It would appear at this point of the season, the Lightning's big mental weakness is the "slow start". For whatever reason, they have lapses where they "forget" (for lack of a better word) to come out fighting and it costs them every time. It's been a factor in their last three losses, including their two most recent games, defeats on the road at the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs respectively. Tonight may not have been a great start in that they didn't score early but they did hold the Wild shotless for the first seven minutes of the game and at least stayed competitive and engaged when they weren't dictating play.
"I think we realized what we're capable of when utilizing our speed and playing down low. That's what we did to start the game. We were all over them and we were able to get some momentum... it just kind of took off from there. I thought even in the third, inside the last couple minutes there we didn't take our foot off the gas, which was a good thing. It was a tight game and it is nice to get rewarded." - Lightning forward Steven Stamkos
The teams traded zeroes in the first period and Minnesota opened the scoring at 3:11 of the second. A careless turnover by Mark Barberio gave the puck to Zach Parise who scored easily on an assist from Thomas Vanek.
There were close calls later but that would be it for Minnesota offensively, due in large part to a stellar effort from Ben Bishop in net. He held off 30 of the 31 shots he faced on the night, many under arduous circumstances. His counterpart for Minnesota, Darcy Kuemper would go on to stop 26 of the 28 shots against him on the other end.
At 13:42, the Lightning tied the game on a power play goal by Steven Stamkos, who got help from Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison.
About four and a half minutes later at 18:07, Alex Killorn scored the eventual game winner on assists from Stralman and Ryan Callahan.
The Lightning carried a 2-1 lead through the second intermission and until the end of the game.
That's not to imply the third period was easy or boring, however.
The Bolts survived a harrowing moment at 4:30 while killing a tripping penalty called on Brian Boyle. Both Killorn and Bishop would both find themselves without sticks for a few tense seconds, but were somehow able to keep the puck out of the net.
Then at 18:43, Tyler Johnson was called for tripping. The Wild pulled Kuemper for the extra attacker, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage for the remainder of regulation. Though the Lightning never cleared the puck from their zone during the final 1:17, they somehow managed to survive that onslaught and walk away with the well-earned win.
"It felt good, especially after those last two games we didn't play the way we wanted to. I think tonight the outcome was great, but I think we stuck to the way we've been playing around this season and we are pretty happy with the way we played." - Killorn
The Lightning will be in action again on Wednesday when they host the New York Rangers.
- This concludes the season series with Minnesota, with the teams splitting the two meetings.
- Tampa Bay was 1-2 on the power play and a perfect 3-3 on the penalty kill.
- The Lightning will play six of their next eight games at home.
- With the win, the Lightning avoid a three-game losing streak. The last time they lost three or more in a row was last season when they dropped five straight between March 2-10.
- Stamkos is now just three goals shy of the 250 benchmark.
- He has registered 11 points in his last 13 games.
- Tonight was the fifth sellout of the season so far.
- The Lightning honored Madeline Robinson as the 11th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Robinson, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Wheelchairs 4 Kids. Over the past several years, Robinson has been on a mission to provide hope, confidence and resources to children with physical disabilities. Her drive was ignited while previously working with children's charities and repeatedly noticing children with wheelchairs that were too small, broken and/or irreparable. Upon further research, Robinson realized that it was quite difficult for families to acquire funding for wheelchair replacements, despite the reality that children in wheelchairs are in need of these replacements more frequently during their formative years.Tonight's Lightning Community Hero responded to this need by starting Wheelchairs 4 Kids in April 2011. Wheelchair 4 Kids is a non-profit organization providing wheelchairs, home and vehicle modifications, and other assistive devices, while also hosting fun activities to give children with mobility challenges an opportunity to live life to its fullest. Robinson continues to serve as President of the Board for Wheelchairs 4 Kids and to date she has impacted the lives of close to a hundred children in provided assistance.