Lightning stare down adversity... and smack it in the mouth.
Ben Bishop stopped all 37 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Columbus' fans decided to make Bishop a target after he was interfered with on a goal that was waved off early in the game, and the Blue Jackets ran Ben several times, including a pretty wicked leg sweep by Foligno. All the sweeter for Bishop, who handed down some U of Maine Justice by blanking his would-be tormenters.
5:29 TB Stamkos(30), (Kucherov)
8:45 TB Namestnikov(12), (Johnson)
10:54 TB Stamkos(31), (Palat)(SH)
14:39 TB Palat(12), (Stamkos)(SH)
Steven Stamkos, Bishop, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.
The Lightning entered this game pretty well needing a win, having dropped their last 3 with 2 of those being distinctive clunkers against Philly. That's why Bishop was in net today, when if all things were even I think this is a start Cooper might've slid Vasilevskiy's way. Columbus has learned to play a little tighter defensively under Tortorella and they're an extremely physical (goonish) team. They push the envelope of the rules. And, further complicating things, the Lightning ended up playing over half the game with 9 forwards after Valtteri Filppula and Nikita Kucherov had to leave the game with injury (the latter taking a sucker punch in a post whistle scrum from Prout that should be suspension-worthy, in my opinion, if the league gives a damn about protecting its stars).
Tired and sore, the Lightning answered the bell. They manufactured the goals they needed to get the 2-0 lead, they played tight enough defense, and they eventually broke it open on a couple of masterful shorthanded goals by Stamkos and Palat. Today wasn't a game that the Lightning would've circled on the calendar heading into it, but the way they handled adversity in a chippy game makes this a far more important victory than it may have looked on paper.
A little comment on Columbus before I move on: that team is an embarrassment. Let me reiterate: that team is an embarrassment. God bless Tortorella for getting them to play hard, but the fine line between playing hard and playing dirty got obliterated this afternoon. You had Foligno low-bridging a goaltender and body-slamming Namestnikov. You had Prout sucker-punching a Russian goal scorer in a post-whistle scrum that may have concussed Kucherov. You had Bourque slashing Tyler Johnson across the hands with the game well out of hand. You had Calvert slashing another Lightning player right at the final buzzer. That says nothing about all the other stick infractions, clutching and grabbing, and sucker punches and slashes the Blue Jackets got away with as the game wore on. They started to look like a glorified Central Hockey League team as things wore on, and the NHL out to seriously be ashamed there's a product like that anywhere on the league's ice. I wish John Tortorella all the best in taking a book of matches and a gallon or two of lighter fluid to that roster in the offseason in the pursuit of building a team that isn't an appalling laughing stock for anyone who cares about seeing the game played the right way.
With Valtteri Filppula hurt, I wouldn't be shocked to see a Tanner Richard recall, as he was held out of Syracuse's lineup today.
With 1 game left to play in Segment Seven of the season, the Lightning have cleared the minimum 12 points they needed from the 10-game set by 1 point. That means the next contest against Toronto on Tuesday will be an opportunity to pick up 2 more insurance points and drive the magic number they need in Segment Eight of the season to comfortably make the playoffs down even further from 11, which is where it currently stands.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.