Clutch. That’s the best way to describe both Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop‘s play this season. So it should be no surprise those two came up huge when the Tampa Bay Lightning needed them most during Thursday night’s hard-fought, 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
After being stoned by Josh Harding on an earlier 2-0 breakaway attempt with Alex Killorn (pictured above), then watching the Wild tie things up, Stamkos knew he couldn’t miss if given a second opportunity. Boy did he not, taking defenseman Matt Carle‘s beautiful pass, speeding around the defense and beating Harding for what ended up being the game-winning goal.
That marked his team-leading fifth goal and 10th point, tying him with Martin St. Louis atop the Lightning leaderboard. Possibly more impressive, however, is Stamkos’ plus-7 rating, a testiment to the commitment he’s shown in regards to improving his all-around game.
Speaking of St. Louis, the captain once again proved why he is one of hockey’s biggest warriors, logging over 21 solid minutes on an injured foot, suffered late in the Bolts 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night. To put things in perspective, head coach Jon Cooper didn’t even know whether he’d be able to go until a few hours before the game began.
Even so, Bishop’s been the bigger story in the Lightning’s outstanding 5-2 start. And why wouldn’t he be? Currently undefeated while allowing two goals or less per start, there’s no doubt his play in net during the early part of this season has more than earned the no. 1 role.
Moving forward, things don’t get any easier for the Lightning, who host last season’s Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins Oct. 19 and Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks Oct. 24. But if they can continue getting contributions everywhere, from third and fourth liners scoring to improved defense and unbelievably solid goaltending , Tampa Bay might be a team worth keeping an eye on as the 2013-14′ season progresses.