TAMPA — It took the Tampa Bay Lightning 19 seconds to jump out to a lead, and once they had it they never looked back in a 5-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Ben Bishop was closing in on a shutout when Kings defenseman Slava Voynov found himself with the puck and plenty of room to score with 9:33 remaining. That was the only blemish for Bishop, who finished with 30 saves.
St. Louis’ second goal answered less than three minutes later. Stamkos skated over the Kings blue line, sent the puck back to Malone trailing through the slot, and the next pass was to St. Louis, standing alone at the side of the crease.
“That was a great play by Stamkos and Malone,” St. Louis said. “I think at that point of the game (Tampa Bay was winning 4-1) there is a lot of space and time. If Malone didn’t know I was there he would have had to have his eyes closed. It was a very unselfish play.”
For his part, Malone knew exactly where St. Louis was.
“I saw him, all right,” Malone said. “I was actually a little nervous with the pass.”
Ondrej Palat finished the scoring at 18:39 of the third.
For most of the second period, the Kings did everything but score, outshooting and outskating the Lightning. They did put a puck in the Tampa Bay net when Jeff Carter appeared to score, but the goal was waved off for goaltender interference by Mike Richards.
“In my opinion, I did not agree with the call,” Richards said. “But there is not much you can do about it. It was definitely a momentum swing in the hockey match.”
Bishop saw it differently.
“They crowded my crease but we knew that was going to happen,” he said. “That’s what they do. That’s their go-to.”
Los Angeles had a four-minute power-play when Sami Salo was sent off for high-sticking at 3:08, but despite generating four shots on the man-advantage, Bishop turned everything aside.
“I think we matched their physicality,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They pushed on us and we bent but we didn’t break. You have to give a lot of credit to our penalty kill, especially when they killed off the four-minute minor. You could call that the turning point. That was a big part of the game for us.”
That’s the same penalty kill Cooper said was “leaking oil” after allowing two goals in five opportunities to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Against the Kings, the Lightning killed all five shorthanded situations they faced.
“Ultimately, in the end, your goalie has got to be your best penalty-kill guy and [Bishop] made the big saves,” Cooper said. “He’s been pretty good for us. Bishop has played how we need him to play to win games.”
The win was Bishop’s fourth consecutive. He has been in the net for all the Lightning victories this season.
Tampa Bay (4-2-0) took advantage of a delayed penalty to score its third goal of the game, when St. Louis pounded home a rebound of Stamkos’ shot from the circle to the left of goaltender Jonathan Quick. Andrej Sustr assisted for his first NHL point.
That goal chased Quick and brought on Ben Scrivens in relief. Quick went to the bench with 14 saves on 17 shots; Scrivens stopped six of eight.
The Lightning scored their opening goal on their first shift, a redirection by Malone of Salo’s shot from the point. It was Malone’s first goal of the season. St. Louis assisted for his 900th point with the Lightning. Teddy Purcell and St. Louis extended scoring streaks to five consecutive games.
“We had trouble with the first shift,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “We had trouble with the Stamkos line.”
Purcell opened the lead to 2-0 at 12:44 of the first when he broke into the Kings zone, zipped around Voynov, moved the puck from backhand to forehand, and found the corner of the net. Palat and Matthew Carle set Purcell up with precision passes.
The Lightning, playing their third game of their longest homestand of the season and coming off the loss to Pittsburgh, host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
“I felt that we gave up at least one point in our last game,” St. Louis said. “In this League, when you get a homestand, you can’t lose two in a row.”
Los Angeles (4-3-0) moves on to continue its road trip with a game against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, and Sutter said he has a plan for his team to bounce back.
“We just get on a plane and go there tonight and be ready to play,” Sutter said. “It’s not that hard, is it?”