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Don’t fret, Vasy. Tampa Bay has seen other valiant efforts go to waste

His latest masterpiece was rendered moot, like a Picasso portrait etched in beach sand. In the end, washed out. A waste.

On most nights, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s astounding effort Tuesday against the Panthers in Game 2 would’ve secured a victory, if not momentum for his team moving forward. But Panthers counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky matched the “Big Cat” save for save in Florida’s 3-2 overtime triumph, and Vasilevskiy’s command performance (34 saves against 37 shots) yielded bupkis.

Sadly, Tampa Bay area sports fans have seen such displays of dominance squandered in the past. For us, five such efforts immediately come to mind. Like symphonies in a sound chamber, they never resonated like they should have.

5. Derrick Brooks, Bucs vs. Vikings, 2001

Statistically, Brooks had the most productive day of his Hall of Fame career in this late September road loss, setting a club record with 23 tackles while also intercepting Daunte Culpepper on the opening possession. But Minnesota drove 96 yards on 11 plays in the fourth quarter’s waning minutes to eke out a 20-16 triumph.

4. James Shields, Rays vs. Orioles, 2012

“Big Game” James’ final appearance in a Rays uniform also was his greatest, albeit in a losing effort. Before a sparse Tropicana Field audience in an early October game against the Orioles, Shields set a club record with 15 strikeouts in a complete-game, 1-0 loss. A fourth-inning solo home run by Chris Davis was one of only two hits surrendered by Shields, who walked no one in a 106-pitch gem. Manager Joe Maddon called it a “mortal sin” to waste such good pitching. Two months later, Shields was traded to Kansas City.

3. Tom Brady, Bucs, 2021 division round

Brady’s 44-year-old frame had been under siege all afternoon against the Rams when he darn near delivered another performance for the ageless. Down by 24 in the second half of this NFC division playoff, Brady and Co. chipped away, with the GOAT leading consecutive touchdown drives in the final 3:20 — including a 55-yard scoring pass to Mike Evans — to tie the score at 27. The rally was rendered moot when the Bucs went Cover Zero in the final seconds, allowing Matthew Stafford to find Cooper Kupp for a 44-yard gain, setting up the clinching field goal in a 30-27 Rams triumph.

2. Blake Snell, Rays, 2020 World Series

Unfortunately for Rays fans, the greatest postseason pitching effort in franchise history was accompanied by the most notorious managerial move. Snell was dealing against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series when Kevin Cash pulled him after 5⅓ sparkling innings. To that point, Snell had struck out nine, walked none, allowed only two hits and preserved a 1-0 lead. Six pitches after Snell was pulled, Los Angeles led 2-1 en route to a 3-1, Series-clinching triumph.

1. Quinton Flowers, USF football vs. UCF, 2017

If the scales of justice existed in sports, the Bulls not only would’ve defeated the Knights in this electrifying Black Friday showdown, Flowers would’ve had his No. 9 jersey retired on the spot. Arguably the greatest quarterback in USF lore, Flowers totaled a school-record 605 yards (including a school-record 503 passing yards) and five touchdowns in a 49-42 loss that UCF clinched on a 95-yard kickoff return in the last 90 seconds. “He just played his heart out and gave us everything he’s got,” Bulls coach Charlie Strong said.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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