VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t in much of a celebratory mood after their latest win. Not after they built a three-goal lead and then had to hold of the Vancouver Canucks.
Yanni Gourde scored late in the second period to give the Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead in a 4-2 victory over Vancouver on Saturday night for the Lightning’s fifth win in six games.
“We didn’t play the right way,” Gourde said. “We can’t be doing that any more. You can’t let teams back in the game when you’re leading. We have to be much better than what we showed tonight.”
Chris Kunitz, Victor Hedman and Cory Conacher also scored for Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots. Nikita Kucherov had two assists.
Kunitz said his team needs to close out games if it hopes to make a deep run in the postseason.
“We have to make sure we’re learning how to win the right way,” he said. “We’re trying to focus on being a team that can win in the playoffs.”
Thomas Vanek and Brock Boeser scored for the Canucks, who were vying to win their third straight at home for the first time this season. Jacob Markstrom finished with 24 saves.
Vancouver pulled to 3-2 late in the third but the comeback ended when Conacher converted a penalty shot after taking a high stick to the face from Chris Tanev while on a breakaway.
“It’s tough for me, I have to come up with that save,” Markstrom said. “We’ve got to play full 60-minute games. We created chances, but they have one of the best goalies in the world over there and he outplayed me tonight. It’s frustrating.”
Vasilevskiy leads the league in shutouts (seven) and has faced 30 or more shot in his last six starts. He faced 17 shots in the third period alone against the Canucks.
“He’s been our best player the whole year,” said Hedman. “He’s been phenomenal and keeping us in games we don’t deserve. He’s a game changer, that’s for sure, and he’s been playing like this all season. We owe it to him to play a full 60 minutes.”
Tampa Bay went ahead 1:26 into the game as defenseman Anton Stralman wristed a shot from the blue line that Kunitz deftly tipped in on the Lightning’s first shot on goal.
Tampa Bay doubled its lead at 5:52 after a turnover by Sven Baertschi along the boards in the Canucks’ zone led to Steven Stamkos finding Hedman, who fired it through Markstrom’s legs.
The Canucks pressed in the second with several quality chances on Vasilevskiy. Baertschi, standing in front of the goalie, took a whack at a rebound and Loui Eriksson had a golden chance at the side of the net, only to have his stick impeded by Hedman.
However, Tampa made it 3-0 with 4:13 left in the middle period when Gourde one-timed a cross-ice pass from Mikhail Sergachev that went top-shelf on Markstrom.
Vasilevskiy made several quality saves, including two on Boeser, to open the third with the Canucks on a two-man advantage for 1:50. He also shut the door on Troy Stecher and Henrik Sedin, who both took dangerous-looking shots from inside the slot.
The Canucks finally got to Vasilevskiy exactly midway through the third with Vanek putting in a wraparound off a pass from Stecher.
Vancouver pulled within one with 5 1/2 minutes left as Brandon Sutter passed the puck to Boeser, who skated over the blue line and ripped a shot through Vasilevskiy’s legs as the crowd erupted.
The cheers didn’t last long as Conacher converted his penalty shot with 3:24 left.
NOTES: The Canucks were without C Sam Gagner (upper body) after he suffered an injury in Vancouver’s previous game. … Lightning D Dan Girardi (lower body) missed his second straight game. … Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin played in his 1,300th NHL game.
Lightning: At Edmonton on Monday night to close an eight-game trip.
Canucks: At Florida on Tuesday night to open a four-game trip.