Players battled through injuries – broken bones, torn ligaments – to play for each other through the grueling physical stretch that is post-season.
With Lightning’s season on the line on Saturday night, center Brayden Point – arguably the team’s best player in the first-round series against Toronto – attempted to play through an apparent lower-body injury.
But he couldn’t. Point is the best and fastest Lightning skater, but he was clearly skating on one foot trying to get back into Game 7.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper had no update after Lightning’s 2-1 win over the Leafs, but it looks like Point will be out indefinitely as Tampa Bay advances to a second-round match with the Florida Panthers.
“Everyone saw what happened,” Cooper said.
Point was chasing a puck toward the side boards in the attacking area late in the first time when Toronto defender Mark Giordano made a quick pass to the disc. Point’s body twisted awkwardly and his right leg collapsed as he slid into the planks.
Point was in palpable pain, he immediately retained his right hip when he fell, and wriggled on the ice until he was back on his feet and sprinted, unable to put weight on his right leg.
Point was back on the bench at the start of the second period, taking one 25-second shift 1:53 into the period, but clearly not feeling well.
Dot appeared in pain as she clearly tried to skate. Never ski again.
“He tried it,” Cooper said. “He wasn’t going into the room. He was going to be on the bench the whole time, but he couldn’t go.”
Point has been on the Lightning bench the entire time, studying a tablet to give his teammates feedback and cheer on his teammates from the sideline.
“Everyone wants to be in the fight,” said defender Victor Hedman. “It doesn’t matter how many turns you get, or if you don’t play at all. …having him on the bench, he was a huge motivator. Even with D, he was there encouraging us. That goes a long way and says it all about our group. We are a tight-knit group.” We’ve been through a lot together and it’s a great feeling to come out on top.”
Point, who scored 28 Premier League goals in the previous two seasons, were exceptional on both ends of the ice in this year’s first-round series. A line installed whose mission is to neutralize threats from Toronto’s upper line was Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
While Point hasn’t been on the pace of goals he’s been in the past two seasons, he used his speed to play a dominant 200-foot game, and was rewarded with the biggest goal of the post-Lightning season, the overtime-winner of the 6PM game Thursday at Amalie Arena.
Before exiting Saturday’s game, Point led Lightning’s pace with his pace. In Lightning’s first power game, he played into the corner with his stick to prevent Toronto from taking the disc out of the Toronto area, helping Lightning to retain possession and setting the timing of the area.
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