Now that the Tampa Bay Lightning have secured a playoff spot, their next goal is to gain home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Lightning are in control of their destiny to do so and will continue a six-game homestand Thursday night against the lowly Calgary Flames.
Tampa Bay (42-25-9) beat Montreal 3-1 on Tuesday to gain its first postseason berth in three years. It came in a season in which star Steven Stamkos missed 45 games due to a broken shin.
"We’re proud in here," Stamkos said. "It’s been an adverse season, to say the least. Guys have battled through a lot of things and a lot of people were probably doubting us after certain guys got injured and trades and the amount of young guys we had on this team."
One of the trades he may have been referring to happened last April 3 when Ben Bishop was acquired from Ottawa. Bishop is among the NHL leaders with a 2.16 goals-against average.
"It’s something we set as a goal as in the beginning of the year and to be able to reach that with six games left is pretty nice," Bishop said about making the postseason.
The victory also moved the Lightning into a tie with the Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay has played one fewer game so it is in control of finishing second and gaining home-ice advantage in round one.
The news from Tuesday wasn’t all good, however. Defenseman Michael Kostka took a vicious hit to the head from Montreal’s Douglas Murray and is out indefinitely with a concussion. Center Valtteri Filppula entered with the longest point streak in the league at 12 games before coming up empty.
Alex Killorn’s empty-netter on the power play ended the Lightning’s streak of six straight one-goal games.
Calgary (31-38-7) also knows what it’s like to play in such contests. The Flames played in their franchise-record 46th one-goal game Tuesday in a 3-2 defeat at Toronto.
"It means we’re competing, it means we’re working hard but we’re on kind of the other side of a lot of those," defenseman Kris Russell said.
Russell and Matt Stajan had the goals as the Flames fell to 0-2-0 on a five-game trip. Stajan has exactly one point in four straight games.
Coach Bob Hartley was happier with his team’s effort than he was in Sunday’s 6-3 loss in Ottawa.
"I don’t think we got outplayed," Hartley said. "It’s just they got one goal more than us. They were opportunistic at the right time and we got our chances late and we couldn’t capitalize on them, but it’s not by a lack of effort."
Bishop made 19 saves in a 2-0 victory at Calgary on Jan. 3. The Lightning have taken five of seven meetings since winning the 2004 Stanley Cup finals in seven games over the Flames.