TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Lightning were just two games into life without Steven Stamkos, a time frame which will last for an extended length. While it will be the whole team’s duty to produce winning results on the ice, there was no doubt some anxious veterans who wanted to take full advantage of the proposition.
What better way to do it than against the Western Conference’s best?
“We’re forced to play well without him [Stamkos],” Filppula said. “I think we have the confidence that we can do it.”
Filppula continued his hot streak and it didn’t hurt that Team Finland’s general manager and head coach were giving No. 51 a watchful Olympic eye from their booth in the press box.
“He’s a pretty confident kid right now,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s got some linemates who understand where he’s going to be and things he can do. When teams are expecting one thing, he has the ability to do something else and it’s really helped him out.”
And St. Louis, who said shortly after Stamkos’ injury that being a better team starts with him, could not have made a better mark than putting a marker in the net for the first time since October 27.
“There’s no easy goal in this league, but that goal was pretty easy,” St. Louis said. “Being in the right place at the right time, it feels good to score.”
Filppula answered the call first by giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead at 11:52 of the opening period. Teddy Purcell sent a pass across the slot, which Filppula one-timed past Ducks’ goaltender Jonas Hiller for the lead.
Filppula added his second point of the night nearly five minutes later, when his shot was deflected by J.T. Brown in front of the net. Hiller managed to stop Brown’s shot attempt, but St. Louis came up with the rebound, maneuvering it around the Anaheim netminder for a two-goal lead that came on the power-play. The man-advantage goal was the Bolts first since October 29 versus the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis’ first since an eight-game scoring drought.
“Our power-play finally clicked for us,” St. Louis said. “That’s going to be a big key for us on the road; we needed our power-play to get going.”
Tampa Bay then added another power play marker and an even strength tally in the middle frame. Victor Hedman, who was setup as the point player, passed to Filppula. Filppula then wristed his second goal of the game from the left face-off circle, putting the Bolts ahead 3-0 at 3:16. Killorn added a wrist shot of his own at 10:51. After he deked around Bryan Allen, Killorn took a shot, but came up empty, yet managed to score off of his own rebound for the four goal difference.
After 36 minutes had passed the Ducks finally found their way on the board with some momentum late in the second. Emerson Etem zipped into Anaheim’s zone and around Hedman and Mark Barberio, sending a shot past Ben Bishop along the way to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to three.
Yet the Bolts were not done on the scoreboard with Victor Hedman adding the lone goal with 1:55 remaining in regulation for a 5-1 final in their seventh straight win, an undefeated record, against the Western Conference.
Though it felt good to prove they could win without Stamkos, the Ducks were also playing without their best player and captain, Ryan Getzlaf. Cooper and the Lightning said they expect to see a much better Anaheim team when they play at the Honda Center next Friday.
UP NEXT – The Lightning hit the road for four games against the Western Conference starting Saturday with contests against the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and the Ducks. It is also the second half of a stretch where the Bolts play seven out of eight games on the road. Tampa Bay will return home to play three games during Thanksgiving week.