The Tampa Bay Lightning secured five of seven wins during their season-long homestand that concluded Saturday and continued on the winning-side of things Sunday evening with a 4-3 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida.
Tampa Bay now has three straight wins as they improve to 8-3-0 on the year, which puts them atop the Atlantic Division, with 16 points and a game in-hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We probably have the quietest 8-3 record in the league and we like it that way,” Steven Stamkos said.
“You look at our schedule and we’ve played some pretty tough teams.”
It’s hard to say that the league will stay mum for long on the Bolts if they continue to roll heading into November, while Stamkos also received his first league acknowledgement of the season Monday afternoon.
THE STARS ALIGN
After capturing a trio of wins and tying the league lead for points (seven) last week, the Lightning’s alternate captain, Steven Stamkos, was named the NHL’s First Star for the week ending on October 27.
Stamkos netted four points (two goals, two assists) in the Lightning’s first of three wins last week, including the primary assist on Martin St. Louis’ overtime game-winner against the Chicago Blackhawks.
He then added an assist versus the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-2 win, before closing out the stretch with division-rival Florida Sunday. Stamkos scored a goal and added an assist, while topping-off the 4-3 shootout victory with the game-winning shootout goal in the fourth round.
The Bolts often practice for the skills competition at the end of each practice and though it is hard to mimic the pressure that comes in real game scenarios during the shootout, Stamkos said the practice has helped.
“There’s been a lack of results I wanted in the shootout and I’m never going to be a guy that doesn’t want to go in the shootout,” he said. “You want to be an impact player and practice does help. It’s nice to see one go in.”
Already posting five multi-point games this season, Stamkos ranks second in the NHL with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 11 contests.
PALAT PLAYING PROPS
Despite a tough break in Sunday’s tilt, when Ondrej Palat was stripped of the puck in front of the defensive zone which led to the Panthers’ game-tying goal, the first-year rookie has made an impact in 2013-14.
“He’s doing almost everything, but wear a cape,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “He plays defense, he can set guys up, he can control the puck, he has patience and poise and he can play physical. He’s extremely dependable.”
Since Cooper and Palat’s coach-player relationship started three years ago, Cooper said he’s witnessed his growth in size from a kid to an NHL-caliber player and improvements in his skillset.
MOVING UP THE RANKS
Netminder Kristers Gudlevskis, who was drafted in the fifth round (124th overall), has continued to make a statement as a Bolts’ prospect early on.
Making sure not to be overlooked during rookie camp, Gudlevskis continued his success with the Lightning’s ECHL affiliate the Florida Everblades and into the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch.
The 21-year-old, Aizkraukle, Latvia native earned two wins in as many days in the Everblades home-and-home series with the Orlando Solar Bears, before being recalled by the Crunch on October 24. Gudlevskis went on to help Syracuse to a 5-0 shutout win in his debut with 22 saves against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers two days later.
Gudlevskis is expected to be a candidate for Latvia’s men’s ice hockey team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
After today’s day off, the Lightning will hold morning skate Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Prudential Center in preparation for their 7:30 p.m. contest versus the Metropolitan Division’s New Jersey Devils.