You don’t win back-to-back Stanley Cups and challenge for a third without being tough, and the Tampa Bay Lightning proved that on Thursday night.
Over the course of Game 2 of the second round against the Florida Panthers, several Lightning players headed to the dressing room after suffering injuries, but kept coming back to play. In fact, this series of players leaving and returning started before the game even began.
In warmups, forward Corey Perry took a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and hit him in the face, then left the ice to get stitches before coming back ahead of puck drop.
“That’s a first,” said Perry after the game, smiling. “You play this game long enough, you’re gonna see a couple firsts.”
Then in the first period both Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev took pucks to the face and left the game, with Sergachev returning for the start of the second and Cernak following later in the period.
Captain Steven Stamkos then got in on the action by blocking a shot of his own in the second, and returned to the game after taking a trip to the room.
But he wasn’t done there.
In the third period, he blocked a shot from Panthers defenceman Mackenzie Weegar with his right hand and took yet another trip down the tunnel.
He returned to the bench just minutes later, but forward Brandon Hagel almost simultaneously blocked another shot and hobbled off the ice.
“There was lots of guys getting stitched up tonight, but they all came back. It was a hell of an effort,” said head coach Jon Cooper.
Despite all the bumps and bruises, the Lightning triumphed 2-1 courtesy of Ross Colton’s game-winner past Sergei Bobrovsky with 3.8 seconds remaining in the game.
The Lightning now lead the Battle of Florida 2-0, having won both games on the road.