By Dory LeBlanc
Before Thursday night's tilt, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have met twice this season, and both times, the Lightning - with Anders Lindback in net - have come away with the victory.
They can now claim a third.
Before the shine left from the Zamboni had vanished from the ice, Steven Stamkos drew both Flyers defensemen over, leaving Tyler Johnson wide open in front of the net to take a pass from the Lightning captain and beat Philadelphia's Ray Emery for a 1-0 Bolts lead 2:00 into the game.
The goal marked Johnson's 24th of the campaign, breaking Stamkos' rookie record for goals in a season and tie the first-year Bolt with Colorado's Nate MacKinnon for most goals this year by a rookie.
Lindback, starting for the injured Ben Bishop, came away with his second straight victory, boasting two goals allowed in 120 minutes and 64 shots. The first of the two came as Wayne Simmonds caught Lindback looking while Philadelphia was on a power play with 1:21 to go in the middle frame.
However, the energy and intensity at the Forum never left; with Lindback leading the charge with save after fantastic save, keeping his team uptempo and the fans on their feet.
And the goals kept coming.
After being tied through the first 44 minutes, Richard Panik gave the Bolts the one-goal edge and 5:10 later, Eric Brewer made it a pair. The Lightning's dynamic rookie duo of Johnson and Ondrej Palat offered the assist on the alternate captain's score, extending Palat's point streak to five games and giving Johnson another multi-point game.
Unfortunately, Palat also brought Philadelphia one step closer to tying the contest after he accidentally batted the puck into his own net to narrow the Bolts' lead to 3-2. Sean Couturier was credited with the Flyers' score.
With less than five minutes to play, Stamkos gave the Lightning their two-goal lead back, which Tampa Bay was able to hold on to for the remainder of the game and come away with the 4-2 victory, sweeping the Flyers in the season series.
The Lightning will face the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, beginning next week, but where the series starts is still up for grabs.
After Thursday night's games (Canadiens lost to the Islanders 0-2), Tampa Bay is one point behind Montreal with 97 with two games each still to go in the battle for home-ice.
First Period -
1. TB - Johnson (Stamkos, Kostka) 2:00
Second Period -
1. PHI - PP - Simmonds (Giroux, Vorachek) 18:39
Third Period -
1. TB - Panik (Hedman, Kostka) 4:33
2. TB - Brewer (Johnson, Palat) 9:43
3. PHI - Couturier (Streit) 12:22
4. TB - PP - Stamkos (Filppula, Hedman) 14:14
Shootout Tally: N/A
Shots On Goal:
PHI - 36
TB - 30
PHI - (1) None; (2) Hartnell - Interference, MacDonald - Interference; (3) Hartnell - Goaltender Interference
TB - (1) Kucherov - Hooking, (2) Johnson - Tripping; (3) Sustr - Interference
Next up for the Bolts: Tampa Bay plays their final home game of the regular season Friday, April 11th at 7:30 pm against the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose playoff hopes are still alive, while the Bolts are fighting for home-ice advantage You can catch all of the action on sister station 970 WFLA with Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and Dave Mishkin giving the call with coverage beginning at 7:00 pm.