The Tampa Bay Lightning (10-13-1, 21pts) fell to the division-rival Winnipeg Jets (11-11-1, 23 pts) by a score of 2-1 on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in front of 19,204 fans.
The Jets got a 28-save performance from the game’s first star, Al Montoya, who only let a shot by Steven Stamkos by him. For Stamkos, it was his league leading 18th goal of the season. Winnipeg got goals from Eric Tangradi (1st) and Bryan Little (4th) to secure their victory, including Little’s coming with just over four minutes to play to break a 1-1 tie. Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback was solid in net, turning aside 26 of the 28 shots that he saw in the game.
Winnipeg got on the board first at 10:05 of the first period, when Tangradi (1st) found himself all alone in the attacking zone and buried a wrist shot near-side past Lindback, giving the Jets a 1-0 lead. Both Lindback and Montoya were sharp in net in the opening frame, as the Jets outshot the Lightning 13-12. Tampa had the only power play opportunity of the period, but failed to convert.
Just 19 seconds into the second period, Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen and Winnipeg’s Mark Stuart dropped the mitts in a good bout, with both players looking to light a fire under their team. Neither team found the back of the net in the period. Rather, the story were the goalies once again. At 7:57 of the period, Winnipeg’s Paul Postma and Mark Stuart were both whistled for minor penalties, giving the Lightning a 5-on-3 power play opportunity to tie the game. On the two-man advantage, Montoya made a number of nice saves, including a diving save on a Vincent Lecavalier one-timer. The Jets found themselves in the same position with just under three minutes to go in the period, when Tampa Bay was whistled for two minor penalties. Winnipeg came inches away from increasing their lead on their two-man advantage, when Andrew Ladd rang the post to the left of Lindback, keeping it a one goal game heading into the final period.
The Lightning were finally able to solve Montoya in the early stages of the third period. At 6:57, Martin St. Louis found a wide open Stamkos (18th) on the door step, who one-timed it past Montoya, tying the game 1-1. However, with just over four minutes remaining in regulation, Winnipeg’s Little (4th) collected the puck along the goal line and muscled his way to the net, slipping a quick shot five-hole past Lindback, regaining the lead for the Jets 2-1. The Lightning made a push down the stretch, pulling Lindback and getting some quality shots on the net, but Montoya was up to the task. The Lightning are now tied with the Washington Capitals for third place in the Southeast Division.
Currently covering all things that is the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Hockey Writers. Follow him on Twitter: @Matt_Metcalf