PITTSBURGH — Funny the way things work out.
The Lightning on Wednesday called up defenseman Matt Lashoff from AHL Norfolk to fill out an injury-ravaged blue line. But 2:22 into the game against the Atlantic-leading Penguins, Lashoff got a game misconduct boarding penalty, meaning Tampa Bay played the rest of the way with five defensemen instead of six.
Give it up, then, for the Lightning, which put together one of its best defensive efforts of the season in a 2-0 victory in its last game at Mellon Arena before the building is retired.
"The biggest thing was we were in their face," center Nate Thompson said. "We didn't give them any time. We took back ice and forced them to dump it in."
Said coach Rick Tocchet, "A really gutty effort."
And timely. A regulation loss would have eliminated Tampa Bay (31-34-12) from the playoffs. And considering Saturday's 7-1 loss to the Sabres and Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets, finishing a four-game road trip 2-2 wasn't so bad.
Steven Stamkos' 46th goal tied Washington's Alex Ovechkin for second in the league, one behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. Steve Downie's 22nd goal extended his career record, and Marty St. Louis' two assists gave him 90 points.
Really, though, it was the defensive effort that was the story, punctuated by goaltender Mike Smith's second shutout of the season and 10th of his career.
"Hats off to the boys," said Smith, who made 27 saves. "That's a good team. We didn't give them many Grade A chances. We shut them down in the neutral zone. To do that tells a lot about the character of the guys in this room."
Pittsburgh outshot Tampa Bay 27-17, but most of the shots were from outside. The Lightning also blocked 21 shots and won puck battles.
"And when you win battles," said Thompson, who had a game-high five blocks, "you're going to win games."
Tampa Bay also killed four penalties, including the five-minute boarding call that came with Lashoff's game misconduct, when his hit from behind caused the head of former Lightning Ruslan Fedotenko to hit the glass.
Fedotenko briefly left the game. Lashoff, though, was done, and a long night for his five blue line mates began.
"I think all five guys knew what we were getting into," said Mike Lundin, who had a career-high 29 minutes, 48 seconds of ice time.
"We knew it was going to be a real battle, we're going to be with different partners and play on different sides of the ice. We really beared down and focused."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 46 (St. Louis, Foster), 17:00 (pp). Penalties—Lashoff, TB, major-game misconduct (boarding), 2:22; Ponikarovsky, Pit (interference), 11:45; Thompson, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:40; Kunitz, Pit (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:40; Leopold, Pit (interference), 16:33; Tampa Bay bench, served by Fedoruk (too many men), 18:02.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Downie 22 (St. Louis, Stamkos), :29. Penalties—Cooke, Pit (roughing), 1:59; M.Smith, TB, served by Parrish (holding), 6:46; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 12:51; Guerin, Pit, major (fighting), 12:51; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 18:45; Meszaros, TB (roughing), 20:00; Guerin, Pit (roughing), 20:00.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Cooke, Pit (high-sticking), 5:06. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-6-5—17. Pittsburgh 9-9-9—27. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; Pittsburgh 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, M.Smith 11-16-7 (27 shots-27 saves). Pittsburgh, Fleury 35-20-6 (17-15). A—17,132 (16,940). T—2:21. Referees—Wes McCauley, Justin St. Pierre. Linesmen—Jonny Murray, Ryan Galloway.