapping team. Another simplistic reading would be that the Lightning didn't put up a fight in the Third Period. The fact of the matter is you've got a better chance of slaying a Sasquatch than you do clawing back goals when you're that far behind playing against that trap.

What's the lesson we take from all this? Sometimes hockey's unfair. Just like life. More to the point, though, the Lightning actually no-showed Games One, Two, and Six of this series and had to have Vasilevskiy thieve Game Four for them. When you get to this stage of the season against the quality of teams you face in these moments, you can't spot teams games. A veteran laden team like the Lightning, with all their experience, should've known better. But, they mentally sagged after the triumph of slaying rival Boston in the previous rounds, and then checked out after fighting back to put Washington on the brink. These are painful breakdowns in leadership and mental discipline these players are going to have to live with the rest of their lives.

The Lightning organization now finds itself at a bit of a crossroads. It was the best of times, having been to the Eastern Conference Final or further three of the past four season, but it was also the worst of times having come up dry in the pursuit of a championship. Critical questions need to be asked throughout the building on Channelside, beginning with the question of whether this team is in danger of lapsing into the kind of "elite mediocrity" teams like the Caps and Sharks have been trapped in for what seems like a decade. No one can deny that Tampa Bay is a model franchise built to have more deep playoff runs well into the foreseeable future. But, are they constructed to win championships? Are some of the mainstay players on the roster now tainted with the stench of multiple postseason failures to get all the way over the hump? The coaching staff?

I'm not advocating a complete overhaul by any means. I suspect we will shortly learn that certain players like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov who seemingly underperformed over the past few weeks have been hiding significant injuries that have to be weighed in the overall evaluation. But, at the end of the day, this Lightning organization is stocked to the gills with good young players in Syracuse and the junior ranks. A strategic and surgical scrambling of the roster to replace some of those crusty, stale mainstays with exciting new blood is a necessity both from a hockey and a financial standpoint. It's coming. It needs to happen. To put it bluntly, the window is closing on a lot of players who have been cornerstones of the past half decade here, and it shut completely on a few others. Harsh but true.

One other thing I want to mention tonight, only because it irks me for its parallels to the 2011 series against Boston. It frustrates me to no end that the referees made a decision over the past two or three games to completely swallow their whistles. Just as in 2011, it's as if they made a conscious decision that because Tampa Bay's power play was so lethal and therefore each power play had an outsized chance of impacting the outcome of the games that they just weren't going to call anything. "Letting the boys decide it," is an act of moral cowardice by the refs, and despite their thinking that they aren't making a choice by electing to swallow their whistles they are, in fact, choosing to disadvantage the team with the better power play. We saw Yanni Gourde get cross checked in the nose in the First Period in a scrum. No call. We saw Washington play with seven skaters on the ice for a while in the First Period. No call. We saw copious quantities of clutching and grabbing throughout this series that reached epidemic proportions in the first 40 minutes of this game. No calls. I'm not going to sit here and tell you the Lightning also didn't commit infractions that could've been called and weren't because of what the refs chose to do. But the fact of the matter is the Lightning outpossessed Washington by huge proportions for wide swaths of the First and Second Periods, most notably the first five minutes of the Second Period, and there's no way in hell Washington didn't commit a penalty in those spaces of time. A team like Tampa Bay is constructed for possession and to accrue the benefits from that possession that come in the form of, among other things, increased power play time. The decision by the refs, which is a gutless calculation designed to proclaim they didn't favor one team over another, favored the team built for clutching and grabbing that is better built for counter attacking (the Caps) over the possession-oriented team (the Lightning). And that's wrong. It was in 2011 and it is still wrong now.

Anthony Cirelli had 1 hit and was 33% on 6 draws in 13:03. He's become a solid, valuable player for this team and he's still a boy among men. He's got a lot to do to develop a pro body and to work on improving his burst and acceleration so he can dig down and find a top gear when he needs it. He's really smart and has a great work ethic, though, and he should be one of the future leaders of this team.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-21-18 Lightning at Capitals

Desperate Caps outlast Lightning to push series to the limit.

Eastern Conference Final

TB-0
WSH-3

Series Tied 3-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
15:12 WSH Oshie (6), (Backstrom, Kuznetsov)(PP)

Third Period
10:02 WSH Smith-Pelly (4), (Stephenson, Beagle)
19:10 WSH Oshie (7), (Backstrom)(EN)

At the end of the day, the Caps were the more desperate team with their backs against the wall and it showed in their physical intensity and resolve. The Lightning now have a choice to make. This team had two cracks at eliminating Pittsburgh two years ago and they couldn't get it done. This time they've got Game Seven at home and they've played two less games than the Capitals have in these playoffs and one would argue it will be hard for the Caps to replicate the level of intensity they displayed in Game Six. To me, it really comes down to whether the Lightning make the decision to dig their heels in, focus on the task, and get it done. They should be the fitter team, and the 82 game slog of the regular season was all to give them this opportunity for the fans to have their backs in a critical elimination. They just have to step up and play their best game on Wednesday and they'll be fine.

Anthony Cirelli was scoreless in 13:30. I wonder if he has some kind of nagging injury or the team is just sheltering him because he's taken very few draws the past couple of games.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-19-18 Capitals at Lightning

Tampa Bay's lower lines author a Game Five triumph.

Eastern Conference Final

WSH-2
TB-3

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the victory. When the time game to make the big situational saves at the end of the game, he was there. You can't help but wonder if 20 years from now we're going to look back at this series as one of the defining mileposts of a special career.

First Period
0:19 TB Paquette (1), (Callahan)
9:04 TB Palat (6), (Kucherov)

Second Period
0:33 TB Callahan (2), (Stralman, Kunitz)
4:21 WSH Kuznetsov (11), (Niskanen, Oshie)

Third Period
18:24 WSH Ovechkin (11), (Carlson, Eller)

Ryan Callahan, Cedric Paquette, and Vasilevskiy were the game's three stars.

My man, Ceddy P. The Dump Truck. Nineteen seconds into the game he blisters a centering feed past Holtby and the Lightning just turned in the First Period of First Periods from there. The Lightning came to the rink prepared to do what it took to take control of this series from the opening puck drop and they could've easily been up 4-0 in the opening frame and a lot of that had to do with the quality and dominance of the team's third and fourth lines. You're not seeing the sustained pressure from the Stamkos and Point lines, but the Cirelli and Paquette lines have been fantastic. It's pretty amazing to see, less than two weeks away from Boston blowhard Jack Edwards implying Paquette was the worst player in the NHL, Dump Truck and his line actually beating the mighty Ovechkin line. Yeah, Ovechkin got his garbage time goal with the extra attacker on tonight, but he went shotless for what seemed like the first 15 minutes of his 20+ minutes of ice time.

Washington will hang their hat on the fact they clawed back a couple of goals in the final two periods while they were chasing the game with score effects. They'll have a little momentum facing elimination in Game Six, but they'll also have to contend with copious ghosts of playoff disappointments past, too. Meanwhile, the veteran-laden Tampa Bay Lightning are now just a single win from the Stanley Cup Final, and over the past three games they've shown a certain savvy to do just what it takes to get the win and keep it moving. If I'm Coach Cooper, I'm feeling pretty good about that group of guys being within eyesight of the finish line to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Pretty good, indeed.

Anthony Cirelli had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:46. He was good on the forecheck tonight, helping the Lightning generate pressure and keeping the Caps 200 feet from Vasilevskiy's net.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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