When these teams met last month in Calgary, the game was a defensive struggle. Scoring chances were hard to come by and each club only mustered 22 shots – a total that included three full periods and part of an overtime session. This was a much different game. Both clubs enjoyed some wide-open ice and each goalie was tested throughout the night.
While it was nice to see the Lightning generate some good looks in the offensive zone, they had some loose defensive moments in the first two periods. The Flames looked dangerous off the rush and, if not for Ben Bishop, would have scored more than two goals in the opening 40 minutes. Fortunately for the Bolts, not only was Bishop on his game, they also got a terrific performance from the line of Cedric Paquette, Vlad Namestnikov and Jonathan Drouin. Paquette netted the first two goals of his NHL career – and just as importantly, when that line was on the ice in the first two periods, the Lightning were able to maintain pressure in the Calgary end. As a result of Paquette’s tallies – and a Brian Boyle shorthanded goal in the second – the Lightning held a 3-2 lead entering the third.
The third period was, by far, the Lightning’s best. Tyler Johnson scored in the first minute – and that goal set the tone for the rest of the period. While the Flames generated scoring chances during two third period power plays, they were much quieter in five-on-five play. The Lightning consistently got pucks deep in the Calgary end and held onto those pucks. Good Tampa Bay puck movement also yielded several odd-man rushes, but Calgary goalie Jonas Hiller stopped those additional chances. Ultimately, the Lightning iced the game when Valtteri Filppula scored into an empty net with just over two minutes left.
So the Lightning were able to sweep their four-game homestand. They endured some bumps along the way, as their play wasn’t always as crisp as they would have liked. But they still emerged victorious, a mark of a good team. Bishop’s exceptional play throughout the homestand was a big reason why. Also, the Lightning’s balanced offensive attack has posed problems for the opposition. For example, in this game, the Flames kept Steven Stamkos’ line off the board (with the exception of Filppula’s empty-netter), but the Lightning still received two goals from the Namestnikov line, one from the Johnson line and the shorty from Brian Boyle.
The next three contests are on the road, beginning Saturday in Columbus. The Lightning will look play the way they did in the third period against Calgary and maintain it for a full 60 minutes versus the Blue Jackets.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito)
Johnson’s third period goal, extending the Lightning lead to 4-2.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Cedric Paquette – Lightning. Two goals (first two in the NHL).
2.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. Goal.
3.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 29 saves.