TAMPA — Not surprisingly, the Lightning’s first game at Amalie Arena since January 14 resulted in an uneven first period that included a number of turnovers.
But when the final horn sounded Tuesday night, Tampa Bay extended its win streak to four and points streak to six (5-0-1) with a 4-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
After losing in overtime in Dallas last Monday in their first game after the all-star break, the Lightning swept through the Golden State with wins over Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.
“It is tough coming back,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “There’s a three-hour time change and a couple of days off and we played an extremely good hockey team.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy bailed out his teammates with a number of big saves, especially early when the Lightning were trying to find their legs. The win extended his points steak to 16 games (14-0-2) to match Nikolai Khabibulin’s team mark.
“It was a pretty tough game,” said Vasilevskiy, who won a league-best 27th game. “We just came back from a long road trip, so it wasn’t an easy game. We scored important goals and I thought we played well defensively. So, tonight we got two points.”
No goal was bigger than Steve Stamkos’ at 10:36 of the third period.
Nikita Kucherov made a nifty play by corralling a bouncing puck atop the left circle and backhanding a pass to Brayden Point, who was alone in the slot. Point’s shot was deflected by Stamkos, skating in front of Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury unimpeded, to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead.
The goal came on Tampa Bay’s 16th shot on a night when they had only 18 shots on goal.
Alex Killorn caught up to Ondrej Palat’s zone clear to add an empty-net goal with 45 seconds remaining.
Point and Tyler Johnson scored first period when the Lightning took a 2-1 lead, which was how it stood going into the third period. Vegas knotted score on Paul Stastny’s goal at 3:47 of the final period.
“It wasn’t our best game by any means,” said Stamkos. “Coming off that trip, I don’t think we were sharp early on and Vasy came up with big saves.”
The defense came up big, too.
Jan Rutta’s evening came to an early conclusion when he had to be helped off the ice at 6:31 of the opening period after getting tangled up with Vegas’ Nicolas Roy and going skate-first into corner boards to Vasilevskiy’s right. That left the Lightning with five blue liners.
“We played 53 minutes with five defensemen against a skating team,” said Cooper, who noted the injury should not be much more, if at all, than day-to-day. “You have to give the guys a lot of credit, especially with the (three) penalties we had to kill off in the second. That takes a lot out of you.”
The Lightning have yet to allow more than three goals in a game in the calendar year. That’s 15 straight games, during which they are 12-2-1.
The Lightning will attempt to extend that streak as well as their home win streak to eight when they host Pittsburgh on Thursday night. They complete a three-game homestand against the Islanders on Saturday evening.