This was a big week for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they faced three quality opponents before an extended All-Star break.
Coach Jon Cooper talked about this week’s importance and the quality of the opponents. “This whole week is a big test for us, and these are all playoff-caliber teams,”
Lightning Defeat The Minnesota Wild
Tuesday night, the Lightning honored Steven Stamkos for his 500th career goal, which he recorded on the road last week in Vancouver.
The Lightning played a Minnesota team going in the wrong direction in the standings. The Wild has held a playoff position all season long but recently fell out of a playoff spot. They lost their third in a row to the Lightning 4-2.
This game had the feel of a playoff game, and neither team wanted to give up anything on the ice.
Corry Perry scored two goals, and Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov added goals in the Lightning 4-2 win.
This was the 10th win in a row at home for the Lightning. That would set up the third meeting of the season with the best team in the NHL, the Boston Bruins.
Lightning Defeat The Best Team In The NHL
In the two previous encounters this season, the Lightning were severely outplayed by the Bruins, losing 5-3 in Tampa and 3-1 in Boston.
Game three of the season series was the best game the Lightning has played. However, the Bruins sitting atop the NHL standings is no fluke.
They are an excellent checking team. They don’t turn the puck over, play within their system, and have Linus Ullmark in goal, who leads the NHL in goals against average.
It was a playoff-type atmosphere at Amalie as the two heavyweights went back and forth, trading punches for 60 minutes, with the Lightning prevailing 3-2.
The difference maker in the Bolts’ 3-2 win was the play of Andrei Vasileviskiy. Vasileviskiy stopped 36 of 38 shots and was voted the number two star of the game.
This was a statement game for the Lightning, as they needed to prove they could beat this Bruins team. I feel these two teams will meet again at some point in the playoffs.
Anthony Cirelli talked about the effort after the 3-2 win. “Obviously, it was kind of a statement game. With the amount of points that they are up on the entire league, we knew it was gonna be a tough matchup, and we wanted to come out here and win the game. And that’s what we did.”
Cooper seemed happy with the effort and that the team was getting rewarded for their efforts. “We’ve played some pretty sound, structured hockey. We’re getting contributions from all four lines and all six D, and the goalie’s playing well. That’s what happens, so we’ve been rewarded for it.”
The Bolts then wrapped up the home stand against the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings on Saturday Night.
Bolts Wrap Up Perfect Week With 5-3 Win Against The Kings
The Lightning jumped to a quick 3-1 lead on goals from Braydon Point, Pierre-Edourd Bellemare, and Corey Perry. Ross Colton added another goal in the second period, and the Lightning cruised to a 5-2 win.
The Lightning climbed within three points of the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division.
The Lightning are playing their best hockey of the season and had three wins this week against high-quality opponents. With two and a half months to go in the regular season, this is the time of year you want to start putting everything together. And the Lightning is doing that.
Jon Cooper likes where his team is after the 1-3 start. “If you’re going to judge where we are in the standings, you’d say it’s a heck of a job that these guys have done, especially when you start the season 1-3. There’s been a lot of growth with our team.”
“We’re a much better team today than we were on day one. We’re starting to find some consistency in our game, and that’s what you want as you’re trying to make a push for the playoffs, but we’ve put ourselves in the spot we want to be in.”
“We’ve just got to keep moving forward. We’re a much better team now than we were a few months ago.”
This was the 12th consecutive home win for the Lightning setting a new franchise record. The Bolts are 32-15-1 on the season and will take a nine-day break for the All-Star game.
The Lightning will return to action Monday, February seventh, in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers.