This was one of those classic "good news/bad news/good news" games. First the good news: the Lightning won, and did so without showing any signs of the self-imposed lethargy and disinterest exhibited in their previous two games (both losses, not co-incidentally), combining with a win by Columbus to eliminate the Maple Leafs from playoff consideration. Next, the bad news: workhorse goalie Ben Bishop suffered an "upper body injury" (possibly to the collarbone) that knocked him out of this game and possibly for an extended period. But wait, there's more good news: oft-maligned and seldom-used back-up goalie Anders Lindback was excellent in relief, turning away all 25 shots he faced to preserve the shutout victory, the team's sixth this season.
"I thought our whole team had their A game tonight. He (Lindback) hasn't been in a ton, but you could just see he was confident in net. He was just really calm and confident back there today and our team was feeding off it." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Things started off well for the Lightning in that things didn't start out nearly as awful as they had in their two most recent games, losses to Calgary and Dallas respectively. However, things seemed bleak just over six minutes in when Bishop came down awkwardly on his side and was unable to get up without assistance. He went to the locker room and it was announced immediately that he would not return. Then something strange happened: Management didn't put a "Thanks for coming. Drive safely." message on the scoreboard, turn the lights off and tell everyone to go home. Instead, Anders Lindback was put in goal and he responded with a performance that was more than adequate.
"You try to prepare for every day. It's my job to be able to step in and give the team a chance and I thought it turned out good today. We played a really good game, way better than we had in the last couple of games. I felt like we were back to where we should be and where we early in the season." - Lindback
The period ended in a scoreless tie.
At 9:19 of the second, Ondrej Palat shot high and beat Toronto goalie James Reimer for his first goal of the night, the eventual game winner. He was assisted on the play by Victor Hedman and Radko Gudas.
The Lightning cashed in seven seconds into their only power play on the night when Palat scored again at the 15:45 mark, getting help from Steven Stamkos and Hedman.
Tampa Bay carried the 2-0 edge into the second intermission.
Hedman capped things off with his third point of the night on an unassisted empty net goal at 19:47 of the third.
"I thought we came out from the get-go, I thought we played to our strength for 60 minutes and that's when good things are going to happen. It was a real team effort tonight." - Hedman
"It feels good. It's one thing you can't hang your hat on; you have to keep going and try to get better. We as a team have to just come together and keep playing like this." - Lindback
The Bolts' homestand continues on Thursday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.
- "Bishop wasn't scheduled to start on Thursday so he won't play against Philadelphia. We were going to call up a goalie anyway so let's just wait and see what happens. It makes no sense in speculating. I'm real confident in what we have." - Cooper on Bishop and the immediate future of the goaltending situation
- In addition to losing Ben Bishop, defenseman Sami Salo left the bench after skating two shifts in the second period and did not return. No status was issued by the team, indicating he should be considered day-to-day.
- The Lightning finish the regular season series with a 2-2-0 mark against Toronto.
- Tampa Bay was a perfect 10-for-10 successfully killing Maple Leafs power plays this season.
- Stamkos now has 13 goals and 13 assists in 21 games in his career against Toronto.
- In addition to Toronto's playoff hopes coming to an end, tonight also saw other Eastern Conference teams punch their tickets; the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators were eliminated, while the Flyers clinched a berth in the tourney.
- The Lightning honored Jim and Barbara Killeen as the 39th Lightning Community Heroes of the year during the first period of tonight's game. The Killeen's, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Amazing Love Ministries, World Relief Tampa, Created and Giving Hope Through Faith. The Killeens have dedicated the last eight and a half years of their lives to making the Tampa Bay area a better place for those who are less fortunate. The Killeen's have collaborated with a variety of churches, synagogues, ministries, schools, clubs and homeless organizations to offer options and opportunities for people in need in the community. The couple founded Amazing Love Ministries, a non-profit that distributes meals, clothes and personal hygiene items once a week to people in the Tampa area who are experiencing homelessness. The Killeen's were featured on Fox 13 Tampa Bay as Hometown Heroes in 2013. In addition, Amazing Love Ministries received the 2013 Spirit of Humanity Award from the DeBartolo Family Foundation.