Second-period barrage lifts Lightning past Canucks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The West is best, East is least, if you go by the record Eastern Conference NHL teams have against their Western Conference cousins.
But don't tell that to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning, without injured scoring star Steven Stamkos going on 23 games now, scored all of their goals in a span of 12 minutes to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
The Lightning improved their record against the West to 9-3-2, the best of record by far of any Eastern Conference team.
Overall, the Western Conference is 134-65-28 against the East.
"I'm not really sure why we do well against the West, but I'm really happy we do," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "Sometimes our speed takes teams by surprise."
West and East teams don't see much of each other. Tampa Bay's last visit to Vancouver was more than three years ago.
"You can watch as much tape as you want, but you can't gauge a team until you see them," Cooper said. "Games against the West, there are two points on the table. I don't want to call them free points, but they're out there and you can grab them.
"And it makes us a better team playing West teams."
In the other dressing room, left winger Daniel Sedin said it was Vancouver's worst game of the season.
"He assessed it correctly," Canucks coach John Tortorella said. "You could see it right away that we were out of synch."
After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals in the second.
Four were scored in the final 4:33 of the period, three of them by Tampa Bay. The last one came with 2.6 seconds remaining and the Lightning on a power play.
Vancouver left winger Chris Higgins' attempt to clear the puck off the boards instead of firing it straight down the ice was intercepted by Tampa Bay defenseman Radko Gudas inside the Canucks' zone.
Two passes later, it was on right winger Nikita Kucherov's stick, and he blasted a slap shot past Canucks goalie Eddie Lack from the faceoff dot for a Lightning lead to start the third.
It capped a hectic final few minutes.
Vancouver center Brad Richardson's wrist shot on a partial breakaway beat Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop to the short side at 11:25 to open the scoring.
Tampa Bay center Valtteri Filppula, on pace for a 30-goal season with 15 to date at the 40-game mark, beat Lack from the faceoff circle 22 seconds after the Canucks scored.
Twenty seconds later, with Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa caught on a pinch in the Lightning zone, center Tyler Johnson converted left winger Ondrej Palat's pass on a two-on-one to make it 2-1 for Tampa Bay.
However, to the ire of Cooper, who thought icing should have been whistled, the Canucks' fourth line tied things again just 14 seconds after Johnson's goal. Center Zac Dalpe collected his first goal of the season on Bishop's doorstep.
"I disagree with ... I don't know what happened, but we answered it," Cooper said.
It looked as if the teams would retreat to their dressing rooms with a 2-2 score until Higgins erred on his clearing attempt, leading to Kucherov's goal. At the time, Canucks defenseman Yannick Weber was in the penalty box for hooking Johnson on a partial breakaway.
Lightning center Alex Killorn made it 4-2 at 7:28 of the third period.
"I know Western teams seem pretty big and play tough," Killorn said. "We have a mindset that it's going to be tough, especially when we go into their buildings."
Bishop made 28 saves to earn the win. Lack stopped 29 shots.
NOTES: Canucks C Ryan Kesler, who is from Livonia, Mich., was selected to the U.S. Olympic team. ... Vancouver rookie G Eddie Lack, in his second straight start since Roberto Luongo got injured Dec. 22, is 7-3-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average, eighth best in the NHL, a .924 save percentage. Before Wednesday's loss, was 5-0-1 in his previous six games with two shutouts. ... The Canucks reassigned C Jeremy Welsh to AHL Utica. ... Vancouver's power play is among the worst in the league, but the Canucks lead the NHL in penalty-killing at 89.2 percent. ... Before Wednesday, Tampa Bay had one win in Vancouver during its 21-year-history. That victory came in the Lightning's previous visit to Rogers Arena, on Dec. 11, 2010. ... D Sami Salo made his first trip back to Vancouver since he signed with the Lightning two summers ago. Salo played nine season in Vancouver. ... Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness, an assistant in Vancouver for seven seasons before being fired at the end of last season, also made his return.