Ryan Callahan needed just one.
One goal would snap the veteran Lightning wing out of the longest and most frustrating drought of his career. It wouldn't matter if the puck redirected in off his rear end or went into an empty net. After three months, and 29 games, he'd take anything.
"I thought it would be one off my shin pads," Callahan said.
Nope. Callahan's slump-busting goal had plenty of style points. His highlight-reel, shorthanded goal late in the second period was a game-changer in the Lightning's 5-1 win Thursday over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Arena, Tampa Bay's last game before the All-Star break.
Wow. What a move. Callahan, 32, fittingly started his goal in his end on the penalty kill. He stripped the puck off the boards and from Jakub Voracek before going coast to coast. He undressed a really good defenseman in Shayne Gostisbehere with a slick inside-out move, then beat goalie Michal Neuvirth with a sweet deke.
"I've seen that move before — but not in a while," defenseman Anton Stralman said, smiling. "A great goal, and big one for us."
This has been a huge week for the Lightning, which opened an eight-game road trip winning three of four, including three straight to snap a three-game losing streak. Tampa Bay isn't playing perfectly, but it has been more competitive and had a more complete game.
"I think we're starting to find our way back to the team we were," Stralman said. "And what we want to be."
It started this night in net. Andrei Vasilevskiy was brilliant again, racking up 36 saves in a return to the site of his NHL debut. Vasilevskiy was at his best in the first period, thwarting a few odd-man rushes, including stoning the Flyers' Travis Konecny on a breakaway.
"He played fantastic," Stralman said. "He held the fort down in the first period. We could easily have been a couple goals behind. It would have been a different game."
Center Brayden Point, whom coach Jon Cooper said often stirs the Lightning's drink, got the Tampa Bay started with a power-play goal 25 seconds into the second. It was a typical hustle goal for the recently named All-Star, who reached 20 goals for the first time.
Tampa Bay pulled away with three goals in the second. The second goal came from rookie Yanni Gourde, who delivered another workmanlike putback for his 17th of the season (one shy of Steven Stamkos' total). Gourde's linemate Matt Peca provided a spark again in his second game since getting called up from AHL Syracuse. Peca was plus-2 and went 13-of-15 on faceoffs. He's not going anywhere soon.
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Vladislav Namestnikov put the game away with two goals in the third, giving him three in two games after snapping a 13-game goal drought. "I was in a little funk," he said. "I was being too hard on myself. I stuck with it, and bounces started to go my way."
The same for Callahan. He felt like he had been getting his share of chances, and had four shots Thursday. Though Callahan does a lot of intangible things for this team, including being a key cog on the penalty kill, he takes pride in scoring. That's why he was frustrated by having just one goal in his first 38 games.
That changed in a flash.
"I don't think anybody expected (the goal)," Stralman said. "I was hanging back just looking, and Gourde went for a change. (Callahan) was kind of alone. It took us awhile to get to him."
Callahan celebrated with an emphatic fist bump.
"You could see that smile again," Namestnikov said. "You could see the relief. Really happy for him."
First Period—None. Penalties—Raffl, PHI, (holding), 18:14.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Point 20 (Johnson), 0:25. 2, Tampa Bay, Gourde 17 (Peca, Girardi), 9:56. 3, Tampa Bay, Callahan 2, 17:29 (sh). Penalties—Johnson, TB, (interference), 6:02; Girardi, TB, (cross checking), 16:57.
Third Period—4, Philadelphia, Konecny 10 (Giroux, Voracek), 13:18 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 17 (Kucherov, Stamkos), 14:05. 6, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 18 (Kucherov, Stamkos), 17:11. Penalties—Killorn, TB, (slashing), 5:04; Namestnikov, TB, (interference), 11:27; Laughton, PHI, Misconduct (misconduct), 19:50. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 3-11-8—22. Philadelphia 9-11-17—37. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 1; Philadelphia 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 29-9-2 (37 shots-36 saves). Philadelphia, Neuvirth 5-6-1 (22-17). A—19,489 (19,543). T—2:29. Referees—Jake Brenk, Chris Rooney. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Brad Kovachik.