If the Tampa Bay Lightning can figure out how to play a mistake-free second period, Guy Boucher might just have something special.
Until then, the Bolts are perfectly content to keep dominating the first and third as they scored three unanswered goals in the final frame to take a 6-4 victory over the previously unbeaten Ottawa Senators on Friday night in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning opened the scoring on the power play at 1:09 of the first period. After a harmless shot from Matt Carle, Cory Conacher dug away at the rebound off Ottawa goalie Ben Bishop. The Sens' defenders tried to clear the puck, Matt Carle eventually got the puck and banged it home for his first goal of the season.
Lines 3 and 4 for the Bolts carried the play in the first after the Carle goal gave the Lightning the lead. The line of Thompson-Hall-Crombeen possessed the puck well down low behind Bishop, and they were aggressive but not too aggressive on the forecheck.
Near the end of the period, Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil was looking to give his team a spark with a fight. Offseason acquisition BJ Crombeen answered the bell and both guys went to the box – an acceptable trade off for the Lightning.
Since Guy Boucher has been the head coach of the Bolts, there has been less of a emphasis on fighting. The Lightning have modeled themselves after the very successful Detroit Red Wings, who are often near the bottom of the league in fighting majors every season.
But in the past few years, when enforcers or agitators from other teams have crossed the line, important pieces to the Lightning puzzle like Ryan Malone have exposed themselves to on-ice fights.
With Crombeen in the fold, the Bolts didn't miss a beat off the fight, nor did they lose any chemistry in their top-6 forward group.
The 2nd period has been repeatedly bad for the Lightning in 2013, and Friday night was no exception. The Bolts made bad decisions by pinching too many times at the blue line and taking dumb penalties. This led to Ottawa tying the game before the second intermission.
Ottawa got goals from Jason Spezza (PP), Eric Condra, Kyle Turris, and reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson all in the second period. The Lightning were often left scrambling, defending odd-man rushes, and standing still in their own end as the Sens carried a 4-3 lead heading into the third period.
But, as if a lightswitch flipped, the Bolts returned to their strong play in the first period for the final frame.
Ryan Malone banged home a rebound off a Sami Salo point shot to tie the game at 4-4. Then, off an offensive draw, the Lightning attempted a set play for a Teddy Purcell wrist shot. Purcell missed the puck and it ended up on Victor Hedman's stick, who fired it off Bishop and right to Malone's waiting stick who gave the Bolts their first lead since the game was 1-0.
Ben Bishop had this to say about the Lightning's play around his net:
“Things just didn’t go our way,” Bishop said. “They are probably the best team I’ve played against. Every shot, there is somebody in front of you or somebody tipping the puck. It’s tough trying to find the puck when they’re tipping pucks left and right.”
Tom Pyatt added an empty netter with less than a minute left to seal the deal for the Lightning.
The Bolts continue their home-stand against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, which will mark Matt Carle's first tilt against his hold team since joining the Bolts as a UFA last summer.
Puck drops at 6:00 PM EST.
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