TAMPA – This week’s roster moves were instantaneously felt in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-2 victory against the Nashville Predators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday.
Not only did Victor Hedman and J.P. Cote add helpers on the Lightning’s initial goal of the game, but their presence served as a reminder that the injury-ridden Bolts are taking steps in the right direction on the long road to recovery.
“Whenever you have new guys in the lineup, especially Hedman on the power play that’s great,” Alex Killorn said. “Cote brings a ton of energy and is a guy who works so hard and all that comes into play and helps a ton.”
Goals from four different Tampa Bay teammates was also a sign that they can rely on a plethora of players to get the job done, as the Bolts held on to two, two-goal leads for nearly the entire game.
Anders Lindback picked up his third win of the season against his former club. It was the netminder’s first victory since November 27.
“It’s always nice to get a win, especially in ones like this that mean something special,” Lindback said. “I thought we played a really good game all the way through and it’s a lie to say it’s not nice to play with the lead.”
“Lindback has deserved better from us,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “For us to get four for him and for him to shut the door like he did, he deserved this. He was on today. He and Ben Bishop have been ‘A’ and ‘A-plus’ and hopefully we can continue to give him goal support because he’s played better than his record.”
Patiently waiting in the right face-off circle minutes into the first period, Killorn waited for a screen before wristing a shot past Predators netminder Carter Hutton for a 1-0 Bolts lead at 2:25 of the opening frame. Hedman added the primary assist in his first game back since December 5, while J.P. Cote added a helper in his Bolts’ debut.
“I was looking for something, I didn’t see much and then once they started drifting I thought it might be nice to get a little screen and it worked out well,” Killorn said.
Martin St. Louis gave the Lightning a two-goal lead with 54 seconds left in the first period as he sent a slapshot from the slot into Nashville’s net at 19:06 for a 2-0 game. The power-play marker was St. Louis’ 350th career goal in a Bolts’ uniform.
Looking to go 2-for-2 on the power play, the Bolts’ man advantage was negated as Teddy Purcell served a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 4:36 of the second period. The Predators instantly got one back after Matt Cullen’s initial shot bounced off Radko Gudas’ skate and onto Craig Smith’s stick. Smith pocketed the puck glove side for a 2-1 game.
The Lightning recovered though thanks to Purcell at 8:36 of the same period. Matt Carle started the rush by grabbing the puck in the Bolts’ zone and passing it to Valtteri Filppula, who transitioned up the ice. Filppula then sent a cross-ice pass to Purcell, as he finished the play for a 3-1 score.
The two teams combined for two more goals in the middle frame with the first coming again from Smith for his second power-play goal of the night. Yet 49 seconds later Richard Panik tipped-in an Eric Brewer shot to re-gain their two-goal lead and a 4-2 score after 40 minutes of play. Brewer earned his 250th career point as he picked up an assist on the tally.
The Lightning and Nashville went scoreless in the third, lifting the Bolts to their third straight win.
“I really thought we controlled the whole third,” Cooper said. “There were stretches where we may have had the puck for 15 of the 20 minutes. We didn’t score a goal, but we kept on their heels the whole time.”
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay practices tomorrow at the Times Forum in preparation for a 7 p.m. contest against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday, before heading to Sunrise, Florida for a game versus division foe the Florida Panthers Monday. There will then be a mid-week break in the action thereafter for the holiday.