The Tampa Bay Lightning, finally, are winners again.
After a four-game losing streak, the Bolts returned to the winner’s circle with a 2-1, shootout victory over the Washington Caps. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 34 of 35 shots.
The Lightning got a regulation goal from Nikita Kucherov, and both Brayden Point and Brian Boyle scored in the shootout. The five minute four-on-four period ended scoreless.
The Bolts had struggled with their goaltenders during their four-game losing streak, giving up 19 goals in the skid. That wasn’t a problem. Bishop stopped 23 shots in the second and third period.
“A lot of times, when you’ve lost a couple in a row, it’s worrisome if you’re not playing well,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “We just went through a spurt where we weren’t playing that well, but you could see we were coming against St. Louis and I know we didn’t get the result we wanted, but I didn’t walk into that room saying, “Wow. That was a tough one again.” We were kind of building on that and so we just had a good feeling about, you know, let’s just carry that into tonight. You never know how the result’s going to be, but you keep that effort going and they gave us a great effort tonight and kept a really good team off the board. As I said, you know, you go to the shootout, you win some, you lose some. Guys put some nice pucks on the net on an outstanding goalie and Bish was there to make the last save.”
Kucherov gave the Bolts a 1-0 lead with his 13th goal. Niklas Backstrom scored on a power play to tie the game midway through the third period.
“I’m sure that when they scored their goal, we probably were a little more on edge than we were when we had the one goal lead, but there’s a reason,” said Cooper, whose team moved to 10-1 in games where they scored first. “Get the lead and you’ve got a better chance to win the game. It was tough because we kept – one of the big things is you’ve got to keep them off the power play. We didn’t take a penalty in the first and then we took (six) in the last two plus periods.
“So I thought our penalty kill did an outstanding job. If you were going to sit there and say we’re going to take (six) penalties and give up one goal against Washington, we would take that all day and then our PP came up big too. I thought the guys stuck with it the whole game. I thought Bish was strong from all the way out. It was good to get those two points.”
The better defensive effort gave the Bolts a chance.
“I know it was one of our better full, 60-minute games,” said Bishop. “I thought maybe one of the best ones we’ve played all season, start to finish. Besides some of the penalties we kind of carried the play and didn’t have those lapses like we’ve had in the past so that was a good game and obviously it’s a big two points now we just have to keep building.”
Said Boyle: it’s not a switch. We can only go so bad that we kind of had to go back to basics. It’s going to be a process and we’re getting it pretty quick, but it’s still a process. We’re still trying to cut down some mistakes and some zone time, some chances. But for the most part I thought we were skating and we were on pucks, we were on the forecheck and that’s going to alleviate a lot of stuff in our end.”
Tampa Bay plays today at Carolina.