VANCOUVER – For 40 minutes Saturday, the Lightning looked like it would cruise to another big road win.
Then came the third period.
The Canucks rallied to cut a three-goal Lightning lead to one with just over five minutes to go. But Tampa Bay held on for a 4-2 victory at Rogers Arena. Cory Conacher sealed this one with a goal on a penalty shot with under four to go.
"If Conacher doesn't draw that penalty shot and fortunately score, who knows what would have happened?" coach Jon Cooper said."Because it wasn't looking too good."
The Lightning has won five of seven on its "see-what-we're-made-of" road trip, which wraps up Monday in Edmonton. But Tampa Bay still left Vancouver ticked off over how it has played.
This won't cut it come playoff-time.
"Not good enough," Victor Hedman said.
The Lightning came out with jump Saturday, taking a 2-0 first-period lead. Veteran Chris Kunitz got Tampa Bay started with a great deflection of an Anton Stralman shot just 90 seconds in.
Four minutes later, Hedman did what he does as well as any defenseman in the league – pinch into the offensive zone. Hedman accepted a pass from Steven Stamkos and beat Jacob Markstrom to make it 2-0.
Callup Matt Peca continued his impressive showing, tallying a point for his fourth straight game. "For him to come and step in and contribute the way he's doing, we don't know if we get a couple of these wins without his effort," Cooper said.
Same goes for linemate Yanni Gourde, who scored his fourth goal in his past six, giving him 18 (just one shy of Steven Stamkos, two behind Brayden Point for second on the team). Yeah, just what we all expected.
The Lightning should have put this away after killing off a 5-on-3 early in the third period. "That should have been the end of their push right there," Cooper said.
But it wasn't. The Canucks outshot Tampa Bay 13-3 in the first 10 minutes of the third, making it target practice on goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Rookie Brock Boeser made it 3-2 with just under six to go. For the 12th time in the last 13 games, Tampa Bay allowed 30 or more shots.
"We just quit playing the team game," Kunitz said. "We turned pucks over, let them come at us in waves."
Had it not been for another brilliant performance by Vasilevskiy, this could have ended in a collapse.
"He's undoubtedly been our most complete player this whole year," Hedman said. "He's been keeping us in games we don't really deserve."
The Lightning might not have deserved this one Saturday night. But Tampa Bay will take it. It just shows it has a lot more to give.