TAMPA, Fla. — Nick Paul stumbled off the ice toward the Tampa Bay Lightning dressing room, stricken with the sort of injury that compels fans to offer to donate one, or both, of their own legs: ugly, debilitating, maybe even series-ending.
“No,” Paul said. “I was coming back, for sure.”
So he did. He staggered. He lurched. He also scored what proved to be the winning goal Monday in Tampa Bay’s 6-2 romp over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, embodying the fighting spirit of a team that had absorbed a rather — what’s the word here? — decisive defeat just two nights earlier.
It is, by now, N.H.L. canon: No matter what seems to befall the Lightning, whether playoff bubbles or salary-cap crunches or imposing deficits, they — much like Paul’s right leg — are seemingly indestructible. For the second consecutive series, they lost the first two games, one a total fiasco. And for the second consecutive series, they returned to Amalie Arena, where they are 8-1 this postseason, and regrouped.