Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning snap skid as Cooper watches from press box
The Lightning found a winning formula on the same day new head coach Jon Cooper arrived on the scene.
Though Cooper took in the game from upstairs, he must have liked the effort and performance from the team he is now in charge of running on the ice.
Tampa Bay won its third consecutive home game, a 2-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Forum.
Steven Stamkos notched his league-leading 23rd goal of the season and added an assist, while Marty St. Louis added a goal and an assist to help Tampa Bay snap a three-game losing streak as the high-intensity effort from Sunday carried over.
“I thought the intensity was there. The work ethic and guys played extremely hard for each other,’’ acting head coach Dan Lacroix said. “They showed that they care. They care about the team, they care about the results and we focused on the process.’’
That process was a carryover from Sunday.
“I thought we played a real solid game in Winnipeg (on Sunday) and that was the message. We wanted to make sure we came out with that same kind of intensity and we knew if we did that again, and do that for the majority of the year, we are going to give ourselves a very good chance to win,’’ Stamkos said. “From the start of the game, the very first shift right until the end, we played solid and didn’t give them much.’’
Mathieu Garon came within 3:08 of pitching a shutout before Jordan Leopold ended the bid. It’s just the third time this season Tampa Bay won a one-goal game, improving to 3-10-1 as the Lightning moved up to 13th in the Eastern Conference and remained six points behind the New York Rangers for the final playoff position.
There just might be something to be said knowing that Cooper was sitting above, watching the game next to general manager Steve Yzerman.
“I think in the back of everyone’s mind, when you have a new coach watching the game, especially from up top, he sees everything,’’ Stamkos said. “Marty and I joked about it before the game saying we better make sure we play solid, and I thought we did, obviously the whole group. And I’m proud of the guys. Obviously we have to keep this up. There is still a fighting chance and we are going to believe in that.’’
With a seemingly invigorated sense of urgency with the events of the previous two days, in which former head coach Guy Boucher was let go hours before Sunday’s game and Cooper named his replacement on Monday, Tampa Bay came out buzzing in the Buffalo end.
Goalie Ryan Miller was able to withstand the early swarm, but Stamkos finally broke through late in the period. After a quick scramble in front of the net, Stamkos took two strides away from the net to open up enough space for St. Louis to slip a pass from behind the net, and Stamkos zipped a one-timer to the short side over Miller’s shoulder 16:01 into the game.
Tampa Bay had to kill off a full power play to start the second period and then took advantage of a power play of its own. With Robyn Regehr already in the box for an elbowing penalty, Mike Weber took a boarding call at 7:42 of the second to give the Lightning a two-man advantage for 1 minute, 32 seconds.
Midway through the 5-on-3 power play and after some quick puck movement, St. Louis one-timed a feed from the right circle over Miller at 8:15 for a 2-0 lead.
“I think when you don’t score sometimes on a five-on-three, sometimes it comes back to haunt you a little bit,’’ St. Louis said. “So I thought the power play moved the puck really well today … and I think what we did well on the power play was we kept the momentum. We had a lot of touches and that builds up into five-on-five play and I felt we did that today.’’
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