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Mishkin's Extra Shift: Special teams lead the way to another Bolts win

by Dave Mishkin / Tampa Bay Lightning

For a healthy portion of this game, the Lightning weren’t nearly as crisp as they were in their impressive performance on Tuesday in the win over Arizona. But the mark of a good team is to find ways to win games in which they aren’t necessarily at their best. Winning the special teams battle can be part of that equation – and it was in this game. The Bolts netted two power play goals, and those goals were a big reason why they got out of this game with a victory.

For the first 10 minutes, however, the Lightning didn’t struggle. They dominated play. They made quick outlet passes and used their speed effectively through the neutral zone. They also forechecked aggressively in the offensive zone and had most of the puck possession. An early extended shift in the offensive zone led to a Vlad Namestnikov deflection goal.

But the Flyers picked up their game halfway through the opening frame – and the Lightning’s play dipped. Tampa Bay opted for low percentage plays through the neutral zone – and repeatedly turned the puck over. One such turnover gave the Flyers a scoring chance off the rush – and Wayne Simmonds put a rebound past Ben Bishop to tie the score.

The Lightning continued to fight the puck in the second period. For much of the frame, the Flyers dictated play. They didn’t rack up a lot of shots, but they generated some scoring chances. Bishop’s best save in the period came during a Philadelphia power play, when he stopped Simmonds on a close-range shot.

The Lightning received three power plays chances themselves during the second. They didn’t create much pressure on either of the first two – and almost surrendered a short-handed breakaway. But Ondrej Palat hustled back to disrupt the Michael Raffl attempt. Finally, on their third power play opportunity, the Bolts converted. Steven Stamkos set up Valtteri Filppula with a cross-ice pass and Filppula had an open side of the net. His shot missed the net, however. But it ricocheted back to Stamkos, who eventually ripped a shot over Flyers goalie Ray Emery to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead entering the third.

The final period was a strange one. Even though the Flyers scored twice – and posted 15 shots on Ben Bishop – the Lightning generally managed the puck much better than they had earlier in the game. They did it with only five defensemen, too, after Andrej Sustr left with an injury. They cut down on their neutral zone turnovers and the Flyers didn’t spend nearly as much time in the Lightning end. As a result of the cleaner play, the Bolts were able to use their speed through the neutral zone. One such rush resulted in Stamkos’ second goal, following a passing sequence with Filppula.

Despite the Lightning's improved overall play, the Flyers did forecheck well on a couple of shifts. One of those came on the shift after the Stamkos goal – and Jake Voracek slid in a rebound to cut the deficit to 3-2. There were still over 13 minutes left in the game.

But for the next 10 minutes or so, the Lightning played very well. Unlike earlier in the game, they opted for the simple, safe play. Eventually, they got another power play chance with 5:08 left. The Bolts held it in the offensive zone for almost the entire man advantage. With tired Philadelphia penalty killers stuck on the ice, Stamkos set up Jason Garrison for a big slap shot that extended the lead to 4-2.

Give the Flyers credit for executing well after Emery was pulled for the sixth attacker. After buzzing in the Lightning end, the Flyers scored their third goal with just under a minute to go. Then, with seconds remaining in the game, Ben Bishop made a key save on Mark Streit to preserve the lead – and the win.

It wasn’t as complete a performance as we saw on Tuesday. But with Stamkos and Filppula leading the way offensively, the Lightning were able to bank another two points.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

Garrison’s power play goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

1.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals and an assist.

2.Jake Voracek – Flyers. Goal and assist.

3.Valtteri Filppula – Lightning. Three assists.

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