As the Tampa Bay Lightning opened up their three-game road trip in Calgary tonight against the Flames, things could not have gotten off to a worse start early on.
Starting goaltender Dan Ellis would yield three goals on the first eight Flames shots, and it looked like it was going to be another bad road game in the same vein as the 8-1 thrashing at the hands of the Bruins in Boston last Thursday.
Former Bolts’ defenseman Cory Sarich opened the scoring at the 7:21 mark of the first period, blasting a slap shot past Ellis from the right point with traffic in front.
Tom Kostopoulos would increase the lead to 2-0 almost six and a half minutes later. Mark Giordano launched a shot from the blue line that was deflected in the slot by Rene Bourque. The puck bounced off of the lively dasher boards and to the side of the net, where Kostopoulos rammed it by Ellis before he could cover the side of the net.
It was Kostopoulos’ second of the season, and first in his eleventh game with Calgary since being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Flames would add another less than five minutes into the middle frame with a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play. Mikael Backlund flipped to Curtis Glencross, who found wide open Bourque trailing the play coming right down the slot. Bourque made no mistake on his 12th of the year and at 3-0, it looked as if the rout was on.
But instead of totally collapsing as they did in Boston Thursday, Tampa Bay fought back.
Johan Harju broke down the left wing and beat Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff with a wrist shot through the five-hole at the 8:35 mark of the second. It was Harju’s first career NHL goal, and drew the Lightning to within 3-1.
Late in the period, some hard work by the Bolts paid off. Nate Thompson got the puck from behind the net and out to Ryan Malone at the side of Kiprusoff, and Malone knocked home his eighth of the season to cut the deficit to just one goal.
Malone has been one of the hottest Lightning offensive contributors as of late, and now has three goals and seven points in his last five contests.
Tampa Bay nearly tied the game in the first ten seconds of the third period.
Thompson carried the puck around behind the net and passed it into the crease area. Kiprusoff pounced on the puck before Martin St. Louis could get his stick on it.
The Bolts got themselves into penalty trouble midway through the final stanza. With Thompson already in the box, Adam Hall was sent off for interference to give the Flames a two-an advantage.
It would take Calgary just 13 seconds to capitalize.
Jay Bouwmeester sent a pass from the blue line at the right point to the left faceoff circle, and Jarome Iginla one-timed a slapper, a la Steven Stamkos, to give the Flames a two-goal lead at 4-2.
Ellis kept the Lightning close with an excellent save on Alex Tanguay. The former Bolts’ forward was left all alone in front of Ellis and got a quick shot off of a pass from behind the net.
After Calgary had taken three icing calls, head coach Brent Sutter took a well-placed timeout to rest his skater’s weary legs. As they tried to make a quick change on the ensuing faceoff, Tampa Bay got a great scoring chance.
St. Louis and Victor Hedman broke in on a two-on-one, but Kiprusoff was able to stop Hedman’s shot.
The Lightning pulled Ellis for an extra attacker with 1:47 left, but could not get any closer.
The Bolts now head to Edmonton to play the Oilers Friday night at 9:00 P.M. EST. They close out the road trip Saturday night in Vancouver against the Canucks at 10:30 P.M. EST, before returning home to play the Atlanta Thrashers next Wednesday night.
Bolts Bits: Ellis finished with 15 saves on 19 shots on goal…Stamkos was held without a point for his third consecutive game and fourth in the last six. He has just two assists in the last six…Thompson won nine of 12 faceoffs, Dominic Moore won 11 of 16, Hall won six of nine, and Malone won all three of his faceoff attempts…Stamkos, Malone, and Thompson each had four shots on goal…the Lightning power play was 0-2, while Calgary went 1-4 (Iginla’s two-man advantage goal).