TAMPA — On a night in which the Lightning celebrated the past accomplishments of former top pick Vinny Lecavalier, Tampa Bay’s future was on full display.
Lecavalier was honored for returning to Tampa on Wednesday for the first time in an opposing jersey, but it was Victor Hedman night as the defenseman was in on all the offense in a 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in front of an announced crowed of 19,204 at The Forum.
Hedman, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, had a career-best two goals and added an assist to tie a career high with three points as the Lightning won their seventh consecutive game on home ice.
Tampa Bay improved to 6-0-1 in the past seven meetings with Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay’s 16-8-1 record and 33 points is a franchise best to start the season through 25 games, better than the 2003-04 and 2010-11 playoff teams.
The victory for Lindback is his first in regulation this season in six starts, second win overall, while finishing with 19 saves. Ondrej Palat scored a shorthanded goal while Tyler Johnson had a goal and an assist.
Lecavalier scored a power play goal in his return and was greeted by plenty of well wishers who lined the glass at the Philadelphia end during warmups.
“I had a great experience just skating on the ice and the fans were supportive of me, it means a lot,’’ he said. “I was a little nervous before the game, stepping out, the butterflies and that whole thing, but just being out in warmups seeing people with my jersey and seeing cards saying they missed me, it really got me and it really meant a lot.’’
It was Hedman that meant a lot to the Lightning on Wednesday as he enjoyed his third multi-point outing in the past seven games and has set a new career high with six goals on the season.
“That’s part of my game, jumping into plays and being an offensive defenseman,’’ said Hedman, who was on the ice for all four Lightning goals. “I want to be contributing at both ends of the ice. You know you are not going to score two goals every night, but you want to be able to create plays and create some confusion in their end as the second wave. So that’s the big thing for me, playing at both ends of the ice.’’
In a first period in which Tampa Bay had control of the puck for most of the time, it was the Flyers who had the best scoring chance when Wayne Simmonds broke free up the ice on a breakaway chance. Hedman caught him from behind and appeared to legally disrupt the shot attempt, but Simmonds was awarded a penalty shot on the play. But Lindback stayed patient on the attempt, didn’t bite on the first move from Simmonds and was able to get his right pad out for the stop at 16:46 and keep the game scoreless through the opening 20 minutes of play.
“I don’t know about the call there, but then I just read him right and he didn’t elevate the puck so I was able to get my pad down there,’’ Lindback said.
It was a moment Lightning head coach Jon Cooper called an early turning point in the game.
“If we go down one there, who knows how this game transpires,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “He looked calm in the net all night . . . and I really liked his game.’’
Instead it was Hedman who got the Lightning on the board at 9:15 when his bad angle shot from the far side of the left circle somehow found a hole through.
It was Hedman again sparking the Lightning attack, jumping up to create a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush with Palat after Nate Thompson blocked a Kimmo Timonen shot. Hedman came down the left wing side, fired a shot off the far pad of Emery, allowing Palat to swoop in for the rebound and deposit into the open net at 12:16 for a 2-0 lead.
Hedman finished his offensive night as the down-low presence during 5-on-3 power play chance for 1:31 in the third period. The 6-foot-6 defenseman was in the low slot and was able to use his long reach to turn around to collect a rebound on Teddy Purcell’s shot and whip the puck past Emery at 5:00 of the third period.
After Philadelphia scored two quick goals to make it 3-2, Johnson scored an empty net goal with 34 seconds left in the game to ensure the victory.
“It was a little troubling we gave up those two and had to sweat it out at the end,’’ Cooper said. “But I was so glad (Lindback) got the win at the end because he’s been stuck with losses when he’s played well and we haven’t played well in front of him. Tonight we played well defensively in front of him.’’