TAMPA — The shorthanded Lightning, who played Thursday night without Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli on the forward ranks and Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta on the blue line, all out with lower-body injuries, got a big lift while shorthanded.
Yanni Gourde’s breakaway goal at 13:01 of the second period with Tampa Bay killing off a penalty for too many men on the ice, gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead and proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 victory over Edmonton at Amalie Arena.
The Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl attempted to carry the puck into the Lightning zone and was met by the checking of Cedric Paquette, which resulted in a turnover that Gourde turned into his first shorthanded goal of the season and fourth of his career.
It was the type of goal and type of game that underscored how Tampa Bay has played in winning nine straight and 21 of their last 24 games (21-2-1).
“We’re skating, we’re playing hard and we’re hard to play against,” said Gourde, who scored the game-winner in overtime Tuesday night in a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh to snap a 35-game goalless drought. “We close the middle of the ice, we track really hard and when we do that it probably feels like there are six players on the ice.”
It was the fourth straight game Tampa Bay allowed only a single goal and the 20th straight game, all since the calendar flipped to 2020, that the Lightning allowed less than four goals.
“I think we have done a really good job of focusing on winning 2-1 and 3-1 hockey games and finding ways not to turn pucks over,” said Pat Maroon, whose goal at 4:39 of the second period was the game’s first. “When the (scoring chances) are not there, guys are dumping the puck in, going in on the forecheck and doing the little things to make this team successful.”
Anrdrei Vasilevskiy has been doing his part to make the team successful. The goaltender stopped 29 of 30 shots to extend his team-record points streak to 20 (18-0-2).
With the Lightning missing so much manpower — Edmonton was playing without injured forwards Connor McDavid and James Neal, who have combined for 49 goals — others had to step up. Cameron Gaunce was one of them.
Playing his first game with the Lightning this season, Gaunce, a defenseman by trade, was on the left side of a third line centered by Paquette with Maroon on the right. He assisted on Maroon’s goal for the 29-year-old’s first NHL point since the 2016-17 season with Pittsburgh.
“He is not a rookie, he’s a vet,” said Cooper of Gaunce, who has played bits and pieces for four teams in the NHL. “He was always involved, he was on his checks, got pucks out (of the zone) when he needed to and he ends up getting a helper. So, good night for him.”
And another good night for the Lightning, whose next game is Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) at Amalie Arena against the Flyers.