Tuesday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets in Florida did both of those things.
Building off of a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes, the Bolts pulled up their socks in the second half of Tuesday’s game, showing Winnipeg why they are in fact the league’s best squad, by a landslide. After ending the opening 20 minutes knotted up at ones, Tampa put up two goals in the second frame, as well as another two in the third period, before the Jets scored a late one on a lucky bounce.
Tampa Bay’s 5-2 win was highlighted by special teams, as both the Jets and Bolts put up two goals on the man advantage Tuesday. However, it was the Lightning’s power play that continued to offer up quality scoring chance after quality scoring chance.
Yanni Gourde got things going for the home team just a minute in, as he beat Connor Hellebuyck on a breakaway, handing Tampa an early lead. Blake Wheeler responded for Winnipeg, putting a Patrik Laine two-on-one cross-ice power play chance past Andrei Vasilevskiy, for his fifth goal in his past four periods of play.
It was all Lightning from there.
Adam Erne collected his seventh of the year on a two-on-one one-time feed from Mathieu Joseph, before Steven Stamkos found the twine on a mid-game power play. Just before the Bolts’ captain’s strike, a powerful Nikita Kucherov one-timer drilled Hellebuyck directly in the mask, cutting the Jets’ netminder in the forehead. He left for repairs mid-penalty kill, bringing Laurent Brossoit into action, cold turkey. Stamkos scored on Brossoit’s first shot faced.
Cedric Pacquette and Brayden Point added insurance markers in the final period of the game, before a Jacob Trouba power play dump-in caught a strange bounce off the stanchion and rolled into the wide-open Tampa Bay net with five minutes to play.
The Lightning outshot the visitors 38-32, while the Jets took six penalties, as compared to Tampa’s five. Trouba had two points in the loss, while Kucherov picked up his 108th point of the season, tying Vincent Lecavalier’s single-season record, with 15 games to go.
Winnipeg will now travel to Carolina for a Friday evening matchup with the Hurricanes. They will continue their four-game road trip with a stop in Washington on Sunday before returning home Tuesday to host the San Jose Sharks. Friday’s game can be viewed live on TSN3 at 6:30 PM central.