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Burns: 3 things we learned from winning three in a row

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning put together perhaps their most complete game of the season in Tuesday’s 4-0 shellacking of the Colorado Avalanche to cap a successful four-game road trip.

The Lightning were victorious behind the efforts of the usual suspects, plus a couple others not heard from much this season. Leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos netted a pair. Ben Bishop stopped all 21 Colorado shots for his second shutout of the season. Top assist man Victor Hedman tallied two helpers. Scoring leader Nikita Kucherov added an assist of his own. And, after missing a number of games to injury and struggling to regain their consistency from last season, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson both netted goals to cement the Bolts victory in a complete team effort.

The Lightning now sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and would be the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs were to begin today.

There was plenty to like in last night’s win. We’ll examine our favorites in today’s 3 Things.

1. ROAD WARRIORS

With Tuesday’s 4-0 victory over Colorado, the Tampa Bay Lightning completed their most prosperous road trip of the season, banking six of a possible eight points on the extended, 11-day trip through Western Canada and Colorado.

For the first time this season, the Lightning closed out a multi-game road trip with a victory, having gone 0-5-0 in previous attempts.

“As this road trip has gone on, we’ve gotten better and better and better,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Overtime in Vancouver and (Nikita Kucherov) puts that one in, and we kind of grew a little bit after that and I thought we responded really well tonight.”

Ironically, 100 minutes in, the four-game road trip looked like it might be the Lightning’s worst of the season. The Bolts opened with a 3-1 defeat in Calgary and were down 2-0 after two listless periods versus the Oilers

Somewhere between the second and third period in Edmonton, though, the Lightning regained their swagger. A loss in Edmonton would have left the Lightning just three points from getting passed by Toronto and dropped to seventh place in the eight-team Atlantic.

Now, the Bolts are in fourth, just one point back of Montreal for third and three back of Detroit for second.

“It’s funny how this trip goes,” Cooper said. “You lose the first one. You’re down 2-0 after two in one game, and all of a sudden you come out with three-straight wins. But, a little testament to the guys in the room, they were feeling it. We didn’t think we were playing that bad against Edmonton even though we were down. That’s something that we’ve been working on as a group is, “Hey, we can win every single night. We have a chance to win.’ Even if we’re down, we’ve got that feeling. You can feel it a little bit, guys think we can come back. It’s really carried out in this road trip here.”

2. MAKING HISTORY

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop continues to rack up milestones in what is quickly becoming his best season in the NHL.

Last week, Bishop was announced as one of two Bolts selected for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, his first All-Star selection, joining Steven Stamkos.

Tuesday, after blanking Colorado, Bishop earned his 12th shutout in a Bolts sweater and moved into a second-place tie with Daren Puppa on the Lightning’s all-time goalie shutout list.

Bishop needs two more to match Nikolai Khabibulin’s franchise record of 14.

Bishop has allowed two goals or less in 20 of his last 25 starts and 24 of his 33 starts overall.

He’s the clear-cut Lightning MVP through the first half of the season, and he proved it again versus Colorado.

Bishop wasn’t called upon too often in a 21-save shutout performance, but he made a couple timely stops to quell any momentum Colorado was desperately searching for.

With the Lightning up 3-0, the Avalanche’s Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay got behind the Bolts defense. Duchene passed across the crease to Tanguay, who tried to one-time a puck on the back post.

Bishop, however, slid over just in time to knock the puck away and keep the Avalanche off the scoreboard.

If Colorado scores, suddenly it’s only a two-goal Lightning lead midway through the second period, plenty of time for the Avalanche to mount a comeback.

Bishop, though, was there to make sure that didn’t happen.

Much like he’s been all season.

3. LIMITING SHOTS

Somewhat unnoticed in the Lightning’s current three-game win streak, Tampa Bay has been holding opponents well below their average shot output.

The Lightning haven’t given up more than 26 shots in any of their last four games. On Tuesday, they limited Colorado to 21 shots. The Avalanche averaged over 28 a game entering their tilt with the Bolts.

“I think the biggest thing about that is the structure,” Bishop said. We played well defensively, and we tried to capitalize on their mistakes. It wasn’t like we were trying to do too much and trying to get chances. We just kind of sat back and waited for them to make mistakes, and if you give (our) guys opportunities, they’re not going to miss too often.”

Conversely, Tampa Bay sent 38 shots at Semyon Varlamov’s net. Combined with the limited number of chances for the Avalanche, the night was set up for a big Lightning win, which was realized with the 4-0 result.

“You can’t just sit back and get by getting 20, 22 shots a game trying to look for the perfect goal,” Cooper said. “The way some of those goals went in against Edmonton and one in Vancouver, it was just directing pucks at the net. You’re doing all this work, sometimes they’re not going to be the picture-perfect goals like some of the ones tonight. But, when you make your own breaks and now all of a sudden stuff opens up for you and you get some of the goals we got tonight. We’ve just got to keep this mentality going.”

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