Timely offense. A key power play goal. Stellar goaltending. Managing opposition momentum surges. Five defensemen stepping up after an injury to Victor Hedman. These were the elements that propelled the Lightning to a 4-2 win in Vancouver on Saturday night.
This one was not a thing of beauty for Tampa Bay. The Lightning committed more turnovers than in any of their first four games. They had the puck less. They gave the Canucks six power play chances, which sapped their own momentum. But such circumstances that can happen on the road – and good teams need to find a way to win these types of games.
It was clear from the opening shift that the Lightning were in for a battle. The Vancouver line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Radim Vrbata pinned the Bolts in the Tampa Bay defensive zone for most of the shift. But Steven Stamkos disrupted a pass at the Lightning blue line and raced out of the zone. Ondrej Palat fed him on a breakaway, which Stamkos converted. After the Canucks tied the score, good forechecking from Stamkos' line led to a steal and his second goal, a backhander from the slot. Later in the first, he nearly recorded a first period hat trick, but couldn't quite finish an in-alone chance on Lack. Still, thanks to Stamkos' goals, the Bolts had a 2-1 lead after one.
The second period was the sloppiest the Bolts have played this year. (It was also the period in which Hedman got injured, leaving the Bolts with only five defensemen.) During an early second period power play chance, the Lightning continually fumbled the puck, surrendered a shorthanded chance and took a hooking penalty. Just as the ensuing four-on-four expired, the Canucks tied the score on an Alex Edler goal off the rush. For most of the rest of the frame, the Lightning struggled. They committed three more second period penalties leading to Vancouver power plays. The Canucks fired seven shots on Ben Bishop during those three power plays, but the Lightning goalie kept the score tied.
During that final second period PP chance, Alex Burrows took a roughing minor, putting the teams in another four-on-four. Anton Stralman rushed the puck up ice and drove to the net, drawing a tripping minor on Kevin Bieksa in the process. That penalty eventually gave the Lightning a lengthy five-on-three. They almost didn't score on it. But just as the two-man advantage expired, Stamkos found Callahan with a no-look cross-ice pass. Callahan buried the one-timer, reestablishing a Lightning lead after 40 minutes.
The Lightning played their best period in the third. The Canucks had one more dangerous power play chance and also threatened in the closing minutes after they pulled the goalie, but for the rest of the period, the Bolts did a good job of limiting turnovers, getting pucks out of their own end and deep into the Vancouver zone. The pressing Canucks left themselves open to odd-man counters - and Alex Killorn converted off a three-on-two six minutes into the third. That goal gave the Lightning a two-goal cushion. They also received a little puck-luck in the final period – two Vancouver shots hit off the post (Bishop got a piece of the first shot, nudging it just enough so that it hit iron).
Now the Lightning must forge ahead without Hedman, who won't play on the rest of the trip – he is returning to Tampa for further evaluation. But they should feel good about beginning the long trip with an important, gritty win. On to Edmonton.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
- Ryan Callahan's game-winning PPG.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals and assist. Plus two.
- Ben Bishop – Lightning. 30 saves.
- Ryan Callahan – Lightning. GWG and assist. Plus two.