Game 7: Tampa Bay Lightning versus Minnesota Wild

A battle featuring exceptional goaltending from both sides is won by the Lightning, whose Ben Bishop stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced.

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday night.

"Five and two is a lot better than four and three. That was a good team win tonight." - Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis

Tonight's game was probably a whole lot of fun for goaltending aficionados without a rooting interest. For everyone else, it was a pretty nerve-wracking affair for the most part. Ben Bishop for the Lightning and Josh Harding for the Wild were both outstanding in a game that was 1-0 until halfway through the third and then tied until the final five minutes.

After the fireworks of the last two games, the first period was a relatively quiet affair with only one goal being scored. That was Tampa Bay's as Tyler Johnson converted on the power play with assists by Valtteri Filppula and Richard Panik at 14:02

A scoreless second period saw Minnesota dial up the intensity, outshooting the Lightning 13-7. Bishop came up big time after time. At one point, he was credited with eight saves in 53 seconds of play. By comparison, the Wild's Harding, while facing fewer shots, was just as good, turning away Lightning scoring chances again and again.

"I think there was a point there in the second period where they could have had three or four goals. He's (Bishop) been playing well, he's been helping us out a lot by playing pucks like a defenseman, so it's good to see him going like that." - Lightning defenseman Matt Carle

At 11:05 of the third, the Wild finally solved Bishop with Mikko Koivu catching the top corner of the net thanks to assists from Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Suter.

The Lightning had worked hard during the third period to overturn the shot differential they'd suffered in the second, outshooting the Wild 13-2. They would go on to outshoot Minnesota 30-26 on the night.

At that point, Lightning fans might have caught themselves looking back ruefully at missed opportunities. In the first, a whistle during a scrum just before Filppula slipped the puck across the line prevented the Lightning from taking a 2-0 lead. In the second, Harding denied Stamkos on a rare two-man breakaway opportunity. Then in the third, Victor Hedman found himself in the slot and catching the puck in his glove, allowing him to tee up his own shot, which, unfortunately, whistled wide.

Before worrying too much about what could have been, the Lightning found themselves with a four minute power play, due to a high sticking call against Matt Cooke at 12:41.

Some of the air was let out of that balloon just over a minute later when Alex Killorn was given two minutes for tripping.

As it turned out, no matter. Because at 14:56 the Wild defense somehow let Stamkos receive a long pass from Matt Carle and slip in behind them where he beat Harding to give the Bolts back the lead. Radko Gudas contributed the second assist.

The Bolts salted away the win at 19:43 when Sami Salo cleared the puck from deep in the defensive zone and saw it slide in for an empty net goal.

At the end, Bishop stopped 25 of 26 shots faced while Harding turned away 27 of 29.

With the win, the Lightning improve to 5-2-0 on the season, including 3-1 at home.

The Lightning will be in action once again on Saturday when they host the Boston Bruins.

Game notes:

  • Tonight, the Lightning observed Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Among other touches, all the advertisements on the dasher boards were rendered in purple.
  • Both Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell saw their respective points-scored streak snapped at five games.
  • The Lightning have a +10 goal differential which ranks third in the NHL.
  • Michael Russo (@Russostrib) of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported via Twitter that a snake was found in the Wild's dressing room during pregame.
  • The Lightning have notched 19 goals in their last four games while the Wild have scored just four goals in their last three games.
  • Bishop has won all five of his starts this season, which equals his career winning streak. He has not allowed a first period goal this season.
  • Minnesota's last visit to the Forum was November 14, 2010, when they beat the Lightning 4-1.
  • Due to a lower body injury, St. Louis was a game-time decision as to whether he would play or not. Brett Connolly was recalled from Syracuse as a result. St. Louis and Connolly both played, with Pierre-Cedric LaBrie being scratched.
  • Connolly logged 9:38 on the ice, his first NHL game of the season.
  • The Lightning honored Dr. Glen Barden as the fourth Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Barden, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. Dr. Barden has always demonstrated compassion and desire to help others out when they are in need. Prior to healthcare for the uninsured became a national debate, Dr. Barden was concerned about this epidemic and took action. In 1999, while he was CEO of the 180 physicians at the Watson Clinic, he led an effort to establish a free medical clinic for the working uninsured. Two years later his dream became a reality with the opening of Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. Since 2001, roughly 18,000 people have found a medical home where they receive quality care. Despite being very busy with his own surgery practice, Dr. Barden spends his free time ensuring those in need of health care receive it. His executive leadership of a large group practice and his dedication to family he continued to lead Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine in the early years by successful fundraising, enlisting volunteer doctors and maintaining the mission of providing quality medical care for the uninsured.