In the midst of a four-game Western Canadian road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed something to get them going. Coming off a lackluster effort in a 3-1 loss in Winnipeg, the Bolts entered Thursday’s contest in Calgary seeking to build up some positive momentum over a struggling Flames team.
Although it took the Lightning some time to get going, it turned out a date with the Flames was just what they needed.
Tampa Bay surrendered three consecutive goals in the second period before scoring five unanswered goals, pulling away from Calgary and earning a 7-4 win at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Alex Killorn ended an 11-game goal drought, and ended the night with four points, tying a career high as he scored twice and added two assists. Matthew Peca added a goal and two assists, Cory Conacher scored twice, while Steven Stamkos and Braydon Coburn added a goal each. Andrei Vasilevskiy surrendered four goals, but also finished with 42 saves. Tampa Bay chased Calgary netminder Mike Smith, who allowed six goals on 21 shots as the Flames lost their sixth game in a row.
An angry, chippy opening period saw the Lightning awarded with a golden opportunity very early on.
Just 26 seconds into the contest, Calgary’s Sam Bennett went to the penalty box for high-sticking Yanni Gourde. Only 10 seconds later, Travis Hamonic took a penalty for shooting the puck over the glass, handing the Lightning a 1:50 5-on-3 power play. So what did Tampa Bay do with it?
A whole lot of nothing.
The Bolts spent too much time making low-percentage passes and shooting the puck into Flames players despite having plenty of space to work with, resulting in the Lightning coming up empty.
Both teams had glorious chances following puck-handling miscues by each goaltender. However, both Vasilevskiy and Smith made desperation saves to keep the puck out. There were also plenty of physical, chippy moments, including sequences where the Stamkos and the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau each took hits that drew the ire of the opposing side. Multiple scrums broke out after whistles, with each team exchanging shoves and angry words. Tampa Bay’s Jake Dotchin and Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk also dropped the gloves and engaged in a spirited fight halfway through the period.
In recent games, the Lightning’s special teams have been a problem, and tonight was no exception.
After failing on that extended 5-on-3, the Bolts found themselves down a man when Anton Stralman went to the box for hooking. Calgary’s Micheal Ferland got open in front of the Lightning net and converted a centering pass from Mikael Backlund, giving the Flames a 1-0 lead on his 20th of the season at the 7:16 mark. It marked the third straight game and fourth time in five games in which Tampa Bay has surrendered a power play goal.
After Ferland’s goal, the Lightning settled down and started putting pucks on net with more regularity, forcing Smith to make some saves. It eventually resulted in a goal from an unlikely source.
When you think of players that score goals, Coburn’s name is not the first one mentioned.
In fact, he was the only Lightning regular who had not scored a goal this season. That changed at the 13:34 mark when he got his stick on a shot by Andrej Sustr, redirecting the puck just enough to beat Smith and knot the game up 1-1. Sustr and Peca earned the assists, with Peca extending his point streak to three games as the teams went to the first intermission all tied up.
Following a rough-and-tumble opening period, both teams found the back of the net with alarming regularity in the second period.
Tampa Bay and Calgary combined for five goals in the middle stanza, and it didn’t take long for the Lightning to take a 2-1 lead. Killorn ended his goal drought when he backhanded a rebound on a power play past Smith for his sixth of the season. The goal also double as the Lightning’s first power play goal since January 20 in Minnesota.
Unfortunately for the Bolts, that lead didn’t last long, as the defensive miscues and poor coverage allowed the Flames to score three consecutive goals to take a 4-2 lead. Only 1:34 after Killorn’s goal, Backlund notched his 10th of the year when he executed a fancy toe drag move around Mikhail Sergachev before beating Vasilevskiy and tying the game 2-2. Less than two minutes later, the Lightning’s defense got caught pinching and Stamkos was the last man back. He lost track of Sean Monahan, who crept behind the Lightning’s defense. Monahan collected a pass from Gaudreau and scored to give Calgary a 3-2 lead.
That lead jumped to 4-2 when Matt Stajan jammed home a puck past Vasilevskiy on a play in which the Lightning got outworked and were caught watching the puck. It appeared as though the Lightning were in danger of letting this game get out of hand. However, Peca had other ideas, racing down the left wing on a rush and beating Smith with a shot to the short side that Calgary’s netminder probably wanted back, cutting the Flames’ lead to 4-3. Killorn’s assist on the goal marked the 200th point of his NHL career.
The positive momentum from Peca’s goal was all the Lightning needed to overwhelm Calgary in the third period.
Killorn notched his second of the night when he zipped a backhand shot past Smith for his seventh of the year, tying the game 4-4. Not long after the goal, Gourde and Garnet Hathaway dropped the gloves after the Lightning forward took exception to Hathaway’s high hit on Stralman. While Gourde served his five-minute major, Conacher tallied the game-winning goal when he whirled around and fired a shot from a sharp angle that beat Smith to the short side. It was another soft goal by Smith, and the Lightning took a 5-4 lead at the 5:16 mark.
Only 1:06 later, Stamkos received a sensational pass from Chris Kunitz and roofed a shot top shelf past Smith. The Lightning’s lead stood at 6-4, and Smith’s night was done, as he got pulled for backup David Rittich. Rittich didn’t fare much better, as Conacher scored his fifth of the season and second of the night to make it a 7-4 game. It looked very similar to his first goal, as he beat Rittich with a sharp-angled shot from the short side. It was yet another goal that Calgary’s netminders will look at in disgust when they watch the film of this game. On the opposite side, Vasilevskiy stopped all 19 shots he faced in the final period. What had been a 4-2 deficit for the Lightning morphed into a 7-4 win after scoring four goals in the final period.
Tampa Bay returns to action on Saturday night when their road trip continues in Vancouver for a contest against the Canucks. Puck drops at 10 pm.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Alex Killorn – Tied a career-high with four points (two goals, two assists). Ended an 11-game goal drought.
2nd Star: Matthew Peca – Extended his point streak to three games and his goal streak to two. Ended the night with a goal and two assists.
3rd Star: Cory Conacher – Scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner.
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