ST. PAUL, Minn. Solid stretches were not enough to overcome some sloppy Lightning play against the Wild on Monday.
Minnesota scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 victory in front of an announced crowd of 16,628 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was the difference in stopping 32 shots while Minnesota took advantage of two key mistakes to erase an early deficit, spurred by a Cal Clutterbuck shorthanded goal. Mathieu Garon made 21 saves as Tampa Bay's modest two-game winning streak came to an end.
A fast-paced first period favored the Lightning, which attempted 29 shots in the opening 20 minutes – 11 on goal, 10 of which were blocked and eight that missed – compared to 14 for the Wild, which were held off the shot clock for the opening 7:48 of the game.
The second period was played at just as quick of a pace, only with a bit more sloppiness to the game as pucks were turned over at a dizzying pace, leading to the first goal of the game. After Marc-Andre Bergeron lost the puck to Dany Heatley along the left boards, Heatley tried a back pass that was intercepted by Stamkos to start a 2-on-1 rush down the right wing side. Stamkos raced away from pressure to free up a lane and put a laser wrist shot past Niklas Backstrom at 5:53 of the period for his 14th goal of the season and fourth in the past three games.
Tampa Bay received a power play chance less than a minute later when Matt Cullen was called for slashing. But instead of building on any momentum from the goal, the Lightning gave it away in a big way. With the puck on his stick behind his own net looking for a breakout, Eric Brewer simply lost control of it, giving Mikko Koivu a 2-on-0 chance down low that was finished off by Clutterbuck as Garon had no chance to make a stop at 7:29.
So instead of building, or at least maintaining, momentum with the power play, Tampa Bay gave complete control of the period over to the Wild, who were buzzing and swarming the Lightning zone. Kyle Brodziak was sprung for a breakaway at the 10:00 mark but hit the post while Minnesota had several other good chances with Garon down and out and the net open, only to have the shots disrupted or blocked by Tampa Bay.
Eventually, however, it caught up with the Lightning when another Bergeron turnover in the defensive zone allowed Nick Johnson to outmuscle rookie Brett Connolly in the slot before feeding Pierre-Marc Bouchard for a one-timer from the right circle with 2:54 left in the period for a 2-1 Minnesota lead. Ryan Shannon had a chance to pull even in the final minute as Matt Gilroy sprung Shanon for a breakaway, but Backstrom came up with a glove save with 35 seconds left.
Dany Heatley took a tripping call 43 seconds into the third period, but Stamkos missed an open net on a lunging shot and Tampa Bay came up empty to fall to 5-for-45 on the power play on the road this season.
The Lightning kept trying to build up some momentum, but Backstrom kept holding them off, first stopping Nate Thompson on a 2-on-1 and then making his best save of the night with the toe of his left skate as Stamkos redirected a Teddy Purcell pass at 8:48.