Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.
It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.
The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.
But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.
For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.
The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap.
Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.
The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.
The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.
Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.
It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.
The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.
Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.
The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.
For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.
The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.