In hockey, every team goes through adversity. The Tampa Bay Lightning have been through a lot recently, first seeing coach Guy Boucher get axed before finding out early Tuesday that former assistant Wayne Fleming lost his battle with brain cancer. That served as motivation, and two seasoned veterans – Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis – delivered in a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Stamkos notched his league-leading 23rd goal and an assist, while St. Louis provided the game-winner during a second period 5-on-3 power play. He also had an assist. This marked Tampa Bay’s third consecutive home-ice victory, as they beat both the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes prior to their 0-3 Canadian road trip.
Tonight was a chance for Lightning fans (and players) to prepare for a transition as new head coach Jon Cooper is set to take over beginning Wednesday, with his NHL debut coming Friday night versus the New Jersey Devils.
The Lightning started off ready to fight, and Stamkos was in the middle of things, pushing and shoving Sabres’ pest Patrick Kaleta. That earned him four minutes in the sin bin, but ended up being very worthwhile as it paved the way for a complete game both offensively and defensively. Of course, Mathieu Garon‘s 18 saves on 19 shots didn’t hurt considering Buffalo was held scoreless until late in the third period.
Now, the Lightning will try to make it four straight home victories when they host the Devils in Cooper’s big-league coaching debut Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Though a difficult transition, Tampa Bay’s proven that winning in the face of adversity is possible.