With the Lightning in sixth place in the Atlantic Division, a game against third place Ottawa in mid-December qualifies as big. The Lightning took care of business handily Thursday night, building a three-goal lead on their way to their third win in the last four games.
"It was good. It was a little bit of a tough start for us, which happens sometimes coming after a road trip, but Bishop stood tall for us. Then we found our legs, we found our game and we played pretty well." - Lightning forward Ryan Callahan
That tough start was most evident by the fact that the Lightning recorded a single shot in the first 15 minutes. They would go on to register four during the period, For their part, the Senators only put up eight of their own.
At 18:44, the Lightning found themselves the beneficiaries of a 5 on 3 power play, the third time Ottawa found themselves shorthanded during the period. As the period wound down, the Senators cleared the zone and the Lightning scrambled to regain it before time expired. Nikita Kucherov scored with just seven seconds remaining. He was assisted by Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
The second period began with the Lightning holding a man advantage for the first 46 seconds but they couldn't convert. It would be the last time they had a power play on the night.
They would find themselves shorthanded late in the second due to a ridiculous Holding call assessed to Valtteri Filppula and Ben Bishop spent the last ten seconds of it stacking pads in a spectacular effort, keeping the score 1-0 after two. Bishop would go on to stop 30 shots on the night.
Ottawa came in with the #1 road power play in the league and the Lightning penalty killers held them to an 0-for-4 night.
"We knew that they had skill and they would get opportunities, but we just tried to limit them. I thought our penalty kill responded well tonight." - Callahan
"(Ottawa) has one of the best power plays, especially on the road. We have a really good penalty kill so to be able to shut them down was good. We've had some bad games, but we don't have a bad penalty kill. We just need to stay out of the box." - Bishop
Filppula got a measure of revenge at the 25 second mark, fresh off of serving his penalty, by making short work of a long rebound off a shot by J.T. Brown. Callahan chipped in with the secondary assist.
At 8:33, Kucherov scored his second goal of the night, this time unassisted.
"He (Kucherov) has a great shot. I think he scored on a 5-on-3 in San Jose too, so if he can keep shooting like that he'll score a lot of goals for us." - Bishop
Ottawa spoiled the shutout effort at 12:06, with Cody Ceci scoring on a delayed penalty, getting helpers from Bobby Ryan and Mark Stone.
Senators head coach Dave Cameron pulled goaltender Craig Anderson with just over two minutes remaining for the extra skater. Brown scored into the empty net on an assist from Callahan with 13 seconds left to finish things off.
The Lightning will be in action again on Saturday when they host the Washington Capitals.
- This was the first meeting of four meetings this season between Ottawa and Tampa Bay..
- The Lightning haven't lost in regulation to the Senators since March 6, 2012.
- The Lightning lost all four meetings with the Senators during the 2011-12 season, but are 8-1-3 since.
- December 6th was the 25th anniversary of the NHL's announcement awarding expansion franchises to both Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
- The Senators hold a 44-33-8 record all-time in games against the Lightning.
- Ondrej Palat returned to the lineup after being injured on November 7th. "It's nice to have him back", says Kucherov. "He's a huge part of our team. He brings more energy. As you can see in the second and third period, as he plays more, he'll feel better and better."
- The Lightning are now 2-4-0 in the first home game following a road trip this season.
- Hedman now has 197 points in his NHL career.
- Kucherov reached the 100 career point threshold with his two goals tonight.
- Bishop is now 7-0-3 against his former team and he played in the 499th game of his NHL career tonight.
- The Lightning honored Alex Cooks, Sr. as the 13th Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game. Cooks' widow Aimee received the $50,000 donation in his honor from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, and will donate the money to Alex's Xmas for Kids and others. Cooks Sr. is the founder of Alex's Southern Style BBQ, and five years into the business he was fortunate it was doing well enough for him to purchase 10 bicycles before Christmas for children in need. Quickly, word spread through Tampa Bay. Cooks ended up donating 182 bicycles on Christmas Eve to kids and families in need. Since 1999, Alex's Xmas for Kids and others have donated 20,000 bicycles to schools, families and children. Cooks also worked with local Hillsborough County elementary school principals and social workers to identify children in need. This past June, Cooks was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 49, but his habit of paying it forward will live on. Cooks will also be known for giving more than receiving. His daily generosity and kind acts have impacted countless lives as his organization strives to bring hope and many more smiles to those children waking up to a new bicycle. Cooks becomes the 192nd Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $9.75 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.