COLUMBUS, Ohio — Goaltender Ben Bishop lay helplessly on his back in the waning minutes Monday, with a shot by Columbus' Brandon Dubinsky somehow trickling through his stick and onto the goalline.
The Blue Jackets, swarming Tampa Bay late in the game, came oh-so-close to tying it up.
But the puck slowed just enough where it only partly crossed the red line, center Vladislav Namestnikov scooping it back under Bishop, helping preserve a 2-1 victory at Nationwide Arena.
"I almost felt like (Dominik) Hasek on my back," Bishop quipped. "Sometimes it's nice to get a little lucky there."
Sure, you can say the Lightning got some breaks Monday, a couple of gifts from the hockey gods, But Tampa Bay earned them, outshooting and outchancing Columbus while shorthanded, playing with 10 forwards for most of the game for the second straight game.
"Now we're starting to get used to it," wing Alex Killorn joked.
Tampa Bay was already without five regulars (including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin). Then rookie wing Joel Vermin, called up Monday, left after just one shift with a hand injury and is out indefinitely, meaning the Lightning will need another callup before tonight's game in Toronto.
"It's unreal," coach Jon Cooper said. "Actually, I could believe it."
The Lightning (15-13-3) absolutely had to have this one, the first of back-to-back against the two worst Eastern Conference teams. But it took another spectacular effort by Bishop, who made 25 saves, 12 in a furious third-period flurry.
"Bish stood on his head," wing Alex Killorn said. "We've come to the point where we just expect him to make these saves."
Killorn had a monster game, fittingly setting up the winner with his pass to Brian Boyle on a shorthanded 2-on-1 six minutes into the third.
"(Heck) of a pass," Boyle said.
But this one was far from over, with the Blue Jackets making a push.
Considering the Lightning had already lost seven games when allowing two or fewer goals, including Saturday's 2-1 loss to Washington, another defeat would have been deflating. But Tampa Bay held on. About 30 seconds before Boyle's winner, Columbus' Scott Hartnell had a point-blank opportunity from the right circle, staring at a wide-open net.
But Hartnell's shot bounced harmlessly off the skate of Lightning defenseman Matt Carle, who didn't see it coming.
"Huge block," Bishop said. "That's a game-saver."
"Kind of right place, right time," Carle said. "Fortunately, it hit me."
The Lightning headed for Toronto, where it's expected to be a media circus with captain Steven Stamkos back in his hometown, his uncertain contract saga still one of the hottest topics in the hockey world. But Stamkos, mired in a nine-game goal drought, will go there with a smile, thanks to Monday's much-needed win. And Killorn, who set up and assisted on the go-ahead goal, made it happen.
"If you're going to talk hockey gods, he earned that," Cooper said.
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So did the Lightning.
First Period—None. Penalties—Savard, Clm (holding), 1:21; Callahan, TB, major (fighting), 20:00; Hartnell, Clm, major (fighting), 20:00.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Marchessault 3, 11:11. 2, Columbus, Dubinsky 5 (Calvert, Foligno), 16:46. Penalties—Garrison, TB (holding), 2:10.
Third Period—3, Tampa Bay, Boyle 8 (Killorn), 6:13 (sh). Penalties—Callahan, TB (hooking), 5:51; Columbus bench, served by Saad (too many men), 14:14. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 10-13-6—29. Columbus 7-7-12—26. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Columbus 0 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 13-9-2 (26 shots-25 saves). Columbus, Korpisalo 0-1-0 (29-27). A—12,494 (18,144). T—2:27. Referees—Tom Chmielewski, Dan O'Halloran. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Ryan Gibbons.