Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Night: 11-29-16 Lightning at Blue Jackets

The desperate search for rock bottom continues.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. One soul destroying softie in garbage time. The rest weren't necessarily his fault.

First Period
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)

Second Period
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)

Third Period
1:57 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Savard, Anderson)
12:38 CBJ Gagner (8), (unassisted)
17:10 TB Filppula (5), (Point, Sustr)

You have the intersection of two very bad factors conspiring to make the Lightning an uncompetitive team right now. First, you've got an injury to Anton Stralman forcing certain young defensemen to play above their weight class and, at the moment, they're showing they can't handle it. Second, you've got veteran players who should be your best players making mistakes they simply cannot be making. Victor Hedman's looked terrible the past few games. Jonathan Drouin's picture's been on the side of the milk carton. Even Nikita Kucherov had a horrifically bad turnover in this game that led to a key goal that put Tampa Bay down 2-0.

What's needed? A general commitment to get back to basics and play a simpler, harder working game to get a little more possession and draw a few more penalties. Also, perhaps a minor roster shake up. If the coaching staff's faith in players like Koekkoek and Witkowski is flagging, what's the harm in giving a player like Dylan Blujus a look? You'll lose games 6-1? And what's the harm in letting some of the Lightning's tired, nicked up forwards take a little rest in lieu of some speedy energy players like Joel Vermin or Michael Bournival? A little new blood and enthusiasm wouldn't be a bad thing at this moment.

I could comment on Tim Peel's ridiculous wave off of a goal where Ondrej Palat neither touched Bobrovsky nor shoved Jack Johnson into Bobrovsky. As clownish as that call was, and as damaging as it was in this game, though, the Lightning have more than the referees to be concerned about at this time.

Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:56.

Luke Witkowski had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 11-27-16 Lightning at Bruins

Boston continues to be a house of horrors for the Lightning.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss. 3 of the 4 goals Bishop allowed were not 10-bell variety opportunities. Soft? No. But, when you need a goaltender to give you a chance in a game, those are 3 stops he needs to make. Let's get real here: the Lightning should be playing the hot hand with Vasilevskiy right now. That's not to say Vasilevskiy's the starter and destined to park Bishop on the bench forever. Remember back in December of 2003-2004 when the Lightning hit a rough patch offensively and eventually dragged Khabibulin down into the rut with them? The Lightning switched to John Grahame as the starter for a little while and eventually broke out of the slump collectively. No one was saying John Grahame was better than Khabibulin at that time, but it was a needed shake up at that time. Same thing here. The Lightning need to ride Vasilevskiy for a week or two, in my honest opinion.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:24 BOS Moore (6), (Miller, Spooner)
12:30 BOS Backes (5), (Bergeron, Krug)(PP)
17:33 BOS Hayes (1), (Krejci, Schaller)

Third Period
9:43 BOS Patrnak (13), (Krug, Marchand)
17:21 TB Hedman (5), (Nesterov, Point)

This is where Tampa Bay's sleepy effort against Columbus really hurts. Tampa Bay has never had much success in Boston, and back-to-back losses now put the Lightning in a spot where they need to get at least 9 of the next 14 possible points just to stay on playoff pace (assuming they burn their insurance point they had coming into this 10-game segment of the year). It's an uncomfortable spot to be in when you have .643 hockey just to stay on minimum pace.

Brayden Point had a helper and 4 shots in 18:46 of ice time. He was also, unfortunately, just 33% on 9 draws in the game, as well, with Brian Boyle not taking draws because of his injury.

Slater Koekkoek was -3 with 1 shot in 13:59. Got caught in no man's land off a faceoff loss on Moore's game opening goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-25-16 Blue Jackets at Lightning

Thanksgiving hangover dooms Lightning.

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Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. You couldn't fault him on the first four goals, but the lack of concentration on Columbus' Third Period insurance marker was... troubling.

First Period
3:46 CBJ Wennberg (4), (Saad, Johnson)
8:35 CBJ Foligno (8), (Atkinson, Werenski)

Second Period
8:33 TB Kucherov (11), (Johnson, Palat)
9:02 CBJ Anderson (6), (Hartnell)
18:28 TB Garrison (1), (Filppula, Witkowski)

Third Period
3:37 TB Palat (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)
4:34 CBJ Saad (5), (Wennberg)
11:13 CBJ Atkinson (8), (unassisted)(SH)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.

As was the case in Syracuse's game, a Lightning Thanksgiving hangover at home was predictable, but nonetheless unacceptable. Columbus flat out dominated a flat Lightning team in the First Period to stake a 2-0 lead, and with a crossbar and post thrown in, it could've been 4-0. The Lightning showed resiliency to battle back the rest of the game, but their defensemen as a group played the dumbest game they've probably played in years. Some of the turnovers and weak plays along the wall they made were just unbelievable for a group with the experience and pedigree of these players. Ultimately, a soft play in the corner by Garrison led to Saad's eventual game winner and an unbelievable turnover by Hedman on the PP led to Atkinson's insurance goal. Tack that on to about a half dozen idiotic mistakes by Nikita Nesterov and other turnovers by Coburn and Sustr that could've led to goals against versus a more skilled team, and you have a classic example of why I wouldn't be a good coach. Because, simply put, I'd be in jail right now for strangling the whole bloody lot of them. Idiotic. Dumb. Moronish. Brain dead. Imbecilic. Pathetic.

Get well soon, Anton Stralman, because I can't take another night of THAT.

Brayden Point was -1 in 12:42.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with his first NHL assist and 2 penalty minutes in 8:26.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:31. He and Witkowski might've been the only Lightning d-men tonight who didn't make a completely boneheaded mistake at some point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-23-16 Flyers at Lightning

Lightning eventually lap overmatched Flyers.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. Both the goals he allowed were subpar short side goals and the first one, in particular, was an inexcusable softie. But, he ultimately staunched the bleeding at that second goal and made a spate of timely stops as the night rolled on to eventually give the team the chance to pull out the win.

First Period
19:57 TB Hedman (4), (Palat, Point)(PP)

Second Period
6:06 PHI Weise (2), (VandeVelde, Provorov)
19:05 PHI Provorov (1), (Read, Streit)

Third Period
13:28 TB Killorn (8), (Koekkoek, Namestnikov)
13:40 TB Callahan (2), (Point, Johnson)
18:45 TB Kucherov (10), (Filppula, Palat)

Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

Really, this was a three act play with the common thread running throughout all of it that the Lightning just have an overall higher talent level than Philly that eventually broke through. The Lightning absolutely dominated the First Period despite a lack of crispness in their passing and handling of the puck. The Flyers looked really loose in the neutral zone and were allowing Tampa Bay a lot of speed and odd man rushes, and it seemed a matter of time before Tampa Bay would start running up the score. Philly allowed a late power play goal in the frame to fall behind 1-0 and really should've counted themselves lucky, because Mason had more than one fortunate save/bounce over the course of the evening. The Lightning got a little too fat/happy with themselves in the Second Period and let off the gas a little which allowed the Flyers to run up a large shot advantage in the middle frame although very few really scoring chances came with those shots. But, the Lightning eventually conceded the lead on the softie off the rush allowed to Weise and later Kucherov losing his man off a faceoff loss late in the period on Provorov's goal. The Third Period then became a reprise of the First Period, with the exception that the Lightning started to bear down and focus on their finishing. Three quick goals later Philly was doubled up and dispirited and Mason's luck had fully run out. It really was a matter of time. The Flyers were a hot mess defensively in the neutral zone all night long, and between that and a lot of turnovers under forechecking duress by their defense, a melt down looked inevitable. That's just a bad hockey team, defensively.

Brayden Point had 2 helpers, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 13:35. Made a really good look to Callahan on the goal on a quick change turnover to give the Lightning the eventual game winner.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 7:36. Played a rough and tumble game. He took some big hits and he handed out some big hits.

Slater Koekkoek had a helper and was +2 with 1 hit in 7:32. Took a big pop in the First Period that may have contributed to his diminished ice time. Eventually, though, his jumping into the rush was a key part of Killorn's equalizing goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-21-16 Lightning at Predators

Silver linings in road trip ending loss.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the loss. Things could've gotten out of hand were it not for several quality stops from Ben.

First Period
4:25 NSH Arvidsson (6), (Josi, Ellis)

Second Period
9:55 NSH Subban (4), (Ellis, Ribiero)(PP)
12:35 NSH Subban (5), (Forsberg, Ellis)(PP)

Third Period
19:10 TB Johnson (7), (Kucherov, Hedman)

It wasn't like Nashville ran the Lightning out of the rink, and with a couple of bounces Tampa Bay could've stolen some points from this one. But, on the 5th game of a road trip with a depleted lineup against a quality team, the Predators obviously carried the balance of the play. They staked themselves to the early lead and controlled pretty much the entire First Period. Tampa Bay made a nice push back in the Second Period, but once they started getting into the box midway through the frame Nashville got the power play goals they needed to put the game away.

All of that was really subtext though for a game that was ultimately marred by some pretty borderline dirty play. I guess that's what they do out in the Western Conference, whether it be slashing guys in the ribs behind the play or crosschecking a guy into the dasher boards to bloody him. You really began to lose track of the number of times Nashville stepped over the line in this game before J.T. Brown finally took the law into his own hands by first destroying Roman Josi with his head down behind the net on one play and later losing his mind and pummeling Ryan Ellis half to death for elbowing him from behind about 4 minutes thereafter. Sprinkle in some big hits from the likes of Cedric Paquette and you can point to, at least, a quality physical response from the team even if they didn't get the result on the scoreboard. That's a teambuilding win, in a way, that you can treat like a silver lining.

Tampa Bay finishes the second 10-game segment of the year at 25 points, meaning they're 1 point ahead of the pace they needed to be on track for the playoffs. On to the next one: 12 in 10, do it again.

Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 10:32.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:27.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 11-19-16 Lightning at Flyers

There will be kittens on Graduation Day.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 32 shots he faced for the shutout in a commanding performance that allowed the Lightning to overcome a 32-18 shot deficit. Vasilevskiy's win was his 41st NHL decision, officially graduating him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. And, given how well he's played over the past couple of games, we can't help but feel like Andrei's doing a lot to validate our graduation methodology at the moment. He's clearly all grown up now.

First Period
14:25 TB Johnson (6), (Killorn, Filppula)(PP)

Second Period
7:40 TB Palat (3), (Namestnikov)

Third Period
4:26 TB Drouin (3), (Palat)

Vasilevskiy, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

It's very heartening to see the Lightning make such a seamless readjustment to their game in light of the injuries to Stralman and Stamkos. They needed to adopt a more low-scoring game that relies in part on goaltending and attention to defensive detail. This road trip has seen a return to a lot of the basics that have made the Lightning successful over the past three years, along with some slump-busting by the likes of Tyler Johnson and Palat and the return of Jonathan Drouin from injury. In other words, a lot of the pieces that would have been prerequisites I would have named off for weathering the storm and being met.

Today's victory clinches a successful second 10-game segment of the season, and the Lightning have already secured 1 insurance point with 1 more game left in the segment. This is good. Without Stamkos, the Lightning likely won't be as consistent in the goal scoring department. So, having insurance points socked away will be important for when the team hits speed bumps along the way to March/April.

Brayden Point had 1 hit in 4:16. The low ice time came from a very nasty cut he took on his lip that required a significant amount of stitches. If women do indeed dig scars, Brayden Point is about to become a stinking matinee idol.

Luke Witkowski had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:06.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 hits in 10:45.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-17-16 Lightning at Sabres

Poised Lightning handle adversity with ease.

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Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory. He was extremely important in the First Period while the Lightning looked a little out of sorts 5 on 5 trying to sort out their new lines. Overall, with a couple of near disaster puck handling gaffes aside, it was a pretty typical Ben Bishop effort as he tries to round into form from a disjointed start to the year.

First Period
8:15 TB Nesterov (2), (Filppula, Drouin)

Second Period
7:39 TB Killorn (7), (Filppula, Point)(PP)
12:50 BUF Franson (1), (Kane, Fedun)(PP)
19:42 TB Kucherov (9), (Killorn)

Third Period
18:00 TB Point (2), (Johnson)(PP)

Alex Killorn, Nikita Nesterov, and Tyler Johnson were the game's three stars. Nikita Nesterov keeps showing up in the three stars selections lately doing work in relief of the injured Anton Stralman.

So, the Lightning found out today they will lose Steven Stamkos for approximately 4 months to knee surgery. Now, granted, it was Buffalo they were playing tonight. But, it's not like the Lightning haven't played without Stamkos and Stralman before, and they looked unphased by it tonight. Indeed, if you want to grab some silver linings from the Stamkos injury: 1.) It probably forces the team to play a more honest, well-rounded game knowing they have to win games 3-1/3-2 or so rather than 4-2/4-3, and 2.) It gives Yzerman a lot of cap room to play with if he wants to add a piece to put the club over the top. If they survive this, it'll make them stronger, and they know how to survive this. Now it's just a matter of grinding out the 10-game segments of the season and making sure they get into the postseason tournament.

Speaking of which, the victory moves the Lightning to 23 points through 18 games, meaning they need just 1 point in the final 2 games of the road trip to stay on our 12-in-10 pace. The response from the team in these three straight road wins after the debacle against San Jose has been solid.

Brayden Point had 1 goal and 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:28. Interesting to see his minutes go down and his production go up.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 3 blocked shots in 16:15. I like the idea of slowly raising Koekkoek's ice time. Athletically, he can take what you feed him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-15-16 Lightning at Red Wings

Lightning get a big win, but possibly at a terrible price.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. Obviously it would've been nice if he could've maintained the lead in the Third Period by himself, but that 4-on-3 opportunity against was just a tough scramble play to defend. I can find no fault with either goal.

First Period
3:30 TB Kucherov (7), (Nesterov, Namestnikov)
6:09 TB Stamkos (9), (Hedman, Kucherov)
18:41 DET Nielsen (3), (Glendening)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
1:29 TB Nesterov (1), (Filppula, Namestnikov)(PP)
7:12 DET Sproul (1), (Green, Nyquist)(PP)
9:38 DET Zetterberg (3), (Mantha, Sproul)(PP)
18:50 TB Kucherov (8), (Coburn, Johnson)

Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov were the game's first and third stars.

The Lightning got a crucial point in a tough game on the back end of a back-to-back situation and generally did it the right way. They were opportunistic and made sure they jumped out to the fast start. They got a big assist from Petr Mrazek on a puck handling miscue that led to the first goal. That soft goal ended up being the margin of victory, as soft goals usually are. The Lightning then used the power play in the Third Period when King Chicken, Justin Abdelkader, took an undisciplined call at the end of the Second Period that Nesterov cashed in for the two goal lead. If there's a critique to be made in this game, it's getting undisciplined while trying to protect the lead and eventually letting Detroit tie it on two power play goals. I thought the Lightning were generally good 5 on 5 until their legs got heavy in the Third Period, so giving Detroit man advantages (albeit because the game was getting out of hand because the refs failed to throw Ott out for a clear charge where Ott left his feet and elbowed Paquette in the head in the Second Period) gave them a lifeline the Lightning didn't need to be giving them. Still, you have to be proud of the response by the Lightning to dig deep and get a couple of decent forechecking shifts late that led to Kucherov's game winning greasy goal.

These back-to-back wins were absolutely critical in the standings calculus. The Lightning now need just 3 points the remainder of this road trip to hit their quota of 12 points every 10 game segment to stay on playoff pace. Sneaking out of Detroit with 2 points is a fantastic result because of that.

But... it came at a price. Late in the First Period, while battling for a loose puck, Steven Stamkos appeared to twist his leg slightly and left the ice grabbing the back of his right knee. It didn't look like a particularly awful or awkward movement that he got hurt on, but it doesn't have to be to cause a serious injury. I'm not a doctor, but I'll play one on the internet right now: I'm hoping this is just a knee sprain and Stamkos just needs a week or two off to heal. Obviously, some sort of tear will be a far more significant blow to the team. Either way, it takes Stamkos off the ice at a time where he was starting to form one of the best lines in hockey with Kucherov and Namestnikov. If you're trying to find a silver lining, it's not like the Lightning don't have a clue how to win with Stamkos and Stralman out of the lineup. However, part of the reason the Lightning weathered that storm the last time was a healthy Jonathan Drouin, who needs to return from his (presumed) concussion soon, please.

My apologies to the entire Tampa Bay Lightning fan base for having to watch the game on NBCSN tonight. The play-by-play and color was fine, but the studio crew of Mike Milbury and Keith Jones continues to prove they are, collectively, dumb as a stone. How do I hate thee, Mike Milbury? Let me count the ways. Was it the condescending way you remarked in pregame that somehow Steven Stamkos must like playing in Tampa Bay, as if that somehow makes him a strange dude? No, you're right, Mike, Stamkos is totally wrong to want to play for a now perennial Stanley Cup contender in a town where the average temperature in January is approximately 75 degrees and his effective tax rate is pennies on the dollar. He's clearly the wrong one, not you, Mike Milbury. Was it Tappen then asking Milbury what the Edmonton Oilers need to do to turn their season around? As if Milbury has a clue!? Folks, there's two things Mike Milbury is an expert on: beating people with shoes (not tying his own, though), and burning down a once proud franchise like he did to the Islanders as GM (big ups to you, Alexei Yashin). If you need advice about that, turn to Milbury. If you need advice about anything else, including basic arithmetic, you're better off consulting a trained monkey.

Then, oh how I enjoyed the NBCSN lionizing of King Chicken Justin Abdelkader. Yes, NBCSN, it truly takes a warrior to needlessly spear Alex Killorn at the end of the Second Period and eventually give Tampa Bay a critical power play goal. If I'm starting a Zaxby's franchise, I'd love me some Justin Abdelkader. For my hockey team, not so much. The capper was, of course, the snap reaction to the game praising Detroit's heart after they got stomped by Montreal in their last game. Wait, WHAT? They give trophies for trying now on NBCSN!?!? Are you kidding? And, you're going to praise DETROIT'S heart? Not the team that dug down to pull out a win on the downside of a back-to-back? Not the team playing without it's #2 defenseman already and that saw it's captain and best goal scorer leave the game late in the First Period to a potentially scary knee injury? No, you're right, the Detroit Red Wings, possessors of plenty of chickens and no nuggets, are the ones with HEART! Because Milbury and Jones proclaim it!

I pray for a day when the NHL grows enough in prominence the United States that people take more notice of this buffoonery and demand these fools be swept off the airwaves. In the meantime, their sole utility is to remind us that maybe Paul Kennedy and Brian Engblom aren't so bad on the local broadcasts after all. Maybe.

Brayden Point was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot on goal in 13:14. Very brave move by King Chicken Abdelkader to decide to thug it up on young Point after the whistle in the Second Period. Truly, that was a moment of bravery that was worthy of NBCSN's praise. It takes a real manly man to pick on a 20 year old rookie who is listed at 166 pounds. Heck, Abdelkader probably lays eggs that weigh more than Point. Is this really the guy you want to hitch your hype machine up to NBCSN? Really? Care to rethink that?

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 13:29.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-14-16 Lightning at Islanders

UNLEASH THE KITTENS!

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Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout win. He looked about as solid as the security around Fort Knox all night. He didn't face a ton of chances in the middle frame, in particular, but even if he had, the Isles were getting nothing from Vasiy tonight. Vasilevskiy's next decision will graduate him from prospect status on the website.

First Period
18:58 TB Brown (2), (Paquette, Coburn)
19:40 TB Callahan (1), (Sustr, Hedman)

Second Period
14:24 TB Kucherov (6), (Stamkos)(PP)
17:02 TB Namestnikov (3), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Steven Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Nesterov were the game's three stars. Why Nesterov? 19:24 of ice time filling in for the injured Anton Stralman. Nesterov played almost 20 minutes and the Lightning got a shutout? You'd have gotten good odds in Vegas against that, I'm sure.

The Lightning should just petition the league to play the Isles every single game. They'll go 82-0. The Islanders really tried in this game, unlike how they folded like a cheap tent in the first of the three encounters against Tampa Bay. But, with two quick strikes at the end of the First Period, the Lightning again took the heart of the allegedly rough, tough, and gritty Islanders. The Lightning then put on an absolute clinic in the Second Period before garbage time in the Third Period when Vasilevskiy raised the force fields to preserve his shutout.

Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot in 16:07.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:16.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-12-16 Sharks at Lightning

Inconsistent Lightning continue to struggle to stay on track.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the loss. He did stop a First Period penalty shot in the game, but on balance it's fair to say that was a subpar outing for Ben.

First Period
7:18 SJ Marleau (4), (Burns, Martin)
10:04 SJ Wingels (3), (Tierney, Karlsson)

Second Period
8:52 SJ Vlasic (3), (Hertl, Donskoi)

Third Period
5:43 TB Stralman (1), (Boyle, Paquette)

Tampa Bay fell behind early and never crawled back into the game. The effort wasn't bad, necessarily, but you can't spot good teams two goal leads and expect to win. And, frankly, the Lightning have not been themselves 5 on 5 so far this year from a possession standpoint. The problem with the inconsistency is that the Lightning have put themselves in a position where they need to get 7 of a possible 10 points on this upcoming 5 game road trip just to stay on track for the playoffs by the 12 points in every 10 games formula. That's a bad spot to be in, and the Lightning really needed to get at least a point out of this game.

Brayden Point was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:19.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 15:49 of fairly quiet ice time.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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