Tampa Bay avoided losing three in a row for the first time this season by defeating Minnesota 2-1 Saturday night at Amalie Arena.
In the process, the Lightning also avenged a head-scratching 7-2 loss to the Wild on Oct. 25.
How’d they do it? Let us be your guide.
1. Putting pucks on the net works
Both Lightning goals Saturday didn’t result from clear scoring chances.
Rather, they were innocuous-looking shots that happened to find a way past Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper.
Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal was created by Ryan Callahan’s diversion in front of net. Stamkos skated into the right circle and wristed a shot toward goal, and Callahan did just enough to distract Kuemper, who never saw the puck coming.
Later, Anton Stralman hit one at Kuemper from the blue line that deflected off of Alex Killorn’s skate and into goal for the game-winner.
Neither shot on its own would typically result in a goal, but because of the hard work the Bolts were willing to put in around it, both shots ended up in the back of the net.
And the Bolts were rewarded with a victory.
2. Alex Killorn is emerging as a legitimate goal-scoring threat for the Bolts
In and out of the lineup earlier this season due to injury, Lightning forward Alex Killorn is finally getting settled, and it’s showing in his play of late.
Killorn had scored in two straight games before a tumble and crash during morning skate in Edmonton (Oct. 20) sidelined him with an upper-body injury.
After returning against Arizona (Oct. 28), Killorn played in three games before exiting against Washington (Nov. 1), again with an upper-body injury.
Now healthy and back to being in the lineup regularly, Killorn is thriving. He’s scored in four games in a row and has a point in five consecutive games.
Paired on a line with Stamkos and Callahan for Saturday’s game against the Wild, Killorn provided the Lightning with the game-winner.
“Killer’s been playing great the last couple of games,” Stamkos said. “It was nice to have him on the ice. I thought he’s been playing really well. He’s utilizing his speed, his size, gaining some more confidence with the puck. I thought as a line, we had a pretty good game.”
3. Blue line passing has to improve
In recent games, poor passing from Tampa Bay defensemen has led directly to opponent goals.
The trend continued against Minnesota, resulting in the Wild’s only score.
Early in the second period, Mark Barberio, making a rare start for the Bolts, committed an error on his own blue line, his pass up ice blocked by Minnesota’s Zach Parise, resulting in an odd-man rush, which Parise eventually converted into a goal.
On a power play against the New York Islanders, the steady Anton Stralman had his drop pass on the blue line intercepted by Cal Clutterbuck, and Clutterbuck, alone on goal, sniped a shot past Bolts goalie Evgeni Nabokov, changing the tide of a game the Bolts would eventually lose 5-1.
Tampa Bay needs to ensure these mental lapses don’t continue to creep into their game or more losses could follow.