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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Not-so-perfect Lightning prevail against Ottawa

OTTAWA — The Lightning are not putting together picture perfect efforts, but the perfect results are coming at the perfect time of the season.

Tampa Bay battled its way to a out a 5-4 victory against Ottawa in front of an announced crowd of 17,136 at Canadian Tire Centre for a fifth consecutive win, matching a season best winning streak.

The Lightning have points in season best seven consecutive games (5-0-2) to solidify their chase for a postseason spot, sitting alone in second place in the Atlantic Division with 12 games remaining in the regular season, two points ahead of Montreal and five points ahead of fourth place Toronto.

Tampa Bay had to hold off a resilient effort from the Senators on Thursday, which came back to tie the game on three occasions, including late in the second before the Lightning pulled away and held on to improve to 7-2-1 in the second half of back-to-back games.

“We keep getting two points, so they are all picture perfect to me,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “That game is 3-3 going into the third and we close out the game. You can look at it however you like, but that’s two more points than we had (before the game) and we will take it.’’

Ryan Callahan had the eventual game winner late in the third for a power play goal and Ben Bishop, also playing on consecutive nights, stopped 27 shots for his club record 34th victory of the season as the Lightning won for the first time in Ottawa since Jan. 8, 2011.

Eric Brewer ended a year-long goalless streak while Teddy Purcell ended a 19-game stretch without a goal by scoring twice in the first period. Valtteri Filppula matched his career high with his 23rd goal. Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat all had two assists as Tampa Bay had 10 different players register a point.

“We are just gelling right now, we have the never-quit attitude and we just keep rolling and rolling, and it doesn’t matter what period it is, we just seem to keep scoring,’’ Bishop said. “You would like to win a game 1-0 for sure, but as long as we are winning even if it’s 5-4, it doesn’t matter. All you want is the points and that’s all we need right now. So it doesn’t matter how.’’

For two periods, the two teams traded goals with Ottawa answering three times when the Lightning would go ahead. Purcell ended his goal-scoring drought 23 seconds into the game, one-timing a back pass from Hedman for his first goal since Jan. 19. Ottawa answered that when Kyle Turris stripped Sami Salo of the puck along the boards to send in Clarke MacArthur for a shorthanded breakaway to tie the game at 10:45. Purcell put in a rebound of Hedman shot as 12:38, but Erik Karlsson answered that with a power play goal at 13:07.

Filppula popped in a loose puck for a power play goal 5:43 into the second, but Alex Hemsky once again answered for the Senators when he toe-dragged and danced his way around Radko Gudas to get in alone on Bishop with 2:28 left in the second.

“Our Achilles heel lately, even though we have been winning games, has been our third periods and even in Toronto (Wednesday) we panicked a little and got away from our system,’’ Purcell said. “But tonight we had really good poise, we kept playing the same way.’’

Even after Brewer took a pass from J.T. Brown, jumped down the slot and lifted a nifty backhand shot into a small space above the shoulder of goaltender Robin Lehner for his first goal since Feb. 24, 2013, Tampa Bay looked to be in more control than some previous games where leads either slipped away or in danger of being lost. Callahan’s one-timer at 11:58 provided the needed cushion and Tampa Bay was able to close the game out even after Milan Michalek cut the deficit to a goal with 2:52 left.

“I think we came into the third much better than we did the past few games,’’ Hedman said. “We gave it to them in the beginning of the third and got two big goals, and it was a big momentum change from the last game when we gave up 23 shots in the third and almost lost the game. So it was a big change for us and a good start to the road trip.’’

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