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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning stay hot, handle first-place Blues

TAMPA — When facing the best of the West, the Tampa Bay Lightning tend to bring their best.

Tampa Bay again stared down one of the top teams in the league, knocking off the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 18,885 at The Forum.

Former Blues’ goaltender and St. Louis native Ben Bishop stopped 28 shots in net in his first career game against his former team while Alex Killorn set a career high with three points, scoring a goal and adding two assists. Brett Connolly notched the game-winner in the third, Valtteri Filppula added a goal and two points, while Steven Stamkos scored for the fourth consecutive game.

Tampa Bay improved to 10-4 on the season, marking the quickest into a season in franchise history the Lightning have recorded their 10th win. With 20 points in 14 games, Tampa Bay is off to the second-best start in team history bettered only by the 9-2-2-1 start in 2003-04.

And in the early part of the season, when the Western Conference has dominated the East, Tampa Bay improve to 5-0 against teams from the West.

“I think anytime you face a challenge you want to conquer it,’’ said Stamkos, who is second in the league with 11 goals. “Any time we play teams that are known to be very good in this league we come out with a great effort. We have to start to find a way to do that with consistency, and I think we are starting to get that. This was probably our most consistent effort of the year so far.”

It also proved to be a memorable night for Bishop, a third-round pick by the Blues in 2005, who made his NHL debut with St. Louis in 2008-09 and spent parts of four seasons in the Blues’ organization. Even after playing the night before in Carolina, Bishop wanted to get the call against his former team.

“It was definitely special,’’ said Bishop, who improved to 9-2 on the season. ? and has allowed more than two goals only twice. ? “My first time ever playing against them, I grew up rooting for them, going to games, drafted by them, played for them. I have a lot of friends over there, so it was definitely special.’’

Bishop recovered from allowing a 60-foot point shot from Alex Pietrangelo at 7:50 of the first period, making a stop on a Chris Stewart breakaway chance at 18:41 that kept the game tied thanks to Killorn’s goal at 10:44, the first even-strength goal allowed by St. Louis in 225:55.

The teams traded goals in the second, Stamkos scoring at 1:43 and Jaden Schwartz answering at 3:45, before entering the final period in a 2-2 deadlock.

Then at 8:37, three seconds after a Lightning power play expired, Connolly got a stick on a center point shot from Radko Gudas for his first of the season to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead. Filppula added an insurance goal with 3:59 left when his backhand shot caromed past Jaroslav Halak, who had 21 saves.

“I like to say that good teams rise to certain occasions and these are certain games where, I don’t think we circle, but they come in with good records like St. Louis,’’ said Killorn, who has five points in the past two games. “I don’t know if we get up for them more, but you want to measure yourself against these teams because these teams are always in the playoffs, so it’s nice to get a win against them.’’

Another challenge the Lightning has found a way to answer.

“We’ve got a great bunch of guys in the room. Are we the perfect hockey team?,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper asked. “Not even close, but are we a team that responds to challenges? They do.”

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