The Tampa Bay Lightning have made a fortress out of Amalie Arena this season, recording a 22-5-1 record at home entering a rematch against St. Louis.
On Thursday, the Blues laid siege to the Bolts’ bastion, plundering and pillaging before beating the Lightning into submission.
St. Louis scored twice in the opening period and three more goals in the second while registering 44 shots on goal to cruise to a 6-3 victory in front of a crowd of 18,926.
The Blues (36-15-4, 76 points) sweep the regular-season series, winning twice in 10 days against the Bolts. The Lightning (34-17-6, 74 points) have lost two in a row and three of their last four.
“We didn’t play well defensively,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “Other than the third, we didn’t really play well at all. We were giving pucks away and not winning battles, kind of the opposite of the way we wanted to come out, the opposite of the last time we played these guys. That’s not acceptable, especially in front of our fans.”
St. Louis wasted little time putting the Lightning on their heels. The Blues’ T.J. Oshie tallied his 15th of the season following a pinpoint pass on the left wing from Alexander Steen at 1:50 of the first, Oshie redirecting the puck past Lightning starter Ben Bishop.
Steen set up St. Louis’ second goal too, his power-play stretch pass finding Dmitrij Jaskin behind the Lightning penalty kill, and Jaskin burying the opportunity over Bishop’s glove for a 2-0 Blues lead at 4:47.
“Our start was horrific,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “(St. Louis) came ready to play. They clearly knew what happened to them the last time that we played them even though they found a way to win a game where we outplayed them, and they came in here pissed off.”
Following a dismal beginning, Tampa Bay played with renewed energy in the second, and Tyler Johnson tallied on the power play for the Bolts’ first goal with the man advantage in four games. Nikita Kucherov fired a pass from the right wing across the crease to the left circle for Johnson, and the Lightning All-Star ripped a shot past Blues goalie Brian Elliott to get the Bolts on the scoreboard at 8:03 of the second.
Johnson got goal No. 20 with the score. Kucherov and Anton Stralman were credited with assists.
Tampa Bay had momentum but quickly lost it when Stamkos turned the puck over deep in his own zone. David Backes shot on goal, and Steen tipped the puck past Bishop to put the Blues back up by two at 12:15.
“It’s a turnover I’m sure Stammer would love to have back,” Bishop said. “He doesn’t make that play 99 out of 100 times.”
The Blues scored twice more in a little more than three minutes, Backes getting his 19th of the season at 14:11 and Paul Stastny making it 5-1 at 15:23.
“Giving up the fourth one the way we did, that was the breaker,” Cooper said.
Brett Connolly stopped the bleeding for the Bolts, scoring late in the second to break the Blues’ stranglehold on the game. Connolly skated into the slot, had time to shoot and picked his spot glove side past Elliott (23 saves).
Valtteri Filppula got his 28th assist after feeding Connolly for the score.
Stamkos registered his team-leading 29th goal of the season 6:31 into the final period to give the Bolts life over the final 13-plus minutes. Alex Killorn sent an innocuous-looking shot toward Elliott that Stamkos was able to tip into goal at the far post to cut the St. Louis lead to 5-3.
Killorn got an assist as did Stralman, his second of the game and 22nd of the season.
The Bolts could get no closer, however.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored an empty-net goal with a little over a minute left in the game to produce the final result.
Bishop stopped 29-of-34 shots through two periods before being pulled in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy to start the third. Vasilevskiy saved all nine shots he faced.
“I felt bad for Bish because he faced more than a game worth of shots in two periods,” Cooper said. “So, he got the mercy hook. It definitely wasn’t cause of the way he played.”
The Bolts had 29 shots.
Tampa Bay doesn’t play at home for 15 days as the Bolts go on a five-game, 10-day road trip. The Lightning begin the West Coast swing in San Jose against the Sharks on Sunday.
“We’ve been pretty good at responding after something like this has happened,” Cooper said. “This will be another test for us because usually we’ve been able to come home after times like this instead of embarking on a five-game road trip.”