Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Tampa Bay Lightning captivated by Tampa Bay Rays wild card berth
Posted Sep 29, 2011 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Sep 29, 2011 at 12:26 PM
While the Lightning were prepping for Thursday night’s preseason game against the Canadiens, the talk around the team centered instead around baseball.
With plenty of Tampa Bay Rays supporters inside the Lightning locker room, the stunning turnaround of events late Wednesday night provided plenty of buzz during the morning skate after the Rays late rally to earn the wild card spot in the American League, overcoming a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees to win in extra innings on Evan Longoria’s walk-off home run moments after Boston blew a one-run, ninth inning lead in Baltimore.
“It was almost a Hollywood story the way they made it end, it was unbelievable to watch,’’ said Lightning C Nate Thompson, who took batting practice with the team during the summer. “It was almost like somebody had a remote control just controlling both games, and then the rain delay (in Baltimore) being able to watch both games, to be able to see that was just unbelievable and I’m really happy for them.’’
For Lightning coach Guy Boucher, he’s looking forward to heading over to Tropicana Field for one of the Rays’ home playoff games once Tampa Bay returns from spending six days in Quebec.
“I’m impressed by (the comeback) because that’s something that is rare, but I’m not surprised by it, first because that’s what they have been doing for a month, coming back and proving the odds wrong,’’ said Boucher, who planned to call Rays’ manager Joe Maddon and offer congratulations. “We are all impressed by it, I think it’s inspiring and I think it’s great for the town.’’
Getting to watch the game proved to be a somewhat difficult task, however, as the Red Sox-Orioles game was shown on French sports channel RDS, but during the rain delay they switched over to the Rays while also showing Longoria’s clinching home run.
“That was the best baseball I’ve ever watched in French my whole entire life,’’ Thompson said. “But you could tell when we were over there that they have a pretty tight group and the way Joe Maddon operates he has fun with the guys. . . so it’s a little similar to us as we got to hang out with them and see what they are like. And it just goes to show you the character they have on their team and they never quit. To be nine games out in September and still come back to win the wildcard is unbelievable.
“It shows the resiliency they have and if I’m the Texas Rangers I’m a little nervous right now playing the Tampa Bay Rays.’’