Notebook: Lightning bonding at perfect time
Not only did Anders Lindback perform sterling in net Thursday, but the entire team put forth a collective effort that the Tampa Bay Lightning needed with the postseason less than a week away.
"It is the way our team's grown together," head coach Jon Cooper said. "That's what you want to see at the tail end of the season, 23-24 guys starting to come together as one."
What started with a solid effort by the defense and penalty kill that kept the Philadelphia Flyers from recording a shot on goal for more than seven minutes to start, was followed by a number of dynamic saves from Lindback, including a stretching glove save from his knees and stopping a rebound from point blank range when the blue line suffered a break down.
"There were surges where we broke down defensively and he had to be the last line of defense," captain Steven Stamkos said. "He has been a big reason of why we've won these past two."
As the team in front of Lindback continued to feed off his play, it only seemed appropriate that during that stretch forward Tyler Johnson opened scoring for the Bolts. His 24th goal of the season helped him set a new franchise rookie record for goals in a season.
The Bolt he surpassed, Stamkos, was just the person he received the feed from.
"If I was going to be the one to break it, it was a little fitting that he's the one that laid it in there for me," Johnson said.
The two had a moment to recollect on the feat amidst the action.
"We were joking about it on the bench," Stamkos said. "Our young guys have played a big part of our team's success, he deserves it."
Richard Panik, who had not scored since December 19, also had a marker, as did Eric Brewer and Stamkos, which came on a power play that had seen its chances all night and was due for a goal.
Radko Gudas also filled in as a netminder, making two "saves", when a handful of guys became tangled up with Lindback in the crease.
While the moment that Cooper called his favorite from last night being something he did not notice until watching video thereafter – Lindback giving Gudas a pat on the back for his efforts between the pipes – it is just the type of game that makes Cooper's job so fulfilling as a coach and the reason they have leapt from one of the NHL's worst last year to a Top-3 contender in the Atlantic Division this campaign.
"It was awesome to see," Cooper said. "This is what this time of year is all about."
GAME TIME DECISIONS
Friday's starting goaltender and final lineup are game time decisions according to Cooper, although defenseman Sami Salo said he was not playing tonight.
Salo, who suffered an upper body injury Tuesday, said he felt good in his first skate since succumbing to the ailment.
For the rest of the team, morning skate was optional.
OTHER ODDS 'N ENDS
The Lightning are 7-3-1 in the second half of back-to-back scenarios this season.
Three different Bolts are riding point streaks: Victor Hedman (three games - one goal, five assists), Stamkos (three games – two goals, two assists), Ondrej Palat (five games – three goals, four assists)
The Blue Jackets have the opportunity to eclipse the franchise record of 92 points established in the 2008-09 season with a win Friday.