TAMPA, FL. – The Columbus Blue Jackets paid the price.
Following a 7-2 win at Columbus on Tuesday night that was every bit as dominating as what was reflected on the scoreboard, Jon Cooper said his team was “ticked off” following a 4-0 shutout at the hands of the Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
“I had a pretty good feeling,” he said. “I know these guys well enough that we were going to bounce back.”
The win snapped a three-game skid (0-2-1) in which the Lightning were not only blanked on Broadway, but were pounded at Florida (9-3) in a game in which they allowed their most goals in 13 years. Sandwiched in between was a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers on the front end of a home-and-home with New York.
“It’s nice to win again,” said Ondrej Palat, who scored the game’s first two goals Tuesday night and added an assist to give him nine points in his last six games. “We had a little skid of three games. (Losing streaks are) going to happen during the season and we knew we had to get back in the win column.”
Palat’s second goal marked the 400th point of his career to become the seventh player to record at least as many points with the Lightning. The 30-year-old, a seventh-round selection, made his NHL debut with the club in 2012-13.
“You win championships with guys like Palat and he should be remembered as one of the Bolts where, without him, we don’t win these Cups,” said Cooper.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (Covid protocol, 3 games), forward Anthony Cirelli (Covid protocol, 3 games), and defenseman Erik Cernak (lower body, 10 games) returned against the Rangers in New York. While that was a tough afternoon, the trio got back in action and on Tuesday they got back up to speed.
“Vasy got another game under his belt and Cirelli, Cernak, and some of these guys that have been out a while,” said Cooper. “You just know they are going to get better, and they all were. Our team game was better and it obviously helps to get a lead.”
Speaking of returning to the lineup, Brayden Point has four goals and four assists in five games since returning to the lineup after missing 14 games due to an upper-body injury.
The Lightning, though, lost the services of Ross Colton before Tuesday night’s game when he entered Covid protocol. It is something that Cooper kind of shrugged off as being “second nature” anymore.
The win over Columbus gave the Lightning 49 points, good for first in the Atlantic Division and a one-point lead over the Panthers, who have two games in hand.
The Lightning return to Amalie Arena for a pair of games before hitting the road again. The Calgary Flames are in town Thursday night and the Bruins visit Tampa on Saturday night. Both games are at 7 p.m.
The Flames are third in the Pacific with 40 points, but lead the division with a .645 points percentage and have five games in hand on the teams ahead of them: Vegas and Anaheim. Boston, which had its last six games in December postponed, has won its first three games of 2022. The Bruins, who have played only 29 games, are fourth in the Atlantic with 36 points.
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