On a night in which two Lightning veterans were recognized for achieving career milestones, it was an NHL rookie with little experience who shined.
With long-time teammates Pavel Kubina and Martin St. Louis playing in their 850th and 800th career games respectively, it was Johan Harju, in just his sixth, who recorded his first career NHL goal and sparked a Lightning rally in the second period that ultimately came up short in a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames Tuesday night.
Harju, recalled from the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk last week for a second time this season, put Tampa Bay on the board at 8:35 in the middle period to narrow an early deficit, while helping mount a comeback after falling behind by three unanswered goals to start the contest.
Ryan Malone had the other goal for Tampa Bay, who lost for just the second time in the last six meetings against the Flames.
Tampa Bay has won seven of the last 11 overall.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 22 saves to help Calgary avoid consecutive losses for the first time since a three-game skid in the final week of November. He was helped along by an early 3-0 lead, which came as a result of first-period goals by former Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich and Tom Kostopoulos.
It was Calgary’s first win in three years against the Lightning, and the first in the Flames’ home arena in the last four matchups.
The Flames have now alternated wins and losses in eight consecutive games. They got a goal in each of the final two periods from Rene Bourque and captain Jarome Iginla.
Dan Ellis stopped 15 of 19 shots in his second straight start for the Lightning.
Sarich opened scoring at 12:39 after unloading a shot from the right point, and Kostopoulos doubled the lead after a deflection caromed into the net past Ellis with five minutes remaining in the first.
“We were hoping to turn things around after that first period,” Lightning forward Dana Tyrell said. “Our penalty kill was great, but we didn’t play the way we should.”
Bourque’s team-leading 12th of the season made it 3-0. The Calgary forward took a pass from Curtis Glencross and sent a shot into an open net at 4:43 to finish off a tic-tac-toe play and open scoring in the second.
Harju cut the deficit to two with the first goal of his NHL career. The goal gave him points in his second straight game after recording his first NHL point Saturday night versus the Colorado Avalanche. Prior to his recall Dec. 4, he held a share for third place among all AHL skaters in goals, earning him Player of the Week honors.
Malone was next to capitalize, shoveling one in from in front within the middle frame’s final minute. He extended his team-leading point streak to five games, registering three goals and seven points in that span.
“That was a big boost for us after being outworked in the first period and getting behind the eight ball,” Assistant Coach Dan Lacroix said.
But Calgary took over from there.
Iginla regained the two-goal advantage after beating Ellis short side with a one-timed slap shot on the power play. He took a pass from Jay Bouwmeester and fired one into the net before Ellis could get back in position across the crease.
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