Lightning outlast Western Conference foe Canucks

By Eduardo A. Encina

TAMPA, Fla. — The arrival of the Canucks at Amalie Arena offered the Lightning an interesting matchup.

They’re a team that’s already seen extreme ups and downs this season, from house cleaning less than two months in that included firing the general manager and head coach followed by their current resurgence under new coach Bruce Boudreau.

Vancouver came to Tampa as one of the league’s hottest teams, owning an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games.

Starting with the Canucks, the Lightning will see Western Conference teams — they didn’t play anyone outside of their conference last season — for five straight games. So Thursday’s matchup included feeling out an unfamiliar opponent.

The Canucks (16-17-3) brought a determined group to Tampa, outmatching the Lightning in puck possession and shot attempts. But the Lightning (25-9-5) are now 5-0 against Pacific Division teams this season and 13-4-1 overall in their last 18 games.

Rookie Boris Katchouk’s goal with 8:36 to play helped open up a tight game. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s blocked shot in 6-on-5 freed the puck for Brayden Point, who scored an empty net goal for the final margin as the Lightning won 4-2.

Katchouk battled for the puck at his own blue line and charged up ice, creating a 2-on-1 rush with Ross Colton. He passed to Colton, who gave it back and Katchouk roofed a shot past Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko.

Anthony Cirelli’s goal with 20.7 seconds remaining in the opening period gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead. Alex Killorn centered the puck from the end boards behind the net, and Cirelli battled for the loose puck in traffic and flicked a backhanded shot that went inside the right post.

MInutes after the All-Star Game rosters were announced without him among the selections, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored his team-high 18th goal of the season on the power play. Victor Hedman’s touch pass found Stamkos at the left circle, and he shot his patented one-timer past Demko.

The goal was Stamkos’ team-high eighth on the power play, and with 24 Lightning man-advantage goals, Stamkos has one-third of Tampa Bay’s power play goals this season.


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