Saturday, September 22, 2018
  • Lightning Strikes

Yanni Gourde, Lightning battle back against Flames

CALGARY — Three, four, maybe even five cuts and scratches decorate Yanni Gourde's still babyish face.

Battle scars.

The Lightning center is not afraid to mix it up when he feels he or a teammate has been wronged, and he felt that way in the third period Thursday when Flames right wing Garnet Hathaway hit Anton Stralman a little too high.

So, Gourde dropped his gloves, and the two went at it long enough to both earn 5-minute major penalties for fighting.

With Gourde in the penalty box, Cory Conacher scored the second of his two third-period goals to cap the Lightning's comeback in its 7-4 win at the Saddledome.

"Listen, people don't realize, Yanni, he spent a lot of time in the minors. He's had a lot of fights under his belt," Alex Killorn said. "He's a tough player. He doesn't back down from anyone. I think his demeanor, the way he plays, helps out his team. Sticking up for his teammate was big."

It was a gritty win for the Lightning, which trailed 4-2 at one point in the second period before Matthew Peca's blast past goalie Mike Smith began a run of five unanswered goals.

Killorn had two goals and a career-high five points. Braydon Coburn scored his first goal of the season. Andrej Sustr recorded his first assist.

The third line of Killorn, Gourde and Peca had eight points.

"That line drove the bus for us tonight," coach Jon Cooper said after the game. "If you're going to win in this league, you need a little depth in scoring. You can't have the same guys doing it every night."

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was a stone wall, turning away 42 shots, including 12 after the Lightning made it a three-goal game in the third.

It was the type of win the Lightning needed after being out-played and out-worked in Tuesday's 3-1 loss at Winnipeg. That was followed by a high-intensity, 70-minute practice Wednesday before the team hopped the charter to Calgary.

"It felt great to have a response like that," Steven Stamkos said. "I thought we needed to really have a look in the mirror and come out with a lot more urgency and compete after the Winnipeg game, and I thought we did that. As the game went along, that wasn't perfect by any means, we got some fluky goals, if you want to call them, but maybe we were getting rewarded for the effort we put in the game."

Simply put: The Lightning wasn't backing down this time.

Jake Dotchin went off for fighting in the first period. Bodies hit the ice all game, some sent there by the Lightning.

"It's nothing we shy away from," Killorn said.

And how about Killorn? He ends an 11-game goalless drought with a pair of goals. He scored the Lightning's first power play goal in five games in the second period and scored on a backhander 12 seconds into the third to tie the score at 4.

"It was funny," Cooper said. "We just went over some video with him, how he was scoring his goals, having a little shoot mentality, instinctively throwing the puck at the net."

It worked.

"It's been one of those things, the puck really hasn't been falling my way for a lot of this season, so to have a game like this, it's great," Killorn said. "Get my confidence back. I'm excited right now."

And how about Conacher? A healthy scratch Tuesday, he scored twice on bad-angle shots.

"Those guys who are used to scoring get one, and they think they can get another one and hopefully that translates into a few more here," Cooper said.

It was a good win for a team that has been on an eight-game road trip — interrupted for the four-day All-Star break last weekend — since Jan. 20.  The Lightning flew to Vancouver after the game for Saturday's game against the Canucks. The players did so with a little more confidence in their walk, and, in the case of Gourde, another mark on his face.

"Some people may see that and not realize the impact it has on a team and a game and the momentum," Stamkos said. "You stick up for your teammates, and good things happen after that if you play the right way.

Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50.

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