As was the case heading into last Sunday’s game at Columbus, the Lightning really needed this one. The scenarios were similar. The Lightning entered both games having lost their previous two contests. Teams directly behind the Lightning in the Eastern Conference were gaining ground. And in both games, the Lightning responded with a solid performance and earned a critical win.
At points in the losses at Toronto and Dallas, the Lightning’s compete level dipped. That didn’t happen at any point against Arizona, though. The Lightning competed hard throughout, defended tenaciously and, in a game that was a nip-and-tuck affair, were able to grind out a victory.
The game required such an effort. It wasn’t easy. Arizona goalie Louis Domingue, despite allowing a goal to Ondrej Palat that he’d probably want to have back, denied numerous Lightning scoring chances. The Lightning had to kill six penalties in the game, including two consecutive five-on-three kills early in the second period. And while the Lightning did defend well throughout the night, there were stretches when the Coyotes pushed the pace and generated some scoring chances. When that happened, however, Ben Bishop made key saves. With the 31-save shutout performance, Bishop picked up his 30th win of the season and his franchise record-setting 15th shutout as a member of the Lightning.
The Bolts were able to dictate play throughout most of the first period. They put 13 shots on Domingue, enjoyed most of the puck possession and had nearly all of the scoring chances. Domingue’s best stop came on a Nikita Kucherov breakaway. But he didn’t stop Palat’s innocent-looking shot from the top of the right circle. It came in the period’s final minute, just four seconds after a Lightning power play had ended.
The Coyotes had a wonderful chance to tie the game early in the second period when the Lightning were called for three consecutive, overlapping penalties. One five-on-three lasted just under 30 seconds, the other just over 90 seconds. But the Lightning penalty killers defended the two-man disadvantages as well as they possibly could. They took away the most dangerous passing lanes, allowing Bishop to see and get set for the shots that came his way. Bishop made four saves during the two-man disadvantages and the Lightning got through the kills unscathed.
On Thursday in Dallas, the Lightning took a one-goal lead into the third period, but did not handle the situation well. They yielded two goals and were outshot, 17-4. They had a chance for a do-over in this game – and they had a much better third. It’s true that they squandered a four-minute power play, opportunities that could have helped them score insurance tallies. But as a whole, it was a good third period. Bishop made a couple of key saves along the way and the Lightning killed another penalty late in the third when it was still 1-0. But most importantly, the Lightning didn’t sit back. When they had a chance to attack, they did – and generated some scoring chances of their own, including a Palat breakaway.
Given the importance of this game – and the fact that happened to be at the end of a long road trip – this was an impressive, hard-fought win for the Bolts. Now, they’ll look to take another step towards securing a playoff berth when they begin a six-game homestand on Tuesday against Detroit, which enters the game just four points behind the Lightning in the standings.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
The five-on-three penalty kills in the second period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 31 saves to pick up 30th win of the season and franchise record-setting 15th career shutout with the Lightning.
2.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. GWG.
3.Anton Stralman – Lightning. Terrific defensive game.