The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to lose three games in a row all season.
That feat is impossible now following an impressive 4-0 road win in Sunrise over the Florida Panthers with just two games remaining on the regular season schedule.
The blue line showed it's youth and inexperience early for the Lightning, who stalled a few times on offense and managed just 7 total shots on goal in the first period. They gave up only 7, though, while weathering a few storms from the Jonathan Huberdeau-Aleksandr Barkov-Jaromir Jagr line and a terrific scoring chance on the doorstep just missed by Brandon Pirri.
There was a bit of an odd start to the 2nd as 8 seconds in, Tomas Kopecky nearly scored on a partial break and Willie Mitchell had a nice chance on a trailing rush that was stopped by Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay followed with a rush of their own, a 2-on-1 shorthanded with Cedric Paquette glancing a shot off the crossbar, but both goaltenders did just enough to keep the score at 0-0.
Tampa Bay finally opened the scoring on the power play with a quick one-timer on one knee from Steven Stamkos past Robert Luongo for the 1-0 lead, but it continued to be Florida carrying the advantage at even strength, with more good looks from the Jagr line.
As can always happen with an elite goal scorer like Steven Stamkos, though, all it takes is one shot to turn the score of a game away from the direction it was trending; in spite of a heavy possession advantage from the Cats, Stamkos walked in down right wing and fired a laser over Luongo's shoulder for the 2-0 lead.
From there, it was all Bolts. Ryan Callahan and Tyler Johnson added third period tallies for the 4-0 final, and Ben Bishop was sharp making 34 saves for the shutout as the Lightning head into their final two games of the season, at home vs. the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins.
- Atlantic Division standings update: with the win, the Lightning move into a tie for points with the Montreal Canadiens, though the Habs hold a game in hand. Tampa Bay holds several tiebreakers over Montreal (including the first and most important one, ROW) so if the teams finish tied in points the Bolts will win the division. There's still something to play for in the season's final two games.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning, with the victory, clinched at worst 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, so they'll get home ice advantage for at least one round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bolts are 30-8-1 at Amalie Arena this season and 18-16-7 on the road, a significant split.
- Tyler Johnson returned from injury, but Alex Killorn was held out with something new that cropped out. The team also skated again without Victor Hedman, Andrej Sustr, Jason Garrison, and Braydon Coburn.
- Boston and Detroit both claimed two points on Saturday, so most of the Atlantic Division stayed the same.
- If the playoffs started right now, the following would be the match-ups: Tampa Bay would be facing Detroit; Montreal would be facing Pittsburgh; NYR vs. Boston; and NYI vs. Washington.
- Steven Stamkos might be having the quietest 40+ goal season in NHL history. He's scored 50 and 60 in recent years, so the expectations are high, but with almost no fanfare he's 2nd in the NHL in goals (tied with Rick Nash). Stamkos is still one of the game's best goal scorers, no doubt.