ST. LOUIS, MO. – Engaging in a game of cat-and-mouse, the Tampa Bay Lightning led the way for nearly the entire game Friday night, resulting in a 4-3 win against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. The win was the third straight for Tampa Bay and the second against the Blues this preseason.
“That was a big strong team who had a lot of NHL regulars in the lineup and our guys found a way, so we were proud of them,” head coach Jon Cooper said.
Tampa Bay continued an effective power-play by tallying their third of the exhibition season to give the Lighting the 1-0 lead in the first, but St. Louis answered back late in the period to even things up at one.
A quiet start to the second would make for an exciting finish by the frame’s end, as three tallies came with less than six minutes remaining. In a span of just two minutes, the Lightning would score twice and the Blues once, with Tampa Bay ending on the winning side of a 3-2 game after 40 minutes.
The Lightning gained their first two-goal lead of the game in the third, but St. Louis continued to nip at the Bolts heels by quickly adding another Blues goal, bringing the Bolts lead back to one with a 4-3 score. Despite the Blues bringing pressure in the attacking zone with six forwards on the ice in the final minute of play in the game, the score would stand at 4-3 in favor of Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay got another strong game form Valtteri Filppula, who led all skaters with three points, all assists.
“It’s impressive, he’s a good player,” Cooper said. “The puck is like a yo-yo on his stick; he just sticks it out there and pulls it back in. You could put a couple good goal scorers on his line and really good things can happen. I’m really impressed and it’s been fun to watch him play.”
Mark Barberio led all Lightning skaters with 22:22 in ice time.
After the Blues Maxim Lapierre went to the box for roughing, Lightning blueliner Artem Sergeev capitalized on the man-advantage by scoring off of a wrister on the ensuing draw for the first score of the game. Filppula, who won the faceoff, picked up the lone assist on the power-play goal that came at 7:31 of the first.
Alex Steen would tie the score with less than five minutes remaining in the opening frame for the Blues however, as he managed to position himself behind Bolts defenseman Andrej Sustr and send a backhander over Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
Forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat both created breakaway opportunities in the second period, but were unable to convert. Johnson backhanded the puck, but would go high on the shorthanded opportunity, while Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak came up with the save on Palat’s shot later in the period.
Nearly 15 minutes would pass in the middle frame without a score on the board, but that would change at 5:50 in the second with three tallies in less than two minutes from the Lightning and Blues.
“We were fortunate to get out of the second with the lead,” Cooper said. “The ice was tilted in their favor in the second, but I thought our guys bent a little bit, but they didn’t break and it gave us a lot of confidence going into the third.”
Forward Brett Connolly continued to make his statement in training camp as Filppula fed him a perfect pass, which Connolly was able to tap in for the 2-1 lead, but St. Louis would get one immediately back with 4:48 left in the second. Corey Locke responded to the Lightning’s goal by going top shelf off of a wrister on Lindback glove side 62 seconds later. Tampa Bay re-gained the lead before the middle stanza’s end though, with Palat able to capitalize on another opportunity in front of the net.
Collecting his third assist of the game in the third period, Filppula took a shot on a pass from Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer. Halak managed to block the initial shot, but P.C. Labrie banked in the rebound to extend the Bolts lead to 4-2 at 5:39. The two-goal lead was short-lived though, as the Blues continued to chase Tampa Bay when T.J. Oshie beat goaltender Lindback off of a rebound to make it 4-3.
Pulling the goalie in the final minute of the third period, the Blues used six attackers to even the score at four, but were unsuccessful, as the Bolts beat St. Louis 4-3 and completed the two-game sweep against the Blues.
UP NEXT: The Lightning return home to the Tampa Bay Times forum to face the Florida Panthers for the first of three games against the Atlantic Division foes. Tampa Bay also plays in the fourth of four-straight games Saturday as they also look to complete a four-game sweep. Saturday’s tilt is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be heard live on AM 970 WFLA.