A let down would’ve been understandable. The team clinched its first playoff spot since 2007 and drew closer to home -ice advantage. But Tampa didn’t rest, and they came out in the first ready to play. It was business as usual for a team that had plenty to celebrate, and their reward was a 3-1 victory and a 4 game winning streak.
The Bolts controlled the first period for the most part, but the Wild were opportunistic and Pierre-Marc Bouchard capitalized on a rebound late in the period. They ended up taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Lightning certainly had the better of the opening chances, but Niklas Backstrom was on his game, and he is the main reason Minnesota came out of the first on top.
The most comical part of the game came in the opening frame as well. Eric Brewer’s stick snapped on a clearing attempt, pinning the Lightning in their own zone. Of all of the people on the ice, it was little Martin St. Louis who handed Brewer his stick. It was about 6 inches too short, and watching Brewer adjust until the next stoppage was wildly entertaining.
Ryan Malone then scored his first goal since January 9th just over 6 minutes into the second period. Downie’s gritty goal halfway through the period gave Tampa their first lead of the afternoon. Sean Bergenheim gave the Bolts an insurance goal early in the third to seal the win.
The most important observation to take away from this game is how comfortable the Lightning were playing this style of game. It was a one-goal or tied game most of the time, and the Bolts looked completely at ease in that kind of close game. Those are the kinds of games that there are going to be in the playoffs, and the fact that they could lock it down to pick up their fourth straight win speaks volumes to where this team is mentally.
1st: Ryan Malone (TBL)
2nd: Kyle Brodziak (MIN)
3rd: Dwayne Roloson (TBL)
Highlights courtesy of NHL.com