Reasonable Lightning road effort falls apart in the end.
Peter Budaj allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss in his Lightning debut. He was very good, and probably deserved a better fate than he got on this night.
6:18 TB Erne (1), Namestnikov, Paquette)
8:39 PIT Malkin (27), (Kessel, Schultz)(PP)
16:49 PIT Malkin (28), (Kessel, Cole)
1:10 TB Kucherov (28), (Drouin, Hedman)(PP)
2:38 PIT Streit (6), (Crosby, Malkin)
16:37 PIT Schultz (10), (Crosby, Streit)(PP)
19:00 PIT Kuhnhackl (4), (Bonino)(EN)
Tampa Bay played pretty well up until they got the Erne goal in the Second Period. They showed they could hang with the defending champs, but took their foot off the gas once they got a lead and eventually found themselves down heading into the final frame. Kucherov got the game even on the power play early in the Third Period, but the team again sagged after scoring the goal and Pittsburgh quickly regained the lead. Drouin set up Kucherov for point blank chances on two different sequences in the middle of the period, but he couldn't capitalize and that ultimately was the game. The game was a lot closer and better played than the score indicated. Unfortunately, the Lightning's standings position means moral victories are worth less than nothing. Only points matter right now.
Greg McKegg was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 8:25. He was also 60% on 5 draws.
Jake Dotchin was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:56.
Gabriel Dumont had 4 hits in 7:59.
Adam Erne had his first NHL goal and point and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:35. His like on Paquette/Namestnikov/Erne faded in the Third Period, but they looked pretty strong for much of the first two periods and may merit keeping an eye on over the next few games. They were quite good.
Lightning weather awful performance to pull out a win.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. Another performance where he held the team in the game with his performance in the First Period. All three goals came on deflections, so altogether another quality start.
7:58 TB Hedman (11), (Kucherov, Palat)(PP)
11:51 CAR Hanifin (3), (Lindholm, Aho)
14:54 CAR Ryan (9), (Hanifin, Rask)(PP)
10:51 TB Johnson (18), (Dotchin, Palat)
15:18 TB Kucherov (27), (Johnson, Garrison)
17:23 CAR McClement (5), (Slavin, Lindholm)(SH)
0:46 TB Hedman (12), (Kucherov, Johnson)
Garbage performance by the Lightning and they got away with it. They came out flat as a pancake again after more trade drama with the departure of Valtteri Filppula earlier in the day. As bad as those 4 shots on goal were in the First Period, they actually managed only 3 in the Third Period. Just a really mentally soft, really emotionally bankrupt effort that they stole 2 points out of.
So, how high is the hill now? Well, the Lightning have pulled within 30 points of magic number 96. The math's actually simple at this hour with 20 games left to go: get 30 of a remaining 40 possible points. Playing .750 remains a pretty tough ask, but they've been playing at that clip for the past couple of weeks, and if Stamkos can return in mid to late March... look, it's nice to dream.
New addition Greg McKegg had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 8:14.
Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 20:07. The key goal to knot the game at 2-2 came on a Dotchin bomb from the point that deflected down and in off Tyler Johnson's skate. Big goal from a big shot. Dotchin's strong as an ox and it shows in his slapper.
Gabriel Dumont had 1 hit in 8:32.
Adam Erne had 4 hits in 15:12. 4 shots attempted on goal, but couldn't get any on frame.
New look Lightning survive sleepy start to annihilate Ottawa.
Andrei Vasilevskiy began life as the presumptive number one goaltender in Tampa Bay with a 39/40 command performance for the win that included some pure Vasilarceniy in the First Period to allow his team to keep contact and eventually secure the win. That's about all you could ask for from Andrei in his first night as "the man."
6:26 OTT Turris (22), (Karlsson, Hoffman)(PP)
1:39 TB Point (9), (unassisted)
5:37 TB Kucherov (24), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:26 TB Kucherov (25), (Drouin, Johnson)(PP)
19:46 TB Kucherov (26), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:57 TB Coburn (3), (Kucherov, Johnson)
Nikita Kucherov, Vasilevskiy, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars. Kucherov had the natural hat trick and a four point night overall and appears to be fully back to unstoppable form after a very pedestrian middle part of his campaign. When Kucherov is Kucherov, the Lightning are awfully hard to beat.
The Lightning, probably reeling from the trades of veterans Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, frankly looked lost in the First Period tonight. It took Vasilevskiy stepping up in that opening frame just to give the team a chance because honestly an ordinary goaltending performance would've left them run out of their own barn. A good forecheck on an early shift in the Second Period led to an awful turnover into the slot that led to a Brayden Point quick release goal, and from that point on the Lightning looked like a giant weight had been lifted off of them. Here's the thing about when veterans move out of your locker room: sometimes the vacuum actually gives oxygen to your younger players to step up and take bigger leadership roles. Point and Drouin, in particular, had great body language in that Second Period and you hope they seize the opportunity now to fill the void and imprint their identity on the Lightning now moving forward.
There's still a long way to go to the deadline on Wednesday and a few veteran contracts the Lightning would probably not mind getting out from under if they could, so there could be more changes in the offing. But for now, so far so good. Standings-wise, Tampa Bay needs 32 of a possible 42 remaining points to get to 96 for the season, which would be a colossal task. We're probably still in diagnostic mode the rest of the campaign, but if the Lightning can make this interesting down the stretch it only bodes well for the future. One pretty nice thing about tonight's game is it got the Lightning to dead even in goal differential this year. It'd be nice to be on the plus side at the end of the year, and that seems do-able.
Jake Dotchin had 2 hits in 16:56. I think you saw his minutes logically trimmed back against a quicker Eastern Conference team. Makes sense.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 5:50. Got 5 minutes worth for the price of 2 in that fight with Wideman. Wideman slashed Dumont's stick out of his hand and was promptly fed a sneaky upercut after the two dropped the gloves before Dumont ragdolled Wideman the rest of the bout. Pound for pound, Dumont showed me something there.
Adam Erne had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 13:33. He looks really comfortable at the NHL level already, and I hope he stays in Tampa Bay the rest of the way to see if he can keep developing and stick in Tampa Bay for good heading into next year. With Boyle gone, he brings an element of size and strength down low the team will need.
Off night puts Lightning back behind the eight ball.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the loss. On that third goal, the Lightning really needed Vasiy to step out and make a key situational save to give them a chance and he didn't get it.
6:17 TB Namestnikov (9), (Coburn, Point)
5:04 CGY Backlund (18), (Giordano, Hamilton)
6:25 CGY Monahan (20), (Gaudreau, Hamilton)
17:02 CGY Hamilton (10), (Backlund, Frolik)(PP)
18:47 TB Kucherov (23), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.
The Lightning got off to a great start in this game and looked to be in solid control against Calgary, but they got into penalty trouble in the middle of the period and all of the steam came out of the Lightning attack. I thought they really missed Jonathan Drouin in the lineup because he can be a one man attack shift-to-shift, and without him in the lineup the Lightning were just a lot more predictable and one-dimensional offensively. You need two credible offensive lines, at least, in this league and without Drouin the Lightning had the Triplets and little else.
The Lightning point streak was snapped at 7 games, and with their standings position being what it is they can't afford to lose any games. That's why, realistically, they needed to start this push a month earlier to have a better chance to complete their run to the postseason.
Jake Dotchin was -2 with 7 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 21:16. It was a rugged night for young Dotchin.
Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 1 hit in 6:27. He missed a shot in the Third Period about as far to the left as is possible. I hope to God that puck was deflected and I just missed it. That shot had a better chance of hitting the blimp flying over the arena than it did the back of the net.
Lightning put on a clinic against young Oilers.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory. It was a lighter night for Bishop, in terms of workload, punctuated by a handful of important situational saves.
4:26 TB Palat (12), (Kucherov)
0:16 TB Palat (13), (Johnson, Kucherov)
10:17 EDM Pakarrinen (1), (Klefbom, Larsson)
0:49 TB Kucherov (22), (Stralman, Johnson)
19:59 TB Namestnikov (8), (Kucherov)(EN)
Big ups to the rare time a Jon Cooper coaching challenge actually worked to nullify an Edmonton Third Period goal after a super-sloppy 4-on-4 sequence where the team gave up possession way too easily in that situation.
Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 21:30.
Gabriel Dumont had 1 hit and was 75% on 4 draws in 8:41.
Drouin Magic sends the Lightning to the mile high pay windah.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the OT victory. Obviously, as with Vasiy last night, you'd have loved one more situational save to seal a regulation win, but the deflection goal at the end of regulation was pretty freakishly unlucky.
18:18 TB Point (8), (Killorn, Hedman)
10:09 TB Namestnikov (7), (Filppula, Boyle)
2:46 COL Rantanen (13), (Comeau, Duchene)
19:18 COL Duchene (16), (Barrie, MacKinnon)
2:27 TB Drouin (17), (unassisted)
This was a weird game. Both teams are struggling and I thought the game was a little bit sluggish all night long. The Lightning carried the balance of the play and after the soft goal surrendered to Namestnikov they had ample opportunity to get the put-away goal and build a 3 goal advantage headed into the final frame. But, they failed to do so and Colorado got some puck luck to eventually tie the game late in regulation. They Jonathan Drouin made a play that forced veteran Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson to burn the internet down with profanity. Good times.
Looking at the team's diagnostic goals, it was another productive night at the office for Brayden Point potting his 8th goal and further cementing his partnership with Drouin. With an offseason working on his upper body strength and his shot, you can probably think about inking Point onto a line with Jonathan and Kucherov on Stamkos'. That's good stuff.
Jake Dotchin was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 3 hits in 20:01.
Gabriel Dumont had 1 hit in 8:27 and was 50% on 6 draws.
Lightning see the second point stolen by Roussel's deal with the devil.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the loss. I'd have liked to have seen him less deep in his net on the third goal and squarer to the shooter. Other than that, I don't think he had much of a chance on the goals against, although you'd obviously have liked to have seen him make one more big situational save to secure the second point somewhere along the way.
3:07 TB Hedman (9), (Boyle, Dotchin)
11:59 TB Johnson (17), (Point, Hedman)(PP)
12:50 DAL Roussel (9), (Hamhuis, Seguin)
18:50 DAL Roussel (10), (Seguin, Eaves)
9:46 TB Hedman (10), (Johnson, Palat)(PP)
4:40 DAL Roussel (11), (Seguin, Sharp)
3:47 DAL Ja. Benn (20), (Eakin)
Victor Hedman was the game's second star.
In normal circumstances, I'd probably have been alright with the game tonight. Kudos to the coaching staff for having the team ready to go tonight. I expected them to be flat coming off their "bye week", but other than Nikita Kucherov being MIA tonight I was generally happy with the effort level. They dominated large swaths of the game and only a bizarre night where Antoine Roussel played way above his abilities really pushed this game past regulation. Unfortunately, giving the Lightning's situation in the standings, every point lost pushes them that much closer to the golf course.
As I've said before, the remainder of this season is really an important diagnostic period for the Lightning to see how much they can trust some of their young guys to take bigger roles next season. Vasilevskiy's performance was a bit of a push tonight, but I thought Brayden Point was dynamite tonight. He's forming really nice chemistry with Jonathan Drouin and that gives the Lightning a lot more roster flexibility in considering potential trades.
Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 18:22. This might've been his best game in the NHL. He found himself defending in open ice a couple of times against the Stars' top line and handled the pressure well.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 shots and 3 hits and was 33% on 6 draws in 9:42.
Lightning head into their "bye week" in style.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the win. If you want to know why the Lightning have gone on a little run here recently, look no farther than the crease where they've started to get quality starts consistently from both Bishop and Vasilevskiy.
12:05 TB Point (7), (Drouin)
17:02 TB Boyle (13), (Hedman, Dotchin)
2:11 TB Palat (11), (Point, Sustr)
11:15 WPG Trouba (5), (Byfuglien, Wheeler)
19:24 TB Hedman (8), (Palat, Paquette)(EN)
The Lightning may end up regretting having to take this bye week, because they've gotten some momentum for the first time since early in the season.
With 57 points through 56 games, the Lightning now need 39 of 52 remaining points to hit the magic number of 96 points. That's still a .750 pace, which is why you shouldn't be surprised if some selling begins this week.
Jake Dotchin had a helper and 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 17:14. Dotchin with the puck in open ice is a bit of an adventure. Keep it simple, young man.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 penalty minutes, 3 hits, 1 blocked shot, and was 50% on 8 draws in 11:58.
Everything but the getaway for a night of Vasilarceniy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 38 shots before conceding to just 1 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO loss.
14:31 MIN Niederreiter (18), (Granlund, Pominville)(PP)
17:16 TB Point (6), (Garrison, Killorn)
Vasilevskiy was the game's second star.
Brayden Point graduated from prospect status on the website in style with a goal. He was also +1 with 1 shot and he was 20% on 5 draws in 15:43.
Jake Dotchin had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:19.
Gabriel Dumont had 1 hit and was 44% on 9 draws in 10:09.
When Kucherov got his mojo back.
Ben Bishop turned aside all 28 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Got help from his horseshoe to usher back in a night of U. of Maine Justice.
7:46 TB Drouin (16), (unassisted)
6:55 TB Kucherov (20), (Namestnikov, Sustr)
11:02 TB Dumont (1), (Brown, Hedman)
18:18 TB Kucherov (21), (Namestnikov, Witkowski)
13:08 TB Coburn (2), (Drouin, Vermin)
Nikita Kucherov, Bishop, and Vladislav Namestnikov were the game's three stars. After struggling to regain his usual form for more than a month, Kucherov showed signs of getting back to his hold self in the last game against Anaheim. I'm happy to say the indications from that game were real and that Kucherov looks like he might be ready for a strong stretch run. As for the much maligned Namestnikov, he needs more nights like this because he's playing for his job in Tampa Bay at this point.
Do these back to back wins mean the Lightning suddenly have a chance to stride back into the playoff chase? Well, to comfortably make it in at 96 points, they'd need 42 of a remaining 56 points. Is a .750 winning clip realistic? There's your answer.
Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:49. He was also 29% on 7 draws. Point's next game will be his 41st of the season and he will graduate from prospect status on the website.
Luke Witkowski had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 8:25.
Jake Dotchin was +1 with 5 hits in 14:00.
Gabriel Dumont had his first goal in a Lightning jersey and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:42. He was also an uncharacteristic 17% on 6 draws.
Joel Vermin had a helper and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 10:29.