TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Lightning did not fail to head into the Olympic break with a little bit of mystery before the eventual 4-2 victory against the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Earlier in the day, head coach Jon Cooper said Ben Bishop was hour-to-hour after being considered day-to-day with an upper body injury one day earlier. There was also a possibility of three netminders taking warm-ups for the Bolts.
As it would end up, Bishop managed to make the start and Kristers Gudlevskis took the unanticipated role as backup.
"Bishop is in a lot of pain, he is someone that the break is much needed, but he's been our guy and it was an unreal gutsy effort from him," Cooper said. "But you have to have the guys on standby. Everything tonight started with him and we worked our way from there."
The Sochi-bound Gudlevskis now has found himself on an ECHL, AHL, NHL and soon-to-be international roster all during the 2013-14 season.
Vladislav Namestnikov also made his NHL debut and left the Bolts' head coach extremely impressed.
"I couldn't have asked for more," Cooper said. "He did everything we asked in all ends of the ice and it has been great to watch his progression. He didn't look out of place at all and that was great to see because he is going to play in this league at some point."
Namestnikov logged 11:55 on the night and went 50-percent from the face-off circle.
Daniel Alfredsson helped the Red Wings take the lead before the end of the first period. In just his second game forward Pavel Datsyuk sent a pass to Alfredsson from the back of Ben Bishop's cage. He then finished from the right face-off circle for a 1-0 game.
Tampa Bay converted their second power play opportunity of the game to snap a 0-for-17 scoreless streak on the man advantage. After Tomas Jurco went to the box for boarding, Martin St. Louis sent a pass to Ondrej Palat 35 seconds later. Palat's shot bounced off of Jimmy Howard's pads and back to his stick as he did not miss the second time around to knot the score at one at 1:44.
Whatever momentum the Lightning had after Palat's goal it was immediately pushed back toward the Red Wings when Tomas Jurco re-gained a 2-1 lead just after the midway point of the game. Riley Sheahan fed Jurco the puck, which he backhanded top shelf on Bishop at 11:19.
After hitting the post and barely missing the net, Tom Pyatt managed to score on another opportunity to end the middle frame and tie the game at two. Skating down the right boards Pyatt looked as if he was going to backhand a pass to Sami Salo, but instead the puck was deflected in off of Detroit at 17:14.
It was all Tampa Bay in the third period as Alex Killorn scored the game-winner with 3:11 left in regulation. The tally also ended Teddy Purcell's seven-game scoreless streak, who added a helper, and Pyatt had his first multi-point game of the season with the secondary assist.
"I was fortunate to get on the puck, bring it around the net and cycle it to Pyatt," Killorn said. "He threw it at the net, it bounced off Teddy's skate and it just landed on my tape."
"There was a couple things we did tonight, get the power-play goal and get the greasy one and those haven't been going in for us as of late," Cooper said. "The game-winner was a work-man like effort and that's what we needed."
Palat then added his second goal of the night for insurance on the empty net at 18:57 to snap a two-game losing skid for the Bolts.
UP NEXT – After Saturday the five Olympians currently on Tampa Bay's roster (including Gudlevskis) will head to Atlanta in the morning to meet others from the Southeastern U.S. They will then all board a plane bound for Russia Sunday evening. As for the rest of the Bolts, they will have a chance to recuperate over the next few weeks with the Lightning breaking until February 19.