Lightning manufacture a huge win in Dallas.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 41 shots for the victory. He might want the Fidler goal back, but there's little doubt he was THE reason the Lightning won this afternoon.
1:25 TB St Louis (28), (Brewer, Palat)
12:09 TB Thompson (6), (Hedman, Killorn)
14:31 TB St Louis (29), (Palat)
15:50 DAL Roussel (10), (Connauton, Fiddler)
18:11 DAL Fiddler (4), (Roussel, Garbutt)
7:12 TB Salo (2), (Hedman, Killorn)
Bishop and Martin St. Louis were the game's first and third stars.
As the game wore on, the contours of the contest took on a hauntingly similar look to the Nashville game. I thought the Lightning did a pretty good job of trying to press for the goal to get to 3-0 and weren't that bad through the first 5-6 minutes of the Second Period, but everything went sideways after that. Once Roussel got the greasy goal to make it 3-1, Dallas just took over the game and only some good individual efforts by the likes of St. Louis, Palat, and Salo really allowed the Lightning to get 2 points (on top of Bishop raising the deflector shields). If you're looking for another silver lining, though, it's that the PK stood up and didn't disintegrate this afternoon the way it did against the Predators. Mind you, they weren't perfect and Bishop had to erase some big errors, but they didn't allow Dallas nearly the zone time and chances they gave the Preds.
If you look at the standings, you'll see why this was such a big win. They get back on par with Montreal for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and reopen a 6 point gap on Washington for the last team out in the Eastern Conference. At 73 points after 60 games they're 1 point ahead of the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. They didn't hit the target of 12 points for the last 10 game segment and had to burn off 2 of the 3 insurance points they had stored up, but at least they didn't fall off schedule for the first time this year. Now, they have to keep manufacturing wins somehow until Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos can get settled back into the lineup and, in particular, until Stammer can get the rust knocked off.
Mike Kostka had 2 hits and 5 blocked shots in 8:42. He, unfortunately, had the Roussel goal go in off of his skate, but he wasn't awful. He makes a better option than Cote or Taormina and probably Aulie, too.
J.T. Brown as -1 with 2 shots in 14:35. He did some really good work on the forecheck with the Lightning clinging to their lead. Today was his 41st game of the season, so he has graduated from prospect status on the site.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot and was 50% on draws in 9:08. I think you saw a marked step forward in Namesy's comfort level today, and he had some dangerous rushes with his speed in the First and Second Periods. I don't know that I trust him yet defensively, but he at least looked more like an NHLer today than he did against Nashville.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 12:15. The SunSports team was praising his defense in this game, but I thought this was a subpar game for Kucherov in that respect. He really had problems moving the puck out of the Lightning zone within the last 10 feet before the blueline. That's something that will make coaches want to strangle you.
Music City choke.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. None of the three goals were terrible, but you'd have liked to have seen him squeeze off that third one in tight to preserve at least a point (not that the team in front of him deserved it).
5:26 TB St Louis (26), (Palat)
9:13 TB St Louis (27), (Kucherov, Purcell)(PP)
12:05 NSH Cullen (6), (Ellis, Smith)(PP)
13:16 NSH Josi (9), (Weber)(PP)
13:56 NSH Hornqvist (11), (Fisher, Weber)(PP)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
That was infuriating. I thought the team came out flat as a pancake but lucked out with a goal off the rush in transition and then a softie on the PP. Staked with the 2 goal lead and with Nashville looking like they were in shock, the Lightning had all the momentum and opportunities to end the game early, especially on a PP to start the Second Period.
They sleepwalked through the final 40 minutes of that game. That compete-level was garbage. They should give back 2/3 of their paychecks tonight. Yes. They were bad and they should feel bad, and their special teams are an absolute thermonuclear dumpster fire right now. That PK, if you can call it that, is the worst PK I've ever seen the Lightning put on the ice, and there have been some awful Lightning teams that have come and gone.
The Lightning now will fall short of their 12 point target for this 10 game segment of the season, and if they fail to get a point out of the finale of the segment they will fall behind the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. And, honestly, if they're going to allow themselves to be outworked like that and if their special teams are going to be that craptacular, there's no point in showing up for the postseason tournament. Yes, a healthy Filppula and Stamkos will make a considerable difference, so I'm not ready to load the team in a cannon and shoot them to the moon quite yet. But the work ethic was not there tonight, and that's not good enough.
16 shots on goal against a goaltender, Carter Hutton, that couldn't stop a beach ball? The Lightning should feel deep shame. Deep, deep shame.
Mark Barberio had 3 blocked shots in 16:50. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status on the website. Sad this was such a clunker to get over the finish line on.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:49. He'll graduate from prospect status in his next game this season.
Vladislav Namestnikov had an ill-timed minor penalty and was 20% on draws in 8:10.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and 1 shot in 11:22. He rang a post in the Third Period with the Lightning down 3-2, and that was all she wrote for the team after that. Kucherov needs 5 more games this season to graduate from prospect status.
Lightning manufactures a huge win when the absolutely had to have one.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory. As with the victory against Montreal, if this doesn't get you fired up about Ben Bishop nothing will. The guy's hurt, and Cedrick Desjardins was telling everyone who would listen he was going to start tonight. Bishop showed physical bravery and mental toughness outlasting Howard and the Wings in a game the Lightning had to have. They couldn't lose this game. Their backs were against the wall and, depleted or not, they had to win this game. Bishop willed them over the finish line to the Olympics break. Simply inspiring.
17:18 DET Alfredsson (14), (Datsyuk)
1:44 TB Palat (13), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
11:19 DET Jurco (3), (Sheahan, DeKeyser)
17:14 TB Pyatt (1), (Salo, Brown)
16:49 TB Killorn (14), (Purcell, Pyatt)
18:57 TB Palat (14), (Johnson, Salo)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.
Was that the Lightning's best game of the season tonight. No. Absolutely not. There were several stretches in this contest where they were owned, territorially, by the Wings. But, the effort was there. They scratched, they clawed, they held on by their fingernails, and they got the break they needed on the Pyatt goal to have a tie game going into the Third Period before they manufactured Killorn's greasy goal.
It's huge. I can't tell you how different this feels being at 71 points in 3rd in the East, 8 points up on 9th place going into the break as opposed to 69 points and being in a Wild Card spot by just 6 points. The win tonight gives the Lightning 8 points 8 games going into this segment of the season. They still would have to win both remaining games in this segment to hit that magical 12 points you'd like them to have, but they had 3 insurance points going into this segment, so they just need 1 more point in the next 2 games to be where they want to be heading into the stretch run of the season. That's a stretch run where, once the 3 weeks of the Olympics break is up, they should get back a healthy Anders Lindback, a healthy Valtteri Filppula (who had a fractured ankle and not a hurt hip, as I speculated after the Leafs game), and knock-on-wood a healthy Steven Stamkos, to say nothing of Bishop getting an opportunity to heal (his back must be incredibly sore from carrying this team). So, they'll be rested and healed and have a ton of home games to play, especially in March. Catching Boston for the Atlantic Division title may be extremely difficult now after this last little slump, but pinning down the 3 seed and sailing into the playoffs in solid shape is now entirely do-able.
Young team. Flagging health. Flagging confidence. They had to have the win. Great win. Big win. Huge win.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:13. I wasn't thrilled with his game tonight. When the possession tilts against the Lightning, Barberio becomes a liability and not a plus. But, you know, he's one of those guys who fought and clawed his way through the game. So, there's that.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots in 14:57. Sooner or later shots are going to start going in for J.T., and then watch out. Teams have no answer for his speed and work ethic. None. And, he showed his skill a bit tonight undressing Brian Lashoff to create a First Period breakaway. He just can't seem to find the finish.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 hit and was 50% on 6 draws in 11:55. It seemed to me like he needed to make a quick adjustment to the size/strength at this level in the NHL in the First Period, but once that sunk in he looked fairly comfortable, even landing a huge hit on Brendan Smith in the Third Period. Namesy's not quite there in terms of his play without the puck, especially on the defensive end, but you could clearly see he's going to be an NHLer in the cup of coffee he got tonight helping the team get a huge win.
Nikita Kucherov had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:06. He did just about everything, along with Brown, but score tonight including drawing a penalty shot where he was stopped on a deke to his backhand. Like Brown, when they start going in for Kucherov he's going to go nuts.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 22 shots before leaving the game after the Second Period with the old "upper body injury." Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 13 shots the rest of the way for the backdoor loss. Tough spot for Cedrick to come into, and it cost the Lightning, because there was a goaltending duel in progress at the time.
7:57 TOR Raymond (15), (Kulemin, Rielly)
2:19 TOR McClement (3), (Clarkson, Lupul)
8:10 TOR van Riemsdyk (23), (Gunnarsson, Kessel)
10:28 TB Palat (12), (St Louis, Johnson)
17:08 TOR Bozak (12), (Kessel)(EN)
Ondrej Palat was the game's third star.
Let's recap the past 36 hours. Steven Stamkos' return was postponed another 2-3 weeks because his broken leg hasn't completely finished healing. Ben Bishop is down again with an "upper body injury" which may or may not keep him out of Saturday's game against Detroit. Valtteri Filppula also looked to reinjure his hip after getting the old Russian leg sweep from a Leaf tonight (no call), and he may also be out for Saturday.
Standings-wise, the Lightning are 7 games into segment 6 of the season having only collected 6 points in those 7 games. A loss Saturday would mean the Lightning can't hit their minimum segment target of 12 points again, and puts them in serious jeopardy of not having the minimum 72 points the Lightning really need to have after Game 60 to comfortably be on pace for the playoffs. That's bad. Very bad. This isn't a battle-tested veteran club. You don't necessarily want to see them scrambling for points in March and April against teams that are. Staying on pace is critical.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot in 14:21.
J.P. Cote had 3 shots in 9:05.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 12:57. He keeps generating chances with his speed and grit, particularly in tight, but just can't seem to find a finish.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:34. He had a handful of glorious chances in the First Period before tailing off as the game went on. He also has 2 of his shots blocked and 4 that missed the net, as he may be cutting it too fine right now trying to adjust to NHL goaltending.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the loss. Truly, he was the only reason the Lightning were even in the game. The team in front of him should be upset with themselves for squandering a quality start by the big netminder.
16:04 MIN Niederreiter (10), (Spurgeon, Zucker)(PP)
0:34 MIN Heatley (11), (Spurgeon)
13:53 TB Filppula (20), (St Louis, Gudas)
Just a listless, sloppy effort by the Lightning. They nearly were able to steal a point with Tyler Johnson hitting a post late with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, but it would've been an undeserved point. They didn't appear to have their legs tonight at all and they're passing was fairly atrocious too. They compounded that issue by giving Kuemper way too much respect cutting a lot of chances too fine and missing the net altogether on prime opportunities. They treated the guy like Carey Price rather than getting the puck on him and seeing if they could create some greasy goals.
The Lightning really, really need to have a good little homestand before the Olympics Break. They really risk putting themselves in a bad spot if they keep sleepwalking on their way to vacation.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 hit in 16:25.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:16. He was the one Lightning forward who looked ready to go from the word jump tonight playing in front of the hometown. Looked like he was shot out of a cannon at times.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot in 13:12. He created some good looks for himself and his linemates, but nothing that made the scoresheet, unfortunately.