It should be obvious the Lightning are happy to be home. Coming into tonight with a 22-6-1 record at Amalie Arena and returning from an extended road trip that saw them pick up six of a possible ten points in the two-plus weeks between home dates, the Lightning celebrated with four days off and a 4-0 win over a visiting powerhouse in the Chicago Blackhawks as a difficult month on the Tampa Bay schedule draws to a close.
"This month has been circled on the calendar. I know it wasn't division opponents, but it's eight road games, with four at home and I think at the time we played them, nine of them were in the playoffs, so this was a big game for us. We came out of it about .500 and I think it was a good measuring stick for us." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Any time there's a shutout, attention is deservedly focused on the goaltender and Ben Bishop was spectacular, especially early in fighting off three power plays, and went on to stop all 28 shots that came his way.
"I think the guys did a good job in front of me. We didn't give them too many odd man rushes, which is nice. I thougt we played a complete game. It's nice to get some power play goals in there and the PK came up big. We played well five-on-five" - Bishop
The first period was pretty evenly matched, with the Blackhawks outshooting the Bolts 10-7 and both sides unable to cash in on multiple man-advantage opportunities. It appeared briefly that the Lightning may have taken a 1-0 lead into the intermission on a buzzer beater from Nikita Kucherov but it was correctly ruled on the ice that time had expired before he even got the shot off, let alone past Chicago netminder Scott Darling.
Tampa Bay broke the seal at 8:27 of the second on a goal by Brian Boyle who benefited from a nifty pass from Jonathan Drouin. Drouin was chasing the puck behind the Chicago net and got a fortunate bounce off the side of the net, allowing him to stop, spin and feed it to Boyle out in front.
They doubled the lead at 17:53 when Steven Stamkos scored the first of two he would collect on the night. He was assisted by Jason Garrison and Nikita Nesterov.
At the end of two periods, Tampa Bay was up 2-0.
The Lightning power play cashed in for the first of two at 7:37 of the third with Ryan Callahan tapping into a wide open net on an assist from Valtteri Filppula. Tyler Johnson picked up the secondary helper on the play.
The power play was successful again at 17:15, with Stamkos firing a laser to pick up his second goal of the night and 34th on the season. Garrison and Victor Hedman provided helpers.
The Lightning head out on the road again briefly on Sunday with a quick trip to Sunrise to face the maybe/maybe not resurgent Florida Panthers and will return home on Tuesday to host the Buffalo Sabres.
- This is Bishop's second shutout of the season. Previously, he faced 12 shots in blanking the Buffalo Sabres 5-0 on December 4th.
- This was the final regular season meeting between the Lightning and Blackhawks, with the teams splitting the two games, each winning at home.
- The Lightning are now 25-6-4 when scoring first.
- The Lightning will retain and build upon their lead as the NHL's top scoring team, adding four goals to the 201 they'd racked up previously, which was good enough to lead the New York Islanders by eight prior to tonight's game.
- The Lightning have won 15 games against Western Conference opponents
- The Lightning only have three games remaining against Western Conference opponents, all at home, taking on the Dallas Stars (March 7), Winnipeg Jets (March 14) and Nashville Predators (March 26).
- Special teams: The power play was 2 for 6 while the penalty kill was 3 for 3. Tampa Bay wasn't called for a penalty after the first period.
- Ever wonder why people fret so much when the power play is, um, inefficient? The Lightning are 25-3-1 when scoring at least one goal with the man advantage.
- The Lightning honored Rosemary Armstrong as the 30th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game against Chicago. Armstrong, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Crossroads, Florida's Children First and Community Law Program in St. Pete. Armstrong has been a great advocate for low income and vulnerable residents in the Tampa Bay area, donating countless hours of legal services to those in need. Noticing a lack of representation for foster care children in Hillsborough County and the negative effects it can have on their future, Armstrong created Crossroads for Florida Kids, Inc., a network of attorneys who offer pro bono representation for foster children. She is responsible for recruiting and training attorneys, as well as offering her own services pro bono. Since Crossroads for Florida Kids, Inc. was created in 2012, Armstrong has recruited over 110 attorneys to represent children pro bono. In 2013, Crossroad's attorneys contributed over 3,500 pro bono hours and in 2014 they accumulated approximately 4,100 hours. To date Crossroads has represented over 100 children in the foster care system. In addition to being named tonight's Lightning Community Hero, Armstrong has been previously honored with the Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award in 2011 and the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award 2012, which is the highest statewide pro bono award.