Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Did Vladislav Namestnikov put the fight back into the Lightning?

VANCOUVER —Vladislav Namestnikov is one of the Lightning's most versatile forwards.

The natural center plays both wing positions. He fits from the top line to the fourth. He has been used on both special teams. Namestnikov, 24, however, is not known as a fighter.

"But he fights pretty well," wing Alex Killorn quipped.

Namestnikov picked the right spot to scrap Wednesday. Teammates credit his first-period bout as the spark in a 6-3 win over the Flames.

Tampa Bay had lost seven of eight entering the game and trailed 1-0 three minutes in. This season, that's a situation in which it has typically crumbled. Instead, Namestnikov rumbled with center Sam Bennett in front of a riled-up Tampa Bay bench. The Lightning scored the next five goals.

"The way things are going for us, maybe it was a message from Vladdy that we're not going to get pushed around," center Brian Boyle said.

Said wing Jonathan Drouin: "It got us going."

Boyle scored two goals to give the Lightning the lead for good. Killorn added two, and defensemen Andrej Sustr and Braydon Coburn each picked up his first of the season. Goalie Ben Bishop came through, including making a huge save on Bennett in the third to preserve a two-goal lead.

For a team that has looked mentally fragile in recent weeks, the result was significant. It was just the fifth time in 19 games the Lightning won after allowing the first goal, and the first since Nov. 5.

"At the beginning of the year, they'd score a goal and we were not too worried," Killorn said. "But as the season progressed, (in) a couple of those games, we couldn't come back. It seemed like once they scored a goal, we didn't have any energy. We were flat. … (Wednesday) to win the game and come back was huge."

After the Namestnikov fight, the Lightning got back to its strengths. It skated. It was aggressive. It had a shoot-first mentality. It got traffic in front of goalie Chad Johnson, screens part of three of the six goals.

"We've got a funny team like that," coach Jon Cooper said. "If we start getting engaged, we're on pucks, we're into it. When we're skating … especially with some of the guys on our team, we can be troublesome for other teams."

Tampa Bay had earned just three points in the past three weeks, slipping to seven points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The win pulled it to within three points of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division entering Thursday.

It won't get easier. Steven Stamkos (knee surgery) is gone until about mid March. Leading scorer Nikita Kucherov missed Wednesday's game with a lower-body injury, and his status was uncertain for tonight's game in Vancouver. Wing Ondrej Palat left in the second period Wednesday with an undisclosed injury, leading to the callup of Erik Condra from AHL Syracuse. Ryan Callahan (lower body) has missed the past seven games.

So Tampa Bay will need contributions from everybody — like an unlikely fight from Namestnikov, the fifth of his career.

"It was just in the moment," he said. "I'm glad that it gave the team some momentum."

Wednesday's game

Lightning2226
Flames1023

First—1, CGY, Brouwer 7 (Monahan, Brodie), 3:06 (pp). 2, TB, Boyle 5 (Hedman, Johnson), 10:04 (pp). 3, TB, Boyle 6 (Filppula, Hedman), 13:42. Penalties—Vermin, TB, (hold), 2:49; Bennett, CGY, Major (fight), 4:37; Namestnikov, TB, Major (fight), 4:37; Johnson, TB, (slash), 7:20; Hamilton, CGY, (high stick), 8:48; Hamilton, CGY, (high stick), 8:48; Ferland, CGY, (trip), 19:18.

Second—4, TB, Coburn 1 (Killorn, Namestnikov), 4:40. 5, TB, Sustr 1 (Hedman, Filppula), 18:47. Penalties—Giordano, CGY, (holding), 9:00; Tkachuk, CGY, served by Versteeg, (slashing), 14:03; Bishop, TB, served by Koekkoek, (roughing), 14:03; Tkachuk, CGY, (roughing), 14:03; Sustr, TB, (holding), 19:04.

Third—6, TB, Killorn 9, 0:37 (sh). 7, CGY, Brodie 2 (Gaudreau, Brouwer), 3:59 (pp). 8, CGY, Ferland 5 (Stajan, Bouma), 4:20. 9, TB, Killorn 10 (Filppula), 19:15. Penalties—Paquette, TB, (slashing), 2:59. SOG—TB 9-12-14—35. CGY 7-8-7—22. PP opportunities—TB 1 of 5; CGY 2 of 4. Goalies—TB, Bishop 9-10-1 (22 shots-19 saves). CGY, Elliott 3-9-1 (13-12), Johnson 13-5-1 (21-17).

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