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Bolts Beat: 2013 a roller coaster year for Bolts

TAMPA — The 2013 calendar year led hockey fans through a myriad of emotions.

From the lockout that started the year without games on the ice, the elation when the teams returned to the ice and the exhaustion of playing a condensed schedule — for the 48-game shortened season and the first half of an Olympic schedule — hockey fans experienced it all.

The same could be said for Lightning fans, who went through an even wider range of emotions that ran the gamut.

So with the calendar year closing out on the Lightning following tonight’s game against the New York Rangers, here’s a look back at some of the moments that stood out since the lockout was resolved and the season opened Jan. 19 with a 6-3 victory against Washington.

Feb. 1: The Lightning erupt for eight goals in an 8-3 rout of Winnipeg to give Tampa Bay a 6-1 start to the season and have many envisioning a return to the postseason with the quick start in a shortened season. But that proved to be a facade, as it would take the Lightning until March 16 — a span of 21 games — to pick up the next six victories after enduring two separate losing streaks of at least five games, leaving them with a 12-15-1 record at the time.

March 24: With Tampa Bay in Winnipeg to face the Jets, general manager Steve Yzerman announces that head coach Guy Boucher has been fired, less than two years after leading the Lightning to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

March 26: With newly hired head coach Jon Cooper sitting upstairs, the Lightning defeat Buffalo 2-1 behind goals from Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

April 3: On trade deadline day, Yzerman sends promising forward Cory Conacher to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for goaltender Ben Bishop. And in a sign of things to come for the 6-foot-7 netminder, Bishop shuts out Carolina with a 45-save performance in his Lightning debut one night later.

June 27: The final seven years on the contract of team captain Vinny Lecavalier are bought out by the team, ending a 13-year run for Lecavalier in a Lightning uniform. Since being the first overall pick in 1998, Lecavalier was the face of the franchise, helping lead the team to a 2004 Stanley Cup championship.

June 29: With the third overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft at Prudential Center in New Jersey, the Lightning select highly skilled forward Jonathan Drouin, adding another highly touted prospect to the stable of talent in the farm system.

July 5: With a void at center, the Lightning sign free agent Valtteri Filppula to a five-year contract worth $25 million with the idea of slotting him in as the second-line center behind Stamkos on the depth chart.

Nov. 9: Already off to the best start in franchise history with an 11-4 record, the Lightning add one more victory to that total with a 3-2 overtime win in Detroit. The victory is just the second in 20 years at Joe Louis Arena.

Nov. 11: The hockey world watches in horror as Stamkos is taken off the ice on a stretcher at TD Garden in Boston during the second period after suffering a broken right tibia during a 3-0 loss to the Bruins. He would have surgery the next day to insert a titanium rod to help stabilize the bone.

Nov. 25: Less than two weeks after surgery, Stamkos walks under his own power into a news conference for his first meeting with the media since undergoing surgery, bringing expectations of a quicker than anticipated recovery from what is a normal four- to six-month recovery.

Dec. 14: Just a month past surgery, Stamkos takes to the ice at Prudential Center, doing some light skating before the team’s morning skate while primarily doing stick work.

Dec. 23: Tampa Bay scores six unanswered goals en route to a 6-1 victory at Florida for a fifth consecutive victory, the longest winning streak since Jan. 21-Feb. 1, 2013.

Judging from how the latter half of 2013 went, 2014 looks to be a year that has plenty of promise.

Happy New Year.

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