It has been one whirlwind week for the Tampa Bay Lightning. There have been ups and downs, wins and losses, but in what was arguably one of the best games the Bolts have played all season, the Lightning shut out the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0 on their home ice.
In his Lightning debut, newly acquired goaltender Ben Bishop stopped all 45 of the shots brought against him tonight by the Canes offense.
As most of you already know, Ben Bishop was acquired at the tail end of the NHL Trade Deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for star rookie Cory Conacher as well as a fourth-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
The Bolts began the first period on the Power Play as Hurricanes RW Patrick Dwyer was sent to the box for Boarding Alex Killorn. The Lightning were unable to capitalize on the Power Play tonight, but in the same respect, so where the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes got 3 chances at the Power Play tonight. They had 2 opportunities in the second as Eric Brewer was sent to the box for 2 minutes for Holding Jeff Skinner and Radko Gudas for 2 minutes for Delaying the Game for a puck over the glass. Their final opportunity came in the third period when Gudas was sent to the box for 2 minutes for Interference on Eric Staal.
Through 60 minutes of play, shots on goal were 45-35 in favor of the Canes. Even though the Lightning were outshot in almost every period, Bishop was able to keep the Hurricanes at bay.
The Lightning shined in the face off tonight winning 31 of the 54 face offs tonight.
It took 20 minutes of play for the Lightning to strike first blood, but once it was struck, it just kept flowing at a furious speed. The second period saw goals from Teddy Purcell and Tom Pyatt, both of which scored their eighth goal of the season tonight, and one from Keith Aulie who scored his second.
In the third, Martin St. Louis opened the scoring at 2:24 scoring his 9th goal of the season; followed by Benoit Pouliot who fired his 7th goal of the season past Carolina goaltender, and former Bolt, Dan Ellis at 7:30.
Even though he did not score a goal tonight, Steven Stamkos earned 2 points, earning assists on both the Aulie and Pouliot goals. Also assisting on the Aulie and the Pouliot goals tonight was St. Louis, who scored 3 points tonight; one on his own goal in the 3rd period, and 2 from the assists on Aulie and Pouliot goals.
I can say to you with all certainty that the entire team played excellent tonight. For a team that has spent most of the season chasing their tails trying to get the offense and defense on the same page, this has been a very refreshing week.
I have seen improvement on both sides of the ice, from people like Tom Pyatt and Teddy Purcell taking more of an offense stand in front of the net, to people like Eric Brewer, who has had the tendency to be more of a traffic cone than a defenseman, stepping up and blocking shots left and right.
After the game, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper spoke to the media about tonight’s performance against the Canes. In regards to the offense tonight, he had this to say:
Some of those goals might make the highlight reel tonight. Those were things of beauty.”
I am unsure of what the catalyst has been in the sudden resurgence of the Tampa Bay Lightning that we have all come to know and love, but whatever it was, I hope it stays around for a while.
The Lightning are currently only 4 points out of 1st place in the Southeast Division. In the remaining weeks left in the season, the Lightning have 4 more encounters with divisional teams; the first of which is the Washington Capitals, who currently lead the Southeast Division, on Sunday April 7th.
With only 12 games left in the season, every single point counts. One point, one loss in overtime can make the difference between heading to the post season and starting an early vacation.
In no situation can you ever judge a player based on one game, but if tonight is any indication of what we can come to expect from Ben Bishop, I feel we may just have a chance at claiming the division and making a run at the playoffs. However, for that to happen, the rest of the team is going to have to continue on the path laid out tonight as well. We need to stay aggressive in front of the net, shoot the puck, and be there for the rebound. The defense needs to stay on their target and get in front of that shot before it ever has the chance to reach the goalie. If they can do that, and continue to work together as a team, the Lightning will be unstoppable.
What are your thoughts on tonight’s shut out of the Hurricanes? What do you think Ben Bishop has to offer the Lightning in the long term? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think!