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Burns: 3 Things we learned from a rare win in L.A.

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's first victory at Staples Center since 2009.

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The Tampa Bay Lightning haven't found a lot of success recently when traveling west to Los Angeles to take on the Kings.

Coming into Monday's matinee, Tampa Bay had lost four in a row in the City of Angels. The Lightning, in fact, hadn't defeated the Kings in L.A. since the 2008-09 season, when Mike Smith turned in a 29-save performance and Mark Recchi netted the game-winning goal late in the first period for the Bolts last win.

The Lightning erased over six seasons of frustration, however, in one Monday afternoon.

After falling behind 8:33 into the first period, the Bolts bounced back to tie the game on Tyler Johnson's 13th goal of the season six minutes later and won it 2-1 following Brian Boyle's game-winner at 18:47 of the second.

Tampa Bay was victorious for just the second time in six tries against a Pacific Division opponent following the L.A. win and improved to 3-8-1 against the Western Conference.

The Lightning will try to make it two in a row over the West when they take on the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday in the second half of a back-to-back set for the Bolts.

But before bringing on the Ducks, let's look at what led to Monday's win in 3 Things we learned from Los Angeles.

Video: TBL@LAK: Johnson one-times Drouin's feed past Budaj

1. SETBACK TO START

The Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip in Los Angeles on Monday, the roadie tying a season long for games and days (11).

And they had to begin it without All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman, who took warmups before the contest but left the ice and didn't return.

Soon after, the team announced Hedman was sick and would not play.

"It's happened so often this year, you kind of don't blink an eye," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said post game when asked about the bad news right before puck drop. "That was unfortunate, but then we found out (Kings center Anze) Kopitar wasn't playing like two minutes after that, so I thought, 'Okay, that's a one-for-one.' Fans pay to see guys like Victor Hedman and Anze Kopitar play, so it's unfortunate they couldn't. But it was still an entertaining hockey game."

Hedman has been, arguably, the Bolts' MVP over the first half of the season and was selected earlier this month to play in his first All-Star Game. The Swedish blueliner paces the Lightning for average time on ice (24:30) and ranks 14th in the NHL.

He plays in all situations too. Hedman ranks second on the Bolts for average shorthanded time on ice (2:41) and third for average power-play time on ice (3:02).

In a game the Lightning absolutely had to have in order to work their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they were without probably their most indispensable player.

The fact the Bolts were able to exit the Staples Center with two points shows just how well they played Monday afternoon.

"Everybody gamed this one out," Cooper said. "They played extremely hard against a big, strong, physical L.A. team, and it was fun to watch."

Cooper wasn't sure if Hedman would be able to return a day later to face the Ducks on Tuesday, but the Bolts can't afford to go too many more games without their best player, particular during this critical Western swing.

Video: TBL@LAK: Boyle chips home rebound off Kings defender

2. BOLTS BRING THE BOOM

Los Angeles entered Monday's game as the most physical team in the NHL, the Kings leading the league for hits, dishing out 127 more than second place Anaheim.

The Bolts, though, didn't back down from the fight and served up plenty of punishment of their own.

Luke Witkowski let it be known early the Lightning weren't going to be pushed around, delivering a brutal, legal hit on Kyle Clifford and fighting Clifford when the Kings' forward wanted to scrap.

Witkowski more than held his own in the fight and provided a spark for a Lightning team that hasn't exactly been known for its physicality over the last couple seasons.

"Difference maker for us," Cooper said of Witkowski's effort against the Kings. "It has not been a staple of our team being big and physical, but he brings an element like that to the game. He happens to hit a guy that's going to come right back at him in Clifford, and that was two honest players. One guy got hit and got up and wanted an answer for it, and Luke stood up and answered. That's what guys like Clifford and Luke do. It was uplifting for us for sure."

Inspired by their rugged defenseman, the Lightning continued to pound the Kings and registered a season high 41 hits by game's end, the seventh-most hits the Bolts have delivered in a game in franchise history.

The Bolts beat the Kings at their own game and earned a valuable two points in the process.

Video: TBL@LAK: Bishop makes a pair of nice saves on Lewis

3. BISHOP OVERCOMES EARLY GAFFE

Since returning from a lower-body injury that kept him out of nine games from late December until mid-January, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has been spectacular in net.

Well, except for that first shot.

For the second-consecutive start, Bishop gave up a goal on the opponent's opening shot. Monday, it was Kyle Clifford doing the damage, knocking down Bishop's clear attempt behind the Bolts' goal and beating Bishop to the front of the net to stuff the puck home.

Bishop was perfect after the early mistake, however, stopping the remainder of the 31 shots the Kings sent his way in a commanding performance to win his second straight and improve to 11-10-2 on the season.

Tampa Bay won for just the second time this season when scoring less than three goals, improving to 2-16-3 when doing so. The Bolts' defensive prowess against the Kings wasn't limited to just Bishop however. The entire team, despite missing its top defender in Hedman, contributed as a group to limit the amount of Grade-A scoring chances the Kings got and force most of their shots to come from the perimeter where the Bolts could get in passing lanes and disrupt (they finished with 20 blocked shots).

"I'll be honest, what did we give up, two against Buffalo, two against Columbus, one against L.A.? The guys, since we had that four-game losing streak there, they've strung together nine straight," Cooper said. "I know we didn't get the result we wanted against Columbus, but we thought we deserved points out of that game and we felt like we deserved points out of this game tonight. We were very fortunate to get two, but the guys are battling hard and it's all about our net now. Again, you look, the power play didn't happen to score tonight, but the penalty kill killed off all three of their power plays. When you do that, you're giving yourself a chance to win. That's a part of playing defense, and they were committed to it."

The Lightning have renewed their commitment to playing defense, and they were rewarded for their effort against the Kings.

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