The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues 5-2 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday night.
For the first time in more than a month, the Lightning have won two games in a row. A lot has been said and written about what dire straits the organization is in. And make no mistake, with five starters and a sizable chunk of the team’s salary on Injured Reserve, things are not great. This win tonight marks the first consecutive wins by the Lightning since beating the Flyers in Philadelphia on November 19, the final win of a four-game streak.
Still, did you know that the team’s record on December 22, 2016 was 17-14-3 and that the team’s record on December 22, 2017 is 17-14-3? Point being, things could be worse. Things could almost ALWAYS be worse. And until things get better in terms of getting players back from the disabled list, the Lightning will have to work hard, be smart and have everyone on the roster pitch in.
That’s what happened Tuesday when they picked up a 4-1 win against Detroit. They would need all of that and more against a much bigger threat in a far more talented St. Louis Blues squad.
“It’s the National Hockey League. To me, every win’s impressive. It’s hard to win in this league. I think the one thing that was impressive was you’re down two and you come back and get five unanswered. I was really, really proud of the way we battled back because that game could’ve gone the other way really quick. When the team is emotionally invested, we can be pretty good. It doesn’t matter who’s in there and I thought after the first period we got emotionally invested, and it was a really good effort by the guys.” - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Thing started out pretty even at the start of the game, but for one awful minute (actually just over half a minute), the wheels appeared to fly right off the wagon.
A terrible turnover by Brayden Point in front of the Lightning net, the type that has vexed this team since the start of the season, led to David Perron scoring unassisted at 14:11.
Just 32 second later, Wade Megan, making his NHL debut, scored on a rebound from a shot taken by Ryan Reaves. Joel Edmundson was credited with the secondary assist.
The Lightning hung in and continued to work, which actually generated some pretty good offensive opportunities in the last couple of minutes of the period.
“We knew we had better in us. I think we were slow. We created some opportunities late in the first in the final five minutes and that’s what we carried on into the second period. Very happy with the way we responded after the first 15 minutes. St. Louis is a great team, tough to play against and physical, so very proud of the way the guys battled through.” - Victor Hedman
The Blues took the 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
At 9:48 of the second, the Bolts halved the lead when Brian Boyle scored yet another goal while camped in front of the net and deflecting a shot. This time from Victor Hedman, with Jonathan Drouin adding assistance.
Taking a page from Boyle’s playbook, Michael Bournival, the most recent call-up from the Syracuse Crunch, tied the game at 17:27, deflecting Jason Garrison’s shot for the equalizer. J.T. Brown picked up the other assist.
The score was tied at two entering the third.
In a departure from all the deflections, Alex Killorn gave the Lightning the lead with the eventual game-winner on a wrist shot from the top of the slot at 5:25. He got helpers from Anton Stralman and Hedman.
Insurance came at 18:20 when Valtteri Filppula made a beautiful move that allowed him to feed Drouin cutting in front of the net. Drouin shifted the puck to his backhand and beat Blues goalie Jake Allen to increase the lead to two.
Allen appeared to be injured on the play, possibly his right arm. He was replaced in net by Carter Hutton. Allen had allowed four goals on 31 shots on the night. On the other end, Andrei Vasilevskiey allowed just the two goals on a total of 23 St. Louis shots.
Hutton only logged :38 seconds of actual ice time, as he was pulled almost immediately for an additional St. Louis attacker.
This allowed Drouin to outhustle the Blues’ Brad Hunt and score into an empty net to finish things off. He was assisted by Filppula and Hedman on the play.
“Ultimately, you get judged in wins and losses, but internally when you work your way out of something, it’s how you’re working your way out. I really thought when we played St. Louis in St. Louis and we were down 4-1 and we battled back, we didn’t win that game, but you could see things were turning for us. Ever since then, I think the one game, probably the Vancouver game at home, but other than that, those guys have worked. We’ve been on the point side of most of them. Some of them we haven’t. But I just have liked the way our game has transitioned, and we’ve been getting better. It’s funny, the more guys we lose, guys keep coming in and their effort is willing us to games so it’s been nice.” - Cooper
The Lightning are back in action tomorrow night in Washington to face the Capitals.