TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he knew he was taking a chance when he gave his players Sunday and Monday off after consecutive losses.
He said he knew the lack of work might affect timing and execution. He was right, and Exhibit A was Tampa Bay did not get a shot Tuesday night in the final 17:42 of regulation play and overtime.
And yet the Lightning won, 3-2 over the Blue Jackets after a four-round shootout at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"It wasn't the prettiest win," center Steven Stamkos said, "but it's a win."
That kept the Lightning (27-15-5) in first place in the Southeast.
Oh, there were positives.
Goaltender Dwayne Roloson had three of his 28 saves in the final 25 seconds of the third period and was 4-for-4 in the shootout to make Ryan Malone's goal stand up.
Stamkos' two goals gave him a league-best 35. Defenseman Victor Hedman played a season-high 26:45 and had an assist, and there was a power-play goal and a 5-for-5 penalty kill.
But, generally, the game was filled with missed passes, pucks that rolled off sticks and miss-timed plays, all of which led to Tampa Bay being outshot 30-22.
"When you give two days off, that's what happens," Boucher said. "But the gamble is you try to get energy for the other games coming up. In that respect, it was the right thing to do."
Especially when Stamkos picks up the slack.
His first goal, with 2:08 left in the first, tied the score 1-1 and came on a sizzling shot from 32 feet away into the short-side top corner off the top of goalie Mathieu Garon's stick.
"That," Jackets coach Scott Arniel said, "was a heck of a shot."
Stamkos' second, on the power play with 5:36 left in the second, deflected in off Columbus' Marc Methot for a 2-1 lead. But with 4:44 left, Derick Brassard scored at the end of a two-on-one sparked when Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin could not hold the puck in at the Columbus blue line.
That was all Roloson would give, and his left-leg stop on RJ Umberger at the side of the net with 18 seconds left in the third was a game-saver.
"They were just trying to do everything to throw pucks at the net," Roloson said. "Sometimes the puck goes off people. You just try to get your body into position and let it hit you."
Boucher is sure the two-day mental and physical break he gave a team that has played a league-high 27 road games will pay off when it plays Thursday and Friday at Atlanta and Florida.
There will be practice today, though.
"To get some pace to our game," he said.
It's the right thing to do.
|Lightning wins shootout 1-0|
First Period—1, Columbus, Umberger 16 (Vermette, Garon), 7:34. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 34 (Hedman), 17:52. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (tripping), 14:26; C.Clark, Clm (hooking), 19:52.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 35 (St. Louis, Kubina), 14:24 (pp). 4, Columbus, Brassard 11 (Nash, Voracek), 15:16. Penalties—Purcell, TB (holding), :18; Klesla, Clm (hooking), 13:09; Methot, Clm (hooking), 16:27.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Purcell (too many men), 5:46; Nash, Clm (charging), 9:45; Hall, TB (roughing), 12:15.
Shootout—Columbus 0 (Nash NG, Wilson NG, Huselius NG, Vermette NG), Tampa Bay 1 (Hedman NG, Hall NG, Stamkos NG, Malone G). Shots on Goal—Columbus 13-9-5-3—30. Tampa Bay 6-11-5-0—22. Power-play opportunities—Columbus 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Columbus, Garon 8-9-3 (22 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Roloson 10-16-1 (30-28). A—13,291 (19,758). T—2:42. Referees—Brad Meier, Kevin Pollock. Linesmen—Michel Cormier, Jean Morin.