With the worst of the current Western Conference swing behind them, the Tampa Bay Lightning faced a new challenge on Saturday night in Arizona.
Beat a reeling team they should handle easily, and do it away from Amalie Arena.
The Bolts didn't put together their best effort, but got the job done nonetheless, riding a pair of goals from Ondrej Palat to a 4-2 win at Gila River Arena.
Though the Lightning jumped out to an early advantage in puck possession -- taking 6 of the game's first 7 shots on net -- it was the Coyotes who struck first. Brett Connolly gave the puck away in the defensive zone and Michael Stone buried a long slap shot past Ben Bishop for an early 1-0 Coyotes lead.
Again unfazed by a one-goal deficit on the road, the Lightning responded with a strong second period, limiting the Coyotes to just three total shots on goal for the period. Palat scored his first of the game on a hard slap shot while breaking in alone down the left side, as a pair of Coyotes penalty killers committed too deep on the forecheck and too aggressively towards the puck leaving Palat open.
Ryan Callahan added another tally to put the Lightning up for good, cashing in on a bad angle chip shot following a wide look from Anton Stralman at the point.
Palat converted on his second goal of the night off a breakaway in the third to put the Bolts up two after a bad change by the Coyotes left Mike Smith hanging out to dry. Mark Arcobello -- playing for his fourth NHL team this season -- made things interesting with an unassisted breakaway goal of his own following a regrettable Steven Stamkos turnover at the attacking blue line.
Stamkos added an empty netter with less than ten seconds remaining after a failed effort to tie the game by the Coyotes with Mike Smith pulled for an extra attacker.
- The Lightning scored two power play goals! (One was an empty netter, a man advantage goal in name only). The power play is not fixed. Not by a long shot.
- Further to that point -- Arizona entered play tonight the worst team in the league in terms of shot attempts allowed on the penalty kill (Tampa Bay is, funny enough, 29th). In terms of shot suppression, the Coyotes are the worst PK team in the league so converting on 2/6 tries and needing basically a pair of breakaways to do it (one on an empty net) is less than impressive.
- Ben Bishop finished with a .917 SV% on the night, which isn't eye-popping, but made a handful of great saves to keep the Lightning in control of the game. The way the team played following Arcobello's goal is a little concerning but there are no concerns with the way Bishop handled the amped up attack of a pressing Coyotes team looking for an equalizer.
- The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings both picked up points in their match-ups, so the Atlantic Division standings remain unchanged. The Bolts are a point back of the Habs, who have two games in hand and are currently sitting pretty. Detroit remains four points back of the Bolts, but with four games in hand.
- Tampa Bay is tied with the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, and San Jose Sharks for most games played (61). The rest of the Eastern Conference will be making up their games in hand as the Lightning conclude their current road trip, so we'll get a more accurate view of the standings in the East at that point.