TAMPA, Fla. – Looking for signs of life after two consecutive shutouts, the Tampa Bay Lightning found enough to squeeze out a win, 3-1, against the Ottawa Senators Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Earlier in the week, head coach Jon Cooper made some drastic changes to the Bolts’ lines and one in particular – Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Martin St. Louis – seemed to click.
“Those guys play pretty fast and we need to try and build off this,” St. Louis said. “I know them, but it’s different playing with them on the ice, but it was a good first game.”
“The chemistry is going to take some time, but it worked today,” Palat added. “We had a big win and now we just need to build our swag up.”
Goaltender Ben Bishop also earned his 15th win of the season against his former team. He has allowed just five goals against in his last five starts.
“We’re not winning this game without Bishop,” St. Louis said.
The line shuffling first came in handy for Tampa Bay when Palat and St. Louis connected for the first goal of the game at 16:45 of the first period. It also ended the Bolts’ scoring drought that was more than 120 minutes long. Palat controlled the puck well around the back of Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner’s net and sent a quick pass to St. Louis in the slot. St. Louis then bounced the puck off his skate, onto his stick and past Lehner for the lead.
The Senators then tied the game on the power-play at 6:11 of the second period immediately after winning the faceoff in the Lightning’s zone. Patrick Wiercioch’s shot hit the left post and into the net for a 1-1 score.
Palat and St. Louis connected again at 13:19 of the middle frame to re-gain a 2-1 lead. Palat fed the puck to Tampa Bay’s captain, who was set up in the crease, to tally his second goal of the game glove side. His two points tied him with Jason Arnott at 91st on the NHL’s all-time list for points.
Before the end of the second period it was announced that Victor Hedman’s return was doubtful with a lower body injury. Post-game, Cooper said Hedman was considered day-to-day with a lower body injury, but he does not expect the blueliner to be ready Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Keith Aulie also took just one shift after a penalty at 5:46 of the second period and will have to undergo surgery tomorrow on a fractured hand. He is out indefinitely.
“They’re going to call us the Syracuse Lightning pretty soon,” Cooper said. “It’s emotional and physically taxing. You’re playing with unfamiliar guys all the time and it’s tough to get synergy and chemistry going, but we just won a game without those guys in the lineup.”
Valtteri Filppula then ended his scoring drought by netting his 10th at 10:56 of the third to increase the Bolts’ lead by two. With his first marker in seven games, Filppula sent a snap shot high to the left corner of Ottawa’s net helping solidify the win.
UP NEXT – The Lightning practice in Brandon tomorrow in preparation for a 7 p.m. contest against former Southeast Division rival the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Bolts then head to the District Tuesday to face the Washington Capitals, before returning home to play the Detroit Red Wings next Thursday.