ST. PAUL, Minn. – Listening to the Tampa Bay Lightning talk about their 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Saturday, you’d have thought they were rebounding from a tough loss.
Vincent Lecavalier spoke about the mistakes that were made the previous game. Dwayne Roloson talked about the importance of coming back to play a smart game. And coach Guy Boucher recalled how he ripped into his players a few nights earlier.
It would’ve been hard to guess Tampa Bay actually clinched a playoff berth in its last game.
“We play really well when we have the momentum, and we’re playing with a little bit of a swagger,” Roloson said after stopping 29 shots against his old team to lead Tampa Bay to its fourth-straight win.
Ryan Malone, Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim all scored for the playoff-bound Lightning, who pulled within a point of Pittsburgh for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins played at Florida later.
After clinching their first playoff berth since 2007 on Thursday at Pittsburgh, Boucher gave his players an earful for what we felt was a poorly played final five minutes against the Penguins.
“After the last game I gave it to them,” he said. “Congratulated them 20 seconds, but then I gave it to them hard on the things we didn’t do well to finish the game in the last five minutes. Today … I was extremely cold and directive.”
The message sunk in. After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Lightning shut down Minnesota’s offence the rest of the way. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored and Niklas Backstrom had 20 saves for the Wild, who saw their two-game win streak snapped and were officially eliminated from post-season contention.
“It’s always tough,” Backstrom said of being eliminated from the playoff race. “It’s going to be a long time before we have another chance to fight for the cup.”
Bouchard got his third point in as many games when he scored off Kyle Brodziak’s rebound at 17:03 of the first period to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
But Malone tied it at 5:09 of the second. Tampa Bay took the lead nearly four minutes later when Downie slipped Simon Gagne’s rebound under Chuck Kobasew’s leg to make it 2-1.
“They capitalized on their shots and their goalie played well,” Eric Nystrom said. “Maybe we didn’t generate enough. It’s tough to win games when you’re not putting the puck in the net.”
Bergenheim wristed a shot past Backstrom’s stick at 7:58 of the third.
Boucher said he didn’t need to yell at his players this time—they apparently were doing it for him.
“When you see that it’s players that are enforcing what you’re trying to tell them, it surely means that your guys are buying in strongly,” the coach said.
Notes: Backstrom was hurt on Malone’s goal when Wild defenceman Justin Falk knocked Malone into the net. Backstrom stayed on his knees for a few minutes while being tended to by the Wild’s training staff, but stayed in the game. … Malone’s goal was his first since Jan. 9. It was his second game back since a mid-body injury on Feb. 12. … Wild C John Madden left the game with a lower-body injury after playing 6 seconds in the second period. Wild coach Todd Richards said Madden would not play Sunday at Detroit. … Tampa Bay won for only the second time in six trips to Xcel Energy Center. … Brodziak brought a loud groan from the crowd early in the third when his slap shot from the right circle hit off the post. … Minnesota is 29-4-4 when Bouchard scores. The Wild lost for only the third time this season when leading after the first period.