GLENDALE, Ariz. — After feeling too comfortable during an alarming slide the past two weeks, Lightning coach Jon Cooper insisted that urgency had to start Saturday.
The Lightning desperately needed this one. And Tampa Bay delivered, a 2-0 victory over the hot Coyotes at Gila River Arena. It was just Tampa Bay's second win in seven games, but it kept the team four points ahead of the Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division heading into Tuesday's showdown in Tampa.
"It was huge," goalie Ben Bishop said. "It was pretty much a must-win for us."
It was far from easy against Arizona, which had won three in a row coming in. The game was tighter than it should have been, partly because the Lightning (41-26-5) came up empty on the power play, including a four-minute man advantage in the third period. But Bishop continued his Vezina Trophy-caliber season with 31 saves for his fifth shutout, and second of this road trip, Tampa Bay's only wins. Bishop now has a franchise-record 15 career shutouts in Tampa Bay, and his third consecutive 30-win season.
"He was unbelievable," wing Ondrej Palat said. "Everyone in the league knows how good he is. He's a Vezina candidate for sure."
Some of Bishop's best saves came during the critical stretch in the second period, when the Lightning had to kill off back-to-back 5-on-3 power plays, which combined for two minutes. Tampa Bay held on, preserving a one-goal lead. "I thought the difference in the game was our penalty kill," Cooper said. "Bish is a big part of that. But to get through that 5-on-3, that's the tipping point of the game right there."
The Lightning took six penalties, and gave up 31 shots, but it played more consistently than it had in recent games. Palat gave Tampa Bay the lead for good in the final minute of the first period, flicking a long-range wrist shot from the right boards that somehow trickled through goalie Louis Domingue.
"He didn't expect it - nobody did, and it went in," Palat said. "So I was a little lucky."
The game remained in the balance until the final minute, when Nikita Kucherov added an empty-net goal to seal it, ending the four-game trip the way it started - with a Bishop shutout.