TAMPA, Fla. — With the postseason on the horizon, the Lightning have bought into the formula that games are won by stopping goals more than by scoring them.
After their third straight stellar defensive outing in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Capitals at Amalie Arena, they’re seeing the fruits of their labor.
They’ve allowed a combined three goals over their past three games, and the one scored by Washington was more of a bad bounce than a defensive lapse.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the Lightning (44-26-6, 94 points) can punch their ticket to the postseason with a win over the Islanders on Saturday.
What’s important now is getting their game playoff ready, and their performances over the past three contests is promising. They’ve limited scoring chances and played a hard, physical style of hockey that parallels their blueprint to their three straight Stanley Cup Finals.
Two goals were all they needed, and Steven Stamkos’ score with 2.8 seconds remaining in the first period proved to be the difference.
Off Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s offensive-zone faceoff win, Stamkos quickly rifled a wrister from above the right circle high off the far post and in for his 32nd goal of the season. Stamkos’ goal gave him his third multipoint game in four games. He has 13 points over his last eight games.
The Lightning opened the scoring on the power play with Alex Killorn’s redirection in front of Mikhail Sergachev’s puck on goal. The goal gave Killorn his 24th goal of the season and Sergachev notched his 16th assist in the month of March, most on the team.
Craig Smith jumped on a loose puck in front of the net and flipped it off Andrei Vasilevskiy’s skate and into the back of the net.
Anthony Cirelli turned a fine defensive play into a goal when he stole the puck at his own blue line, sped through the neutral zone and rocketed a shot on net. Pat Maroon charged the net, and put back a loose puck for his fourth goal of the season.
Maroon scored a second goal with 3:32 remaining to make it 4-1. Erik Cernak added an empty-net goal with less than two minutes to play.
Vasilevskiy finished with 30 saves and has stopped 93 of 96 shots over his past three starts.