WINNIPEG – The Tampa Bay Lightning used a big second period against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday to ensure a winning five-game road trip.
The Lightning scored three second-period goals, including the first of rookie Jonathan Drouin's career, on their way to a 4-2 win against the Jets at MTS Centre.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored his team-leading sixth goal in the first period, and Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat joined Drouin in scoring a second-period goal. Nikita Kucherov had three assists and Tyler Johnson two for Tampa Bay.
“We’ll take that on the road,” Stamkos said. “I didn’t think we sat back too much. We played smart. The guys got a lot of ice time and had to play smart, and I thought we did that.”
The Lightning, who are 3-1-0 on the road trip, will head home after they play at the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
Tampa Bay has found success on this trip even without injured players Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn. J.T. Brown (upper body) and Brett Connolly (lower body) exited with injuries Friday, leaving the Lightning with 10 forwards to finish the game. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he does not expect Brown or Connolly to play Saturday in Minnesota.
Ben Bishop made 40 saves for the Lightning. He leads the NHL since the start of the 2013-14 season with 46 games in which he has allowed two or fewer goals.
“You need that last line of defense,” Cooper said. “If you’re going to win some games, and you want to put yourself in a position to be in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, you need goaltending.”
Bryan Little's second-period goal snapped the Jets' season-opening 0-for-22 slump on the power play. Blake Wheeler scored a third-period goal, and Toby Enstrom had two assists. The Jets end their five-game homestand Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche before beginning a stretch of nine of 11 games on the road.
The Jets are 2-5-0 to start the season.
“The offensive part of our game, in terms of chances for and chances against, it has been good,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “It was good tonight. The quality of chances we gave up was too high.”
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 14 of 18 shots that he faced in two periods. Michael Hutchinson made nine saves for the Jets in the third period. The goaltending change was the second time in the Jets' first seven games that they have replaced their starting goaltender.
“A few things went wrong,” Pavelec said. “We couldn’t handle it. We lost the game. We have to go back to work tomorrow and try to get better.”
The Lightning’s top line of Stamkos, Drouin and Valtteri Filppula combined for a 1-0 lead 4:41 into the game. Stamkos finished off a 2-on-1 rush when he slammed home a backhand pass from Drouin.
Drouin made it 2-0 when he took Kucherov's behind-the-net pass and drilled a one-timer past Pavelec at 4:45 of the second period.
“Unbelievable,” Drouin said of scoring his first goal in the League. “Obviously in Canada is even more special. It was an exciting time for me, and it only happens once.”
Enstrom set up Little's fourth goal 48 seconds later, pulling the Jets to within a goal.
Tampa Bay's sixth-ranked power play, which had gone two games without a goal, moved the Lightning lead back to two goals when Namestnikov tipped Palat's right-circle shot past Pavelec at 12:52 of the second period. Winnipeg was 26-for-28 on the penalty kill this season before Namestnikov's goal, his second.
Palat finished off a 2-on-1 rush, taking Johnson's lead pass and beating Pavelec with 1:58 left in the second period for his third goal.
Wheeler's goal with 9:41 left in the third made it 4-2.
“It’s one of those things where you watch the game tape and you feel, I don’t want to say pleased, but you feel like you’re doing enough to get yourself over the hump, get the team over the hump,” Wheeler said. “It’s just back-breaking, some of those moments in the game that we just can’t escape from, it seems like, and we just give up too good of a look, and it’s in our net.”
Drouin, the third pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, is the latest addition to a Tampa Bay attack that is scoring 3.12 goals per game this season. The 19-year-old left wing has one goal and two assists in his first three NHL games, and he has impressed Stamkos.
“I can’t say enough about the way he has played and the poise that he has at this stage in his career,” Stamkos said. “He made some great plays, and he is just going to continue to learn and get better. It’s fun to be on the ice with him.
“You can tell that he has that confidence and that poise. To have that, like I said, this early is special. He’s going to learn when to make the plays and when not to, when to keep the puck. That’s just going to come with experience.”
Drouin, who became the third Lightning player to have a multipoint game as a teenager since October 2008, joining Hedman and Stamkos, has also impressed his coach.
“I’m so glad that he got that first goal,” Cooper said. “You just want that stuff out of the way. I know that he was putting a little bit of pressure on himself to score.”
The Lightning returned Drouin to Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season for further development. This season, he’s part of one of the top young lines in the League.
“This year, I’m trying to make plays,” Drouin said. “Obviously playing with [Filppula] and Stamkos obviously helps. They’re great players. They’re always in the right position. It makes it really easy to play with those two guys.”
Despite a shortened bench and a second period in which Winnipeg had outshot the Lightning 11-1 at one point, the Lightning survived the midgame pressure before putting away the Jets.
“That’s part of the game,” Bishop said of the rash of injuries to hit the Lightning. “We saw that firsthand last [season]. Sometimes you lose the biggest guys that you can lose. It’s part of the game. It happens to every team. Right now, it’s kind of happening to us a little bit more, but you can’t use it as an excuse. Just keep playing.”