The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in Los Angeles on Monday.
By necessity, the Lightning have been trying on different personas to help deal with an injury-ravaged roster and stay relevant in the pursuit of the postseason. Monday, they gave good old-fashioned “grit” a try, something with which the skill-oriented Bolts aren’t automatically familiar.
“I’ll be honest, what did we give up, two against Buffalo, two against Columbus, one against L.A.? The guys, since we had that four-game losing streak there, they’ve strung together nine straight. I know we didn’t get the result we wanted against Columbus, but we thought we deserved points out of that game and we felt like we deserved points out of this game tonight. We were very fortunate to get two, but the guys are battling hard, and it’s all about our net now. Again, you look, the power play didn’t happen to score tonight, but the penalty kill killed off all three of their power plays, and when you do that, you’re giving yourself a chance to win. That’s a part of playing defense, and they were committed to it.” - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Lightning dished out a season-high 41 hits, including three from Luke Witkowski, who also got in a fight with Kyle Clifford as well as registering his second assist of the season.
“Difference maker for us. It has not been a staple of our team being big and physical, but he brings an element like that to the game. He happens to hit a guy that’s going to come right back at him in Clifford, and that was two honest players, and one guy got hit and got up and wanted an answer for it and Luke stood up and answered and that’s what guys like Clifford and Luke do. It was uplifting for us for sure.” - Cooper
In the process, Tampa Bay snapped a couple of road losing streaks, a five-game overall road losing skein and a four-game skid in Los Angeles against the Kings dating all the way back to Jan. 12, 2009.
Clifford scored the Kings’ first and only goal at 8:33 of the first, unassisted.
Exactly six minutes later, Tyler Johnson tied the game, getting assists from Jonathan Drouin and Witkowski.
“That’s what elite offensive-minded players can make, and Jo (Drouin) is elite in that regard. A lot of good things happen when he has the puck on his stick, and when you get yourself open, there’s a good chance he’s going to be able to find you. He did a great job protecting the puck. He beat his man, and now you give him a little bit of open space to make a play and Johnny opened up. The key was, it’s not so much he found Johnson, he put it right in Johnson’s wheelhouse. When you’re able to do that, give the guys a chance to score, and that’s what Jo did.” - Cooper
Late in the second period, the Lightning took the lead, getting the eventual game winner from Brian Boyle at 18:47, with Valtteri Filppula and Nikita Kucherov pitching in with helpers.
Ben Bishop made the start in net for the Lightning, saving 31 of 32 shots he faced.
This was the first of a back-to-back in Southern California and the Lightning will face off against the Ducks in Anaheim tonight.