Wild stumble again, falling 3-1 to Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop helped the Tampa Bay Lightning keep their solid start rolling along.
Stamkos scored a tiebreaking goal with 5:04 left in the third period, Bishop made 25 saves, and the Lightning beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Thursday night.
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“We found a way,” Stamkos said. “When you’re a good team, you have to find a way to win these games, and we did.”
Stamkos gave the Lightning (5-2) a 2-1 lead when he skated in from the right wing boards and lifted an in-close shot over goalie Josh Harding during 4-on-4 play. Sami Salo added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Bishop, 5-0 this season, made a series of saves midway through the second, denying solid scoring chances by Jason Pominville and Dany Heatley.
“Again it’s early, but he gives us a chance to win the game every single night,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s what you want in your goaltender.”
Tampa Bay had planned to split playing time between Bishop and Anders Lindback (0-2) this season. However, Bishop’s performance has earned him the bulk of the work thus far.
“It’s just not me,” Bishop said. “It’s the guys in front of me … the guys are playing great. We win some games 7-2, and then we can win a game like this.”
Tyler Johnson also scored for Tampa Bay.
Mikko Koivu scored for Minnesota, which was coming off a 4-1 loss at Toronto on Tuesday night in which the Wild outshot the Maple Leafs 37-14.
“Obviously, we’re doing something good, but we’re missing something and we have to find a way to find the net more,” Koivu said.
Harding, who entered with an 0.94 goals-against-average, made a pad save on Stamkos during a two-man breakaway late in the second. He finished with 27 saves.
Koivu tied it at 1 from the low left circle at 11:05 of the third.
Tampa Bay, which entered with the NHL’s sixth-best power play, took advantage of its initial chance when Johnson scored from the left circle at 14:02 of the first.
The Wild, who started play with the NHL’s second-worst short-handed unit, have given up at least one goal while the opponent had the man advantage in seven of eight games this season.
Minnesota stopped the Lightning on 6 of 7 power-play opportunities. The Wild went 0 for 2 with the man advantage.
“To me, that was the story of this game,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “We talked before the game about how we have to have the confidence to play the game, but we’ve got to be smart, too, against a team like that, with that power play, in their building.
“Just the momentum that they were generating off their power play put us on our heels all night. And then our puck work wasn’t good enough to get us out of that. We have to address that. We can’t expect to win an awful lot of games when we’re scoring one goal.”
Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis was in the lineup two days after taking a shot off his skate during a 5-1 victory over Los Angeles. The right wing was wearing a walking boot on his right foot earlier Thursday.
“Tests were to a point where, whatever damage is done, he can’t do anything worse to it.” Cooper said. “It’s a pain tolerance thing.”
St. Louis said he felt fine.
“It’s a big win for our team,” St. Louis said. “Bis was strong again. Your goaltender is going to hide some of our mistakes, and I thought he did that.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay outshot the Wild 13-2 in the third. … Minnesota D Keith Ballard, hit in the face by a puck during Monday night’s game at Buffalo, sat out his second straight game “(He’s) not feeling well,” Yeo said. “More than anything else this is preventative.” … Wild G Niklas Backstrom was the backup after missing the previous four games due to a knee injury.