The Tampa Bay Lightning did something Saturday night they haven’t managed to do in nearly a month: win two games in a row. After beating the Florida Panthers in both games of a home-and-home back in late November, the Lightning have struggled to play with any sort of consistency. Coming into tonight, they were 2-7 since those games, with both their wins coming in overtime or a shootout.
Tonight, though, the Bolts came out ready to play. They didn’t dominate the Columbus Blue Jackets like they did in the second period against the Flames, but they managed to play all three periods with intensity — the first time a while that’s happened. In many ways, their “worst” period for the first period, in which they only got off five shots to the Blue Jackets’ eleven. The Lightning did score twice on those five shots, though, and they outshot the Blue Jackets in the next two periods.
With Martin St. Louis out indefinitely after taking a puck to the eye in practice, the Bolts badly needed someone to step up and carry the team out of their quagmire. Thankfully, Steven Stamkos was more than happy to oblige. Stamkos had one goal and one assist tonight, giving him four goals and three assists in the Bolts’ previous three games. His goal tonight also gave him 20 on the season, putting him in sole possession of the NHL lead.
If there was a negative take-away from tonight’s game, it was that the Bolts are struggling on the power play. They had three opportunities against the Blue Jackets tonight, but they gave away two of them by committing minor penalties shortly afterward. On the one power play the Lightning didn’t give away, they could not keep control of the puck and ended up spending a large portion of the power play in the defensive zone. No offense to Columbus, but if the Bolts are going to succeed against the better teams in the league, they’re going to have to improve that aspect of their game.
The Lightning play next on Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks (16-10-3, 35 pts). The game is on the West Coast, so be sure to get lots of sleep beforehand — it could be a late night.
For more of the game, check out SB Nation’s blog on the Lightning, Raw Charge.