TAMPA, FLA. – Midway through the second period Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s palm tree-sized goaltender, Ben Bishop, corralled Jason Pominville’s rebound by nonchalantly swatting the puck with his paddle into his glove.
That’s how you knew the Wild was making another goaltender feel invincible.
The 6-7 former University of Maine goalie made it look that easy as he stoned the Wild during a 3-1 Lightning win at the Ice Palace.
“We have to figure this out,” said coach Mike Yeo, whose team has scored four goals on its 1-2 road trip that ends Saturday at Florida.
The Wild tied the score on Mikko Koivu’s first goal of the season midway through a Tampa Bay-controlled third period, but the Wild handed it right back 3 minutes, 55 seconds later.
Yeo had the players you’d want on the ice during a 4-on-4 — Koivu, Zach Parise and defensemen Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin.
With Koivu out of position in the neutral zone, Matt Carle sent a perfect pass off the wall to arguably the best goal scorer in the NHL, Steven Stamkos, in stride. Stamkos flew by Suter and beat Josh Harding with a wicked shot on a breakaway with 5:04 left.
It was redemption after Harding robbed Stamkos on a second-period 2-on-none.
“Needless to say, we had a bit of a breakdown,” Yeo said. “We make a mistake and obviously can’t give a player like that that kind of opportunity.”
The Wild gave the Lightning seven power plays. The Wild killed six, but Tyler Johnson, an undrafted forward out of the Spokane Chiefs who previously had taken part in prospect camps for the Wild, scored a first-period power-play goal.
“That’s the story of this game,” Yeo said. “We’ve got to be smart. Against a team like that, with that power play, in their building, first off they get the early goal, which puts us behind the 8-ball, but just the momentum they were generating off their power play put us on our heels all night.
“And then our puck work wasn’t good enough to get us out of that. We have to address [the penalties].”
The Wild outchanced the Lightning in the second period, but Bishop (5-0) stopped all 13 shots he saw and all 24 he faced in the first 40 minutes. He finished with 25 saves. During one second-period span, Bishop made eight saves in 53 seconds, stoning Marco Scandella and Mikael Granlund twice, Koivu, Pominville, Dany Heatley and Jared Spurgeon once.
All were Grade A chances.
Harding, who made 28 saves, also was brilliant, robbing Stamkos on the one odd-man rush by doing his splits.
“It’d be nice to make that [third-period] save on the breakaway, though, and give the team a chance to survive,” Harding said.
In the third, Suter tracked Filppula all through the defensive zone until finally causing a turnover. Nino Niederreiter hit Suter for a breakaway, but Radko Gudas caught up and forced the play behind the net. Niederreiter found the puck and fed Koivu, who roofed his first goal of the season.
But that was all the Wild got. On a night when Koivu discovered a snake curled up on the floor during the Wild’s pregame power-play meeting, Wild players proved yet again how snakebitten they are.
In four road games this season, the Wild has six goals.
“We have to get some wins and get points,” Koivu said. “We’re playing pretty good hockey, but it’s not enough. We’re doing some things good, but we’re missing something. We have to find the net more.”