Mission accomplished, as the Lightning received superb goaltending out of Ben Bishop and two late regulation goals, plus another in the shootout, from Valtteri Filppula to steal a 3-2 win.
It was by no means pretty, especially when you consider the Lightning looked asleep for much of regulation. As a matter of fact, they were three minutes away from being shutout for the second time in four days and sixth since Steven Stamkos suffered a broken right tibia Nov. 11 in Boston.
But, like all good teams, they never gave up, battling for every inch of ice during those final 4-5 minutes. So when Filppula tied things up, there was both relief and elation. After fighting through bad weather causing travel delays, an immense lack of sleep and some recent tough luck, the Lightning found themselves celebrating a win that’s eluded them for nearly two years. One which also brought their road record back to .500 despite missing a number of key players due to injury.
Obviously, Bishop deserves tons of credit for making one spectacular save after another. He finished with 32 saves on 34 shots, many of those coming via breakaways or partial breakaways. Carrying an 18-5-2 record and .941 save percentage, there’s no doubting his candidacy for the U.S. Olympic team.
Now, the Lightning head home for four of five, beginning Thursday night versus the Nashville Predators. If they can translate tonight’s final few minutes into a full 60, there’s little doubt in my mind Tampa Bay will stick around in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt for months to come. Something nobody expected watching Stamkos be stretchered off the TD Garden ice just over a month ago.