[March 11, 2014]TAMPA, Fla. — Phoenix Coyotes goalie
Mike Smith stood in the hallway between the Tamp Bay and Phoenix locker
rooms on Monday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum, chatting with Lightning
center Steven Stamkos. It was a calm and quiet discussion between the
former Lightning goaltender, who was cast off three years ago, and the
Lightning star, who was back just three games from a broken leg.
Smith had been plenty animated just awhile earlier, however,
after snuffing center Ryan Callahan to end a shootout and help
Phoenix beat his former team, 4-3, in his first start in a building
where he toiled for parts of three seasons.
Smith played for three and a half seasons for the Lightning, but was
demoted to the minors in 2011, before signing with Phoenix that
off-season and re-establishing his career. He had downplayed the
emotional effect of his return on Monday morning, but was more
forthcoming after recording 31 saves in a crucial points-gathering
"I might not have told you the whole truth this morning when I said
I didn't want to win that bad," he grinned. "There was motivation."
Smith, who thrust his stick to the ice and posed after the win was
sealed, made a massive play in overtime as he rushed from his line
to beat Stamkos to a puck rolling into the Coyotes zone.
Right wing Radim Vrbata, another former Lightning player, scored the
only goal in the shootout, backhanding the winner past goaltender
Ben Bishop (20 saves) in the third round.
Lightning rookie left wing Ondrej Palat had tied the game 3-3 with
his second goal of the night, a poke past Smith with just 37 seconds
left and the Tampa Bay goal empty. Smith had made an initial save of
a Matt Carle shot under his left arm pit, but the rebound fell at
Palat's skate and he hastily finished off his 17th goal of the
season. Center Valtteri Filppula (22) and defenseman Carle (25) had
Left wing Mikkel Boedker gave Phoenix its first lead, 3-2, with
12:12 left in the game, by shoveling in a rebound of a shot by
center Antoine Vermette in the slot. The goal came seven seconds
after a hooking penalty on Filppula had negated a Tampa Bay power
play. The goal was Boedker's 16th of the season, off assists from
Vermette (18) and defenseman Zbyek Michalek (6), who sent a first
shot in from near the blue line.
Tampa Bay (34-24-7) lost its fifth consecutive game — the last two
after going scoreless in shootouts — but remains in possession of
the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning have
one win in seven games since the Olympic break ended.
"Some teams have kind of gone in the tank and some teams have taken
off," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I don't have the answer for
that. I would never have suspected the results we were getting."
Phoenix (30-24-11) has won three of its last four and is on the edge
of a wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Right wing Martin Erat had tied the game, 2-2, for Phoenix less than
three minutes into the third period by seizing upon an errant
attempt by defenseman Victor Hedman to dump the puck behind his net
under pressure. Erat skated onto the puck after it took a tricky
bounce off the back boards and rolled to the side of the net. He
then stuffed it in for his second of the season as Bishop was
helpless. Cooper called the play "lackadaisical."
"We did a lot of things well tonight," said Coyotes coach Dave
Tippett. "We ended up getting a break [on the Erat goal], which has
been missing a little bit."
Palat gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead with just 52 seconds left in the
second period to cap a solid shift from the Lightning's second line.
Palat cycled through the offensive zone to take a cross-slot pass
from Callahan and redirect his 16th goal of the season into a gaping
net. Callahan, acquired at the trade deadline from the Rangers in a
deal for Martin St. Louis, had his 16th assist and second with the
Lightning. Defenseman Keith Aulie notched his first point of the
season with an assist.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0, first-period lead on its ninth short-handed
goal of the season and fourth by center Tyler Johnson, who leads all
rookies in the category. With 8:34 left in the period, Johnson burst
into his offensive zone with three Coyotes ahead of him, but was
unencumbered to the net once defenseman Keith Yandle tripped
attempting a poke check. Johnson faked past Smith before tucking his
20th goal of the season in on assists from Palat (25) and defenseman
Eric Brewer (11).
Phoenix tied the score, 1-1, just 61 seconds into the second period
on center Brandon McMillan's second goal of the season. Following a
blast from the point by Yandle that appeared to hit two Lightning
defenders, McMillan seized on the rebound in front as Coyotes center
Mike Ribeiro tussled with Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio.
McMillan found space in the slot and scored past Bishop. Yandle (37)
and right wing Shane Doan (19) earned assists.
NOTES: Tampa Bay went 0-for-4 on the power play and is on a 1-for-18
slide. Lightning C Steven Stamkos has not scored a point in three
games since returning from a broken leg. ... Lightning D Radko Gudas
(lower body) missed his fourth straight game but said he expects to
return to game action on Thursday against Florida. ... The Lightning
have scored a short-handed goal in a franchise-record three straight
games and are tied for second in the NHL with nine. Carolina entered
play leading the league with 10. ... Lightning D Sami Salo sustained
a lower body injury in the second period and did not return. ...
Lightning LW Ondrej Palat is second among rookies with 42 points.
... Tampa Bay C Tyler Johnson became the third Lightning player in
franchise history to reach the 20-goal plateau in his rookie season.