TAMPA, Fla. – Response?
The Lightning had four goals on the board before the Capitals had their first shot on goal Sunday night. So, yeah, what a response it was after losing by four goals and losing defenseman Cal Foote to an illegal hit to the head during a chippy game Friday night in the front end of a home-and-home weekend against Washington.
“I think we were extremely irritated by the way we played,” said coach Jon Cooper, noting his team’s level of irritation was not necessarily a byproduct of the physical nature of Friday’s game and losing a player, but how the team performed. “Were we obviously frustrated with what happened to Footer? Yes, but it was how we played and how we got to that point. I thought our response (Sunday) was what we needed.”
Nicolas Aube-Kubel was given a three-game suspension for his hit on Foote early in the second period Friday. While Kubel was not on hand Sunday to pay for his sins, Pat Maroon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare both dropped the gloves with Caps veteran defenseman Matt Irwin.
“Footer gets hit and you want to respond,” said Maroon. “With that, being a team, I think it starts with the guys in (the room) and I thought we responded pretty well.”
It all added up to a 6-3 win over the Caps at Amalie Arena. Mikhail Sergachev figured in all four first-period goals (2/2) to tie an NHL record for most points by a defenseman in a period. The 24-year-old established a career-high for points and his two goals equaled a career-best. (For the record, the team mark for most points in a game by a blueliner is six by Doug Crossman early in Tampa Bay’s inaugural season of 1992-93.)
Cole Koepke scored his first NHL goal at 13:11 of the third period to give the Lightning a 5-1 lead. Play resumed, however, and it was not until Brandon Hagel scored about 20 seconds later that Koepke was credited with a goal. His backhander appeared to ring off the near post, but went in the net and came out just as quickly when it rebounded off a camera mounted in the back of the cage.
After Hagel’s goal, the officials indicated Koepke had indeed scored and the game clock was rewound to that point. So, there was a delay in celebrating the 24-year-old forward’s milestone, while Hagel’s goal was taken off the board.
“I didn’t (know it went in),” said Koepke, playing in his 13th NHL game. “I kind of thought it hit the pipe because I looked for a second and the refs didn’t (indicate it was a goal) and everyone else kept playing.”
Cooper and a few of his teammates on the bench told Koepke that it hit the camera and it was his goal. Regardless, it was nice to finally get that first one.
“If goals aren’t coming, try to help the team in other ways,” said the Minnesota native, whose father, stepmother and girlfriend were in attendance. “Just try to play the right way and I know the goals are eventually going to come.”
Everything bounced the right way for the Lightning (8-6-1) on Sunday evening after they had lost three of their previous four games, including one in a shootout. They also took care of matters that needed to be addressed.
“You just don’t want anybody to be able to take liberties with your team,” said Cooper. “That was talked about quite a bit and Patty is doing his part to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it’s a team thing, not a one-guy thing. (Sunday) was a step in the right direction.”
The three-game homestand resumes Tuesday night against Dallas and concludes Thursday versus Calgary.