The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, on Thursday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.
The club picked up its franchise record-tying eighth consecutive win, and its sixth consecutive win on the road.
That wasn't the only reason this game was notable, however. Going into the evening's affair, the Lightning were just two points behind the Eastern Conference leading Florida Panthers and two points ahead of the Boston Bruins for second in the Atlantic Division.
The Lightning did their part in securing a hard-fought win against an Ottawa team which routed them back in early February - a 5-1 loss.
But it wasn't easy, as has been the case throughout much of this eight-game winning streak. For much of the game, the Lightning and Senators seemed pretty evenly matched, with Ottawa clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing the Bolts to go to the prime scoring areas.
Anton Stralman thought he had finally broken through the Senators' solid defense when he ripped a shot over the blocker side of Andrew Hammond, but it was reversed due to incidental contact on the goaltender when Erik Condra was pushed into the crease by Dion Phaneuf.
Later in the period, the Senators got a great chance off of a poor dump-in by Victor Hedman. Chris Neil stole the puck and ended up on a partial breakaway toward Ben Bishop, but he was caught up to by Ondrej Palat and the puck was tipped out of play.
Cedric Paquette finally got the game's first goal at 4:14 when he took a shot from the left side boards. The puck bounced off Hammond's far pad and Paquette had managed to park himself in front of the net to backhand his own rebound into the net.
Following the goal, the game seemed to get a little testy, with noted tough guy Chris Neil landing a big hit on Victor Hedman. Some of Tampa Bay's fourth line players, including Brian Boyle, didn't approve of the hit and exchanged shoves with Neil.
The Bolts didn't back down and were finally able to increase their lead at 18:33 when Tyler Johnson skated in and attempted a wraparound shot. Though he looked to be down and out, Hammond made the save, but Ondrej Palat was there to backhand the loose puck to give the Bolts a 2-0 lead.
Just a minute into the third period, Jason Garrison took the team's fourth penalty of the game, one of the Lightning's three holding calls of the evening. They would eventually kill it, but the momentum seemed to be shifting toward the Senators, who were trying desperately to get back into the game.
They finally broke through when defenseman Marc Methot stole a turnover from a tired fourth-line unit and ripped it past Ben Bishop at 5:24.
Nikita Kucherov added the insurance goal that the Bolts needed at 18:14 when he pounced on a sloppy clearing attempt out of the Ottawa zone.
Finally, with the Ottawa Senators trying for one last push to tie it up, Steven Stamkos scored an empty net goal from the defensive zone to make it 4-1.
After the game, attention immediately turned to game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Florida Panthers. The Panthers did lose in regulation, which meant that the Lightning pulled into first place, tied with the rivals from South Florida at 80 points.
The Lightning now shift their focus to tomorrow's game back here in Tampa against the Carolina Hurricanes in an attempt to pull away from the Florida Panthers. That game will begin at 7 p.m.
- Steven Stamkos has now scored in seven out of his last eight games.
- Ben Bishop is 9-0-3 against the Ottawa Senators. He made 33 saves on the evening.
- The Lightning went 4/4 on the penalty kill and 0/1 on the power play.
- Erik Karlsson had the most ice time of any skater with 31:32. Anton Stralman had the most for the Lightning with 23:39.
- Jonathan Marchessault and Andrej Sustr were the scratches for the Bolts.