It took almost a week, but Steven Stamkos finally scored his 200th career goal, netting an empty-netter to put a cap on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night.
Teddy Purcell (6) scored the game-winning goal at 9:25 in the third, deflecting Keith Aulie’s shot past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
The game also had major playoff implications on both teams, as they fight to stay within sight of the eighth-place spot in the Eastern Conference that represents the final playoff slot. Tampa Bay’s win tied them with Philadelphia, and they each sit five points back of three teams who are tied for eighth with 32 points.
The Bolts’ 27 points also falls five points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets, who are tied for first in the Southeast Division. With 19 games to go, the Lightning are not out of the playoff race just yet.
The Lightning opened up the scoring 6:38 into the first period when rookie Ondrej Palat found himself open driving towards the net. Fellow former Syracuse Crunch player Dana Tyrell fed Palat, who beat Bryzgalov for his second goal of the season.
Tampa Bay avoided quickly blowing the 1-0 lead, killing Philadelphia’s first power play following an unfortunate Sami Salo delay of game penalty. Salo tried to swat the puck out of the air and hit it over the sideboards.
The Lightning allowed a few good chances, but they had a strong kill for the most part.
However, Philadelphia was set to tie the game a few minutes later when Max Talbot (4) scored, taking advantage of forward Martin St. Louis getting caught on defense on an offensive rush. Talbot cut inside and beat goalie Anders Lindback from the open slot to tie the game.
The Bolts swiftly squandered a chance to take the lead back following a Philadelphia holding penalty, but Tom Pyatt (6) made up for it less than a minute later by taking Tyler Johnson’s pass to the center and deflecting it past Bryzgalov.
A second Salo penalty gave Philadelphia a chance to tie it that nearly came to fruition on a Jakub Voracek shot that hit the goal post.
Tampa Bay managed to hold its 2-1 lead early in the second period, when Salo’s penalty was finally killed off. The Lightning then failed to capitalize on two consecutive undisciplined penalties by the Flyers: Scott Hartnell committed a roughing penalty on Cory Conacher, and Zac Rinaldo served a penalty when Philadelphia had too many men on the ice.
Late in the second, just after Tampa Bay managed to kill of an interference penalty from Ryan Malone, Claude Giroux (9) tied the game for the Flyers. He recovered from a strong Conacher back check, picked up the puck in the slot and beat Lindback glove side.
The Bolts finished the second strong — spending a lot of time in the Flyers’ zone —but couldn’t take the lead into second intermission.
The scoring was quiet in the final period until Purcell’s go-ahead goal.
While Tampa Bay’s play has ranged from mediocre to below-average for most of the season, the hot start has kept their playoff hopes alive. From here on out, the Lightning have to play well in to keep the good vibrations going, but Monday night was certainly a step in the right direction.
Tampa Bay looked more aggressive and composed than they had in weeks, like a team on a mission. Granted, Philadelphia has struggled recently, but they are in desperation mode as well.
The Flyers will have nearly a week off before their next game, which comes Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. ET. You have to wonder if there was a scheduling conflict or issue that caused the bizarre off-period, but the Flyers will pay for it down the stretch with 10 games in the season’s last 18 days.
Tampa Bay will kick off a three-game road trip Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The puck drops at 7 p.m. ET.
The game will provide an interesting test to see if the Bolts can improve on their poor road play, where they are 5-8-0 this season. Monday night’s win, though, was a step in the right direction.