There’s a phrase that comes to mind when thinking about the past week in terms of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They don’t ask “how”; they ask “how many.”
Tampa Bay was far from perfect in their two games but they got the job done, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Oct. 16th and outlasting the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Oct. 18th.
Let’s start with Carolina. The Hurricanes came into town boasting high shot totals, leading the league with 254 shots on goal and averaging just over 42 shots a game. Carolina had also spent the weekend dominating Minnesota, firing a whopping 100 shots (57 and 43, respectively) against two teams with very good bluelines. Suffice to say, the Bolts were in for a tough task.
But behind fantastic performances from backup goaltender Louis Dominque (38 saves, several of the dazzling variety) and forward Tyler Johnson's hat trick, they got it done. Yanni Gourde scored the game-winner on the powerplay at the 7:02 mark of the third period. Seven other Lightning players recorded an assist, including Mathieu Joseph, who recorded his first NHL point midway through the first period. While short-handed, Joseph flew down the left wing, rounding Hurricanes forward Justin Williams and zipping a pass across for Johnson to tap-in and tie the game 1-1.
The Hurricanes opened the scoring at the 10:25 mark of the first through Michael Ferland. Sebastian Aho picked off a clearance from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, batting it out of the air near the blueline and finding winger Teuvo Teravainen on the halfboards. Teravainen found Ferland streaking down the middle, who deked Dominque down low and slid the puck in on the backhand. That line for Carolina was fantastic in the game, combining for 13 of the team’s 40 shots. Forward Martin Necas scored the other goal for the Hurricanes, the first of his career.
The emerging storyline for Tampa Bay this season has been the penalty kill, which is off to an outstanding start. Against Carolina they killed off all four penalties and added a key short-handed goal, and found themselves busy again two nights later against Detroit, preventing the Red Wings from scoring on five different power play opportunities.
The Red Wings entered the game on a different trajectory than Carolina; Detroit hoped to earn the first win of the season in their seventh game. Through six, the Wings were a dreadful 0-4-2, outscored 30-14 and losing by four or more twice.
However poor Detroit’s start had been, it was still important for Tampa Bay to finish the homestand strong.
The Lightning put together a much better performance in this one, outshooting the Red Wings 31-30 and never feeling in danger. Brayden Point notched his fourth goal of the season, shortly after a power play expired. Steven Stamkos scored his first of the season, the goal that served as the game-winner, and Alex Killorn would add an empty-netter. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves to earn his third victory of the season.
Luke Glendening scored the lone Detroit goal, six minutes into the second period, that at the time tied the game at one. Jimmy Howard stopped 28-of-30 shots faced, including several spectacular ones on odd-man rushes and on the penalty kill.
But as good as they played, Tampa Bay never put the game out of reach. Detroit took 16 shots on goal, scoring only thanks to three power plays during the frame.
It was not until midway through the third that the Lightning shut the Red Wings down, allowing minimal zone time and not giving up a single shot after goaltender Jimmy Howard was pulled for an extra attacker. Killorn’s empty-netter put the game to bed.
Lightning forward Ryan Callahan appeared in his first game of season following off-season surgery to repair his shoulder.
The win is Tampa Bay’s 12th straight over Detroit in the regular season. That streak is tied for the franchise’s longest, matching the 12 straight wins recorded against the Penguins (Nov. 8th 2003 to Feb. 25th 2007) and Jets (Nov. 22nd 2009 to Oct. 29th 2011).
The Lightning finish their opening homestand 4-1, and hit the road for a five-game swing which will let them begin to see where they'll be in the Eastern Conference race this season.