The Tampa Bay Lightning are through what should be the worst part of the Western conference road trip.
California -- where an even younger Lightning team struggled mightily a season ago as they tried to learn to play without Steven Stamkos -- is a tough test for any team in the NHL, so coming out of three games against the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks with four points and the lone loss by one goal on the second night of a back-to-back is a satisfying result.
With some time off after a loss on Monday at Staples Center, the Lightning came out in the first period looking to attack a slower Ducks defense group with speed; the teams traded shifts in each other's ends but the Lightning got the better of the scoring chances. Anaheim goaltender John Gibson made a few outstanding stops to keep the Bolts off the board until Pat Maroon could bang home a loose puck in the crease to give the Ducks a 1-0 first period lead.
Unfazed by the early deficit, the Lightning came out in the 2nd period and dominated, outshooting the Ducks 20-5 in the period and scoring four consecutive goals to take a stranglehold on the game. Anton Stralman, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Steven Stamkos all tallied for the Bolts, who scored just about every way possible (except on the power play, which remains a big punch line).
The Ducks got a little chippy in the third, but couldn't crack a conservative, defensive approach from the Bolts who limited good chances late and held on for the 4-1 win.
- Ben Bishop finished with 24 saves on 25 shots (.960 SV%). The lone goal he allowed came when Victor Hedman tried to wedge his skate against his own net to prevent a goal; unfortunately, his positioning actually prevented Bishop from fully extending his pad and potentially making the save himself.
- Still, the Lightning did give up a couple of glorious scoring chances, including a pair of clean breakaways. Both shots went high. Maybe Anaheim was coaching their players to shoot high on Bishop but in any event the game is much different if the Ducks convert on just one of those mistakes by Tampa Bay.
- The four-goal second helps, but Jon Cooper was able to roll his lines and rest his big guns late; no skater on the Lightning finished with fewer than 10 minutes of ice time and Victor Hedman saw the most ice with just 22:38. That should help tremendously with keeping the team's legs fresh heading on to Arizona and Colorado to finish up this road trip.
- Prior to being affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL were affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks. So there were a lot of Crunch alumni on the ice on Wednesday:
My count: 12 former Crunch players in Lightning lineup tonight, 5 in Ducks lineup (4 from time affiliated and Beauchemin).— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) February 19, 2015