Flames get road win at Tampa Bay
TAMPA, Fla. — Down a goal early, the Calgary Flames got two goals in 81 seconds in the second period, then held on a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
“That’s a big road win. They’re a good hockey team that’s playing really well right now,” said Calgary center Matthew Tkachuck. “We played the right way, scored a couple of big goals in the second and the power play in the third. (goalie Brian Elliott) was there to make big saves when we needed it. It was a great team effort against a fast team. We’ll take the two points and move on.”
Tampa Bay got a power-play goal from Nikita Kucherov — his team-best 23rd of the season — to pull within a goal with 1:13 left, but the Lightning couldn’t get the tying goal in the final minute after pulling their goalie.
The Flames scored their first two goals in a span of 81 seconds early in the second period, but got much-needed separation late in the third with a power-play goal by Dougie Hamilton — his 10th of the season, after getting assists on each of the first two goals — with 2:58 remaining in the game after the Lightning were called for a tripping penalty.
Calgary (31-26-4) got strong play from goalie Brian Elliott, who needed only 23 saves — but three in the final minute — to close out the win. The Flames defense stepped up, two nights after giving up five goals but still pulling off a win in overtime at Nashville.
“I think everybody had the same game plan and played it to a T,” Elliott said. “We got down 1-0 off a tip from the point, but the guys didn’t really get too low and we battled back, scored a big goal and a couple unanswered. Sometimes it comes together and the guys are clicking a little bit, and it showed tonight.”
Tampa Bay (27-25-8), which took its first regulation loss in eight games, had a chance to pull within two points of the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, playing two-plus periods of good defensive hockey sandwiched around a two-minute lapse.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is now 0-2-3 in his last five starts, juxtaposed against five straight wins for Ben Bishop, who could be dealt at the trade deadline.
“Give them credit for the way they played ... but pin that game on us,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “If I thought there was a game we weren’t going to have any energy for, I thought it was going to be the Edmonton game (Tuesday). I did not think tonight was going to be the game. That was a little unfortunate. It happens.”
Calgary continues a back-to-back with a game at Florida on Friday night, while the Lightning continues its four-game home stand against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
The Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but Calgary scored twice in a span of 81 seconds to take a 2-1 lead that they’d carry into the final period.
Mikael Backlund tied the game with 14:56 left in the second, redirecting a long shot from defenseman Mark Giordano downward so the puck bounced and went past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 1-1. With 13:35 left, Sean Monahan gave Calgary the lead with his 20th goal of the season. The goal was also the 100th of his short NHL career — at 22 years old, he’s the sixth-youngest active player to get to 100 career goals.
Tampa Bay had taken the lead on a long redirection of its own — defenseman Braydon Coburn’s shot was redirected by Vladislav Namestnikov and past goalie Brian Elliott with 13:43 left in the opening period.
Calgary outshot Tampa Bay 8-5 in the first and 10-7 in the second, with the Lightning trying to extend a streak of seven straight games without a regulation loss. Both teams are in the thick of the wild-card hunt, with Calgary entering the night clinging to the second wild card in the West and the Lightning four games back of the last wild card in the East.
“A lot of things why we’ve had success in the last month or so, we didn’t do tonight,” Cooper said. “It’s an 82-game season and that’s going to happen but the problem is we’ve used up our gimmes. We don’t have any more. That’s what makes this one tough. This was ripe for the taking.”
NOTES: The only five active players to get to 100 career goals at a younger age than Calgary’s Sean Monahan: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, Washington’s Alex Ovechkiin and Chicago’s Patrick Kane. ... The Lightning played without C Jonathan Drouin, who has been sidelined by the flu. ... C Freddie Hamilton was a healthy scratch for Calgary.