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Burns: Three things we learned from shutting out Columbus

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have become road warriors of late.

In their last multi-game road trip, the Bolts won all four games, the first time in franchise history Tampa Bay swept a road trip of at least four games.

On Sunday in Columbus, the Lightning continued their hot play away from Amalie Arena. The Bolts blanked the Blue Jackets 4-0, winning for the seventh time in their last eight road games.

The victory helped the Lightning keep pace with the leaders in the Atlantic Division. Entering Monday, the Bolts are now just a point behind Boston for first place in the division and are tied with Florida for second, although the Panthers, with a game in hand, own the tiebreaker.

The Lightning will look to continue their winning ways on the road when they travel to Toronto on Tuesday for the fourth tilt this season with the Maple Leafs. The Lightning will play their next three games on the road before returning to Amalie Arena for a six-game home stand to close out their regular season home schedule.

How were the Lightning able to end a three-game losing skid on Sunday? And when was the last time the Bolts scored two shorthanded goals in the same game?

We’ll break down the action from Sunday’s much-needed victory in today’s 3 Things.

1. BISH PLEASE

In the first period of Sunday’s game versus Columbus, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop drew the ire of Blue Jackets fans when he was interfered with by Boone Jenner as Alexander Wennberg shot into the open net, disallowing Wennberg’s goal.

The fans at Nationwide Arena thought Bishop embellished the contact. They were incensed the goal didn’t count. Every time Bishop touched the puck from that point forward, boos rained down from the rafters.

The heckling did nothing but inspire Bishop.

“I love that stuff,” Bishop said after the game. “It’s like college. It gets you going. I enjoy that stuff.”

Bishop turned in one of his best performances of the season in Columbus, stopping all 37 shots to record his fourth shutout. The 37 saves tied a season high for Bishop, who ended a two-game losing skid and improved to 29-18-4 on the season.

The bad blood between Bishop and the Columbus crowd didn’t stop after Wennberg’s disallowed goal. In the second period, Nick Foligno, a former teammate of Bishop’s in Ottawa, tripped up the Lightning goalie behind the net, sparking another skirmish in what was becoming an increasingly testy contest. During the chaos, Dalton Prout sucker punched Nikita Kucherov, which eventually forced Kucherov from the game.

Bishop held strong as the booing picked up in intensity. The Bolts netminder made 16 saves in the second to keep the Lightning in the lead by a goal. With the Blue Jackets pushing for the equalizer early in the third, Bishop continued to build a wall around his net, and the Bolts finally gave him some breathing room when Tyler Johnson pounced on an awful turnover by Prout next to his own net and fed Vladislav Namestnikov for the Bolts’ second goal.

Bishop made 16 saves in the final period to keep the Blue Jackets off the board.

“The second period, we leaked oil a little bit, but Bish was there to make the saves and took it home in the third,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.

Bishop’s announcement as the game’s Second Star brought more jeers from the Nationwide crowd.

Bishop relished it all.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” he joked after the game.

2. ROLE REVERSAL

The Lightning power play has struggled of late, going seven-consecutive games, including Sunday’s against Columbus, without a goal.

The power play has failed to convert on its last 17 man-advantage opportunities.

Tampa Bay’s penalty kill, therefore, decided to take matters into its own hands to salvage the performance of the special teams.

The Lightning scored a pair of shorthanded goals in the third period against Columbus to put the game out of reach. The Bolts scored two shorthanded goals in the same game for the first time since the 2003-04 Stanley Cup championship season when they netted three in a game Dec. 27, 2003 versus Boston in a 4-2 victory.

“I thought our penalty kill was outstanding, especially when we ended up taking the double minor and getting the shorthanded goals is a huge bonus to pull out of that,” Cooper said. “Special teams were big for us tonight on the penalty kill side and helped us win a hockey game.”

With the Lightning leading 2-0 and Columbus on the power play trying to get back into the game, the Blue Jackets’ Ryan Murray turned the puck over at the blue line. Ondrej Palat pounced on the loose puck and started a 2-on-0 break with Murray racing to recover. Palat dropped a pass behind for Stamkos, who beat Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky with a backhander to put the dagger in Columbus’ comeback hopes.

Less than four minutes later, Stamkos returned the favor to Palat. Stamkos took the puck away from Columbus’ Cam Atkinson in the defensive zone and led a 2-on-1 charge the other way. Stamkos dished to Palat on the back post, and Palat redirected the puck past Bobrovsky for the Bolts’ fourth goal.

That shorthanded goal was set up when Ryan Callahan was whistled for a four-minute double minor for high sticking. The Lightning successfully killed both penalties while netting a goal of their own on the late-game infraction. The Bolts’ penalty kill was 5-for-5 overall with two goals in Columbus.

“Anytime you’ve got a guy like (Stamkos) out there, if it does convert to offense, good things can happen,” Bishop said. “I think he’s done a great job on the D side of things, and then obviously when you’ve got a guy with that much skill up front, sometimes you’re going to get breaks and it’s just nice to see him capitalize.”

3. SHOOT-FIRST MENTALITY

In a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, the Lightning had just 19 shots on goal, one more than their season low of 18 set four nights earlier against the same Flyers team in Philly.

After that second loss to the Flyers, the Bolts spoke at length in the locker room about needing to get more shots on goal, about not being too cute with the puck and about looking for more dirty goals rather than trying to pass the puck into the net.

Two days later in Columbus, the Bolts put their words into action.

The Lightning made a concerted effort early against the Blue Jackets to put as many pucks on net as possible. The Bolts sent 15 shots at Bobrovsky in the opening period, and although they didn’t score, they managed to take control of the game because of their work in the offensive zone.

“The guys worked hard, and they stuck to the structure,” Cooper said. “We played a pretty calm game, and when we had chances to put a puck in the net, we did. I really liked our first period. I thought we put a lot of pressure on. We were getting pucks to the net.”

The Lightning finished with 37 shots, their eighth-highest shot total this season.

“You want to play the right way, and I thought the guys did that tonight,” Bishop said. “We talked about getting more pucks on net, more people at the net, and I think we did that. After a couple of periods, they finally started to kind of go in. Just important to keep playing that way.”

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