The Lightning faced one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy Saturday in Canucks rookie forward Brock Boeser, the MVP of last weekend's All-Star Game in Tampa.
But Lightning forward Yanni Gourde, has quietly made an impressive case for consideration in the top-five for the the Calder, awarded to the league's best rookie.
Gourde's 35 points entering the game ranked fourth among NHL rookies, behind only Arizona's Clayton Keller (36), Boeser (44) and Islanders' Mathew Barzal (51), who likely will win the award.
Gourde ranked second in game-winning goals (four) to teammate Mikhail Sergachev. Gourde's plus-21 dwarfed anyone in the field, the fiesty 5-foot-10 forward typically on the Lightning's shutdown line. Gourde had a momentum-swinging fight in Thursday's 7-4 win in Calgary, as well as two assists.
"I know what he's meant to our team," coach Jon Cooper said. "There are a lot of great rookies in this league, the one here (Boeser), and obviously the one out on the Island (Barzal). But I look at our guy, you look at our win (Thursday) in Calgary, how instrumental he was in so many parts of the game for us.
"Individual awards are garnered a ton because of the team's success, and our team has had a lot of success and Yanni Gourde has been a big part of it. We'll see how it all folds out in the end."
Gourde is just the eighth Lightning rookie to tally 35 points, joining some impressive company that includes Brad Richards (62, 2000-01), Ondrej Palat (59, 2013-14), Tyler Johnson (50, 2013-14), Steven Stamkos (46, 2008-09) and Brayden Point (40, 2016-17).
GIRARDI STILL OUT
Veteran defenseman Dan Girardi watched Saturday's skates from the stands, and missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. Cooper said he isn't sure if Girardi will play the rest of the trip, which concludes Monday in Edmonton. "Hopefully we get home and he should be okay," Cooper said.
The Lightning won four of its first six on this eight-game road trip, but is still having some issues in its own end. Tampa Bay has allowed 30 or more shots in 11 of the last 12 games, not an encouraging sign. "A lot of this game is 50-50 puck battles, and ultimately you have to win them all over the ice," Cooper said. "Kind of a bad trend on this trip has been giving up a lot of shots. We used to hold teams under 30, now it's getting up to 35-plus range. For me, win a couple more puck battles in your own end and that's not going to happen. It's something we've definitely got to tighten up."
The Lightning went with the same 11/7 lineup as Thursday, with G Andrei Vasilevskiy in net. That meant Cedric Paquette and Michael Bournival were scratched… RW Ryan Callahan remains on the top power play unit.
"Great net front guy, he's kind of a bull down there," Cooper said. "He's played in that position before. We like the righty in the hole a little bit so he can bounce back and fourth… C Steven Stamkos won 16-of-21 faceoffs in Calgary, setting a Lightning season-high for most wins in a game; it was his most since winning 17 draws Mar 6, 2014 against Buffalo. It was tied for third most in his career… RW Alex Killorn's five-point performance Thursday was one of just nine five-point games in franchise history (last Vinny Lecavalier 1-4-5 Feb. 23, 2011 vs PHX).