The way Thursday night was shaping up, the Lightning looked ripe for another embarrassing home loss.
Which meant goalie Ben Bishop appeared headed for another hard-luck defeat.
In a gut-check game, having lost seven of nine going in, Tampa Bay showed little spark for good portions of the game against the worst-in-the-West Flames. Heck, defenseman Andrej Sustr was its most dangerous offensive player.
But that's when captain Steven Stamkos came through with arguably the biggest goal of the season. The score tied with seven minutes left in the third, Stamkos' power-play tally — another one-timer — lifted the Lightning to a desperately-needed 3-1 victory over Calgary at Amalie Arena.
"We're on home ice, it's 1-1 in third … we've got to win those," coach Jon Cooper said. "We have to. That was the talk on the bench, and the boys found a way."
For November, this was as must-win as it gets for Tampa Bay (8-8-2), which was in danger of losing four consecutive home games after losing just eight in regulation all last season. You can argue the Lightning stole this one. It still is yet to play a complete game in its first 18.
"We take every point we can get right now," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "That second period we were pretty awful. Still not the way we want to play."
Said Bishop: "We played well the first 10 minutes and last 10 minutes. In between, wasn't so pretty. At this point, we'll take it."
As he has all season, Bishop gave Tampa Bay a chance to win, snapping a personal five-start losing streak with 30 saves.
"Happy to finally get a win," he said.
Bishop had allowed eight combined goals in those five losses.
"He probably deserves six wins, five wins out of that," Cooper said.
The Lightning scored three goals — as many as it tallied in Bishop's past five starts combined — which is like an explosion for its struggling offense. Calgary did enter allowing a league-most 3.88 goals per game.
Brian Boyle scored his first goal since scoring two in Boston on Oct. 12. Tyler Johnson added one with less than two minutes left to seal it. Ryan Callahan, who set the tone for the second straight game with a monster all-around effort, got an empty-netter waved off due to an offside call.
"He was outstanding," Cooper said.
Callahan was a key cog on a penalty kill that went 3-for-4, its only miscue Sam Bennett's tying goal in the second period. Cooper said all the penalty kill shifts were part of the reason wing Jonathan Drouin, who had been on the top line until his injury Oct. 27, played a team-low 9:26.
"Didn't even know that," Cooper said. "That wasn't by design. That's the way games work out sometimes."
The Lightning found a way to win, hoping it might be the start of something.
"We've got to play consistently," Cooper said. "Not just pick and choose the time of the game to say, 'Okay boys, let's turn it on.'
"There's been some stretches we've thrown some pretty good games together. But we haven't been able to sustain it. Hopefully we can build off this."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTImes_JSmith.
First Period—None. Penalties—Brodie, Cal (tripping), 1:53; Carle, TB (hooking), 9:05; Namestnikov, TB (slashing), 15:02.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Boyle 3 (Coburn), 1:59. 2, Calgary, Bennett 4 (Backlund, Wideman), 6:45 (pp). Penalties—Condra, TB (tripping), 5:03; Filppula, TB (tripping), 13:56.
Third Period—3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 9 (Killorn, T.Johnson), 12:51 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, T.Johnson 3 (Kucherov), 18:27. Penalties—Giordano, Cal (tripping), 12:23. Shots on Goal—Calgary 8-15-8—31. Tampa Bay 11-7-11—29. Power-play opportunities—Calgary 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Calgary, Ramo 3-6-0 (29 shots-26 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 6-7-1 (31-30). A—19,092 (19,204). T—2:40. Referees—Steve Kozari, Wes McCauley. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Tim Nowak.