OTTAWA — When new Senators coach Guy Boucher discussed Saturday's showdown with the Lightning before the game, he spoke more in reverence than about revenge.
"They don't have a lot of flaws," Boucher said.
Boucher had that view reinforced the hard way, the former Lightning coach handed a 4-1 loss at the Canadian Tire Center. It was the first time Boucher had faced Tampa Bay since getting fired in 2013 after four seasons.
For the Lightning (4-1-0), it was a great way to start a six-game, 11-day road trip. "For 40, 50 minutes, it was the best we played all season," captain Steven Stamkos said. "For the first 20, definitely the most dominant.
Backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy came up big, especially during a Senators second-period flurry, with 27 saves. The Lightning power play snapped out of a three-game drought with two goals, one by Stamkos. And Alex Killorn helped seal the win with a huge insurance goal midway through the third; it was his team-leading fourth of the season.
It helped that for the first time in five games, Tampa Bay scored the game's first goal.
"Well, there's 82 games in the season. I was hoping we would score first at some point," coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning had led for just more than 26 minutes combined in the first four games, but it never trailed in this one.
It began with a strong start. Cooper shuffled the lines, reuniting Vladislav Namestnikov, Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the trio a dynamic force Saturday. Though Tampa Bay failed to score a first-period goal for the fifth consecutive game, it held a 14-4 shot advantage in the first 20 minutes, controlling play.
Cooper said it was its best period of the season. Said Namestnikov: "From the first minute, we were ready to go."
The Lightning then took a two-goal lead with goals on back-to-back power plays in the second. Namestnikov got the first one, redirecting a point shot from defenseman Anton Stralman. Four minutes later, Stamkos converted a Namestnikov pass for a one-timer from the left circle.
The Senators battled back, swarming in the second half of the second period, outshooting Tampa Bay 14-1 in the process. They pulled within one with five minutes to go, Chris Neil pouncing on his rebound as Vasilevskiy lost control of the initial shot.
"You (penalty) kill for four minutes, we were on our heels," Cooper said. "They pushed and pushed and pushed."
But had it not been for Vasilevskiy, the score would have been tied at 2. Vasilevskiy stoned Ryan Dzingel on the doorstep during a power play then made a blocker save on a blast from Cody Ceci with just less than two minutes left in the period. Vasilevskiy then thwarted Chris Kelly early in the third. In his second start of the season, Vasilevskiy showed why he'll get a larger share of the split with Ben Bishop.
"You saw what he can do last year when he's feeling it," Stamkos said. "Not a lot rattles him. To be that mature as a young kid is impressive."
After the Lightning failed to convert on a third-period power play, Killorn gave it much-needed breathing room with about 10 minutes to go. His shot from the right circle beat Craig Anderson to make it 3-1. And Killorn's linemate, Valtteri Filppula, put the game away with a breakaway goal in the final minutes.
Said Killorn: "(Saturday) was a complete game."
First Period—None. Penalties—None.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 1 (Stralman, Palat), 2:36 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 3 (Namestnikov, Kucherov), 6:45 (pp). 3, Ottawa, Neil 1, 15:27. Penalties—Ceci, OTT, (high sticking), 2:25; Hoffman, OTT, (hooking), 5:13; Brown, TB, (hooking), 9:19; Stamkos, TB, (hooking), 12:07.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Killorn 4 (Filppula, Garrison), 8:02. 5, Tampa Bay, Filppula 3 (Point), 18:03. Penalties—Borowiecki, OTT, (holding), 5:13; Namestnikov, TB, (holding), 10:27; Wideman, OTT, (high sticking), 19:51. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 14-8-13—35. Ottawa 4-16-8—28. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 4; Ottawa 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 2-0-0 (28 shots-27 saves). Ottawa, Anderson 3-1-0 (35-31).