Lightning soar from the ashes for turning point victory.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the win. Let's be real: Vasilevskiy's teammates got him off the hook tonight. His puckhandling gaffe in the First Period is the kind of mistake that almost always ends up being the margin of losing in a game like this. Vasilevskiy worked very hard on his puckhandling and awareness around the cage in the offseason and showed glimmers of improvement early in the year, but he's slid back pretty hard in those areas recently. He's got to cut those soft and semi-soft goals that come from mistakes around the back of his cage out of his game. Immediately.
3:24 MTL Radulov (7), (Byron)
10:39 TB Johnson (10), (Kucherov, Palat)
13:31 MTL Weber (9), (Byron, Pacioretty)(PP)
3:07 MTL Terry (2), (Carr, McCarron)
11:14 TB Hedman (7), (Kucherov)
16:30 TB Palat (5), (Hedman, Point)(PP)
1:36 TB Johnson (11), (Garrison, Vasilevskiy)
This was a game where there were a lot of positive things being accomplished by the Lightning through the first 50 minutes of it, and yet it seemed the team was destined for tragedy nonetheless. They had a little rust in the First Period from so many guys returning from injury, but all in all they played Montreal pretty even and only Vasilevskiy's mistake was the margin that put them in a one goal hole. I thought they methodically took control of the game at even strength in the Second Period, but got an opportunistic counterattack goal scored on them after some great goaltending by Price, and heading into Second Intermission down two goals, things looked dire. For this team to find a way to scratch within one goal and get the tying goal on the power play when they absolutely had to have it may very well be the turning point of the season. They still have to follow this up with a result against Toronto tomorrow night, but at this hour you can see a little light at the end of the tunnel after a long, miserable last month and a half of dealing with injuries and inconsistency.
A brief note on the officiating in the Third Period. First, Shea Weber darn near killed Vladislav Namestnikov on a play where he pretty much lawn darted him head first into the boards crossing the Montreal blueline. Was it charging? Yes. Weber moved from the center of the ice all the way over to the boards with several strides with the intent of putting Namestnikov in a body bag. The only thing I think that mitigated the situation from an officiating standpoint is that Weber didn't gallop over there at full speed or leave his feet to land the hit. And, frankly, Namestnikov did a really poor job of protecting himself in that situation knowing Montreal has a few killers on their backline. Should there have been a call there? Yep. Game misconduct? I don't know about that. Supplemental discipline? If what DeHaan did to Drouin earlier this season didn't merit a suspension, I'm not sure you can make this case this does. DeHaan, from the high angle camera, clearly went in with an elbow to Drouin's head. Weber's hit was a hockey hit, albeit one executed with too many strides beforehand. I've seen guys get away with worse against the Lightning earlier this year, so I'm not sure Weber's going to get the book thrown at him for this, and I'm not sure I can muster the same level of outrage about this one as I can about those other calls. Second, the too many men call: Cooper and the coaching staff were being slick and nearly pulled it off sending Kucherov off the bench for the hop off breakaway, but I do think Boyle was too far away from the bench and I think that given the play did result in a breakaway the refs had to call it. If the situation had been reversed, I do think we'd be really upset if the other team got away with having a guy 15 feet from the bench on that play when his replacement hopped on. So, neither of those may be the popular opinions, but they're honest ones, at least. Now, would we have gotten that call if the roles were reversed given the latent pro-Montreal bias in the officiating corps? That's a debate for another night.
The Lightning HAD to have the win tonight. With Kucherov, Palat, and a partridge in a pear tree returning from injured reserve, and the standings math being what it is, they needed to get points out of this game. Thank goodness they pulled them out. When you find yourself in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. For the Lightning, that meant at least getting 12 points out of this 10 game segment of the season and not making the 4 point deficit behind playoff pace any worse. A loss tonight would've put the Lightning in the unenviable position of needing 7 out of 8 possible points over the next 4 games to make that meager goal possible. Now they just need 5 out of 8, which is very do-able, and you hope they can clinch that in the next 3 games and have that 4th game to try to "pay down the debt," so to speak, as they try to get their playoff hopes fully recovered. So, big win. Now whip Toronto and put yourselves in an even better position.
Brayden Point had a helper and was -2 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 19:33. He was also a gaudy 73% on 11 draws in the circles.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:31.
Matthew Peca had 1 shot and 2 hits and was 50% on 12 draws in 13:03 in his NHL debut. I was impressed. Truly. If there's one silver lining to Namestnikov getting his clock cleaned, it may be a little longer look at Peca. You saw some of the concerns with his game tonight, specifically where he got ragdolled off the puck a little because of his small size, but overall there's a lot to work with there because I think he's got such a wide ranging skill set. Coming out of Quinnipiac, he always displayed a lot more speed and creativity than he's shown consistently, in my opinion, in Syracuse. I think that's because he's been a very malleable player as a pro in that he will morph his game to suit the role and the linemates he's put together with. So, when he got an opportunity to play with speedy skilled players like Drouin, for instance, he was able to keep up. He showed his speed and his creativity on top of the fact that he is willing to at least get his nose dirty along the wall even if he may lose some battles because of his lack of size. He's a guy I can honestly see thriving anywhere you put him on the third or fourth line and he can even do spot duty, convincingly, on the second line. The ceiling's just a lot higher than Vermin or Richard or some of the other recent recalls, in my opinion, and that's why I'm pretty excited about what I saw tonight. I think his debut hints at some exciting possibilities and a guy who could be a leadership piece among the next wave of youngsters with half of Team Canada's WJC team seemingly coming into the organization starting next year to mix in with him.
Schedule and injuries victimize the Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss before being lifted for Kristers Gudlevskis, who stopped all 3 shots he saw in garbage time. I wasn't in love with the 1st and 4th goals Vasilevskiy gave up, not that this atrocity was his fault.
0:55 WSH Carlson (2), (Alzner, Wilson)
15:42 WSH Carlson (3), (Johansson, Backstrom)
10:48 WSH Ovechkin (15), (Orlov)
8:33 WSH Johansson (13), (Backstrom)
No chance. The Lightning got to Washington at 2:30 am last night after their game against St. Louis already hobbled with multiple injuries. You had guys like Bournival who have played something like 6 of the last 8 days along with the travel. Stralman looked like he was completely running on fumes. This was a schedule loss, plain and simple, and it was made worse by fatigue leading to multiple injuries. Drouin and Coburn went out. Hedman went out and came back in. The Lightning would've been better off not getting of the plane and declaring this a no contest. This schedule in the first three months of the year has been as vicious as I think I've seen in the league for a Lightning team. They've been grinded down into the ground and they just collapsed under the weight of it tonight.
Unfortunately, halfway through this fourth ten game segment of the season, the Lightning need 7 of a possible 10 remaining points in the segment just to tread water and not dig their hole deeper in their playoff pursuit. Fortunately, the Lightning do have a glut of home games and hopefully a glut of guys returning from injury to try to make some hey with over the course of those five games.
Brayden Point was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 19:35.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:34.
Tanner Richard was -1 with 2 hits and he was 38% on 13 draws in 16:07.
You get a minus. And, you get a minus. And, YOU get a minus!
The Bournival Ultimatum: Beat St. Louis.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the victory. The good ones respond to giving up a couple in the opening frame by shutting the door the rest of the way. That's exactly what Vasilevskiy did tonight.
14:11 STL Perron (9), (unassisted)
14:43 STL Megan (1), (Reaves, Edmundson)
9:48 TB Boyle (8), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
17:27 TB Bournival (1), (Garrison, Brown)
5:25 TB Killorn (11), (Stralman, Hedman)
18:20 TB Drouin (9), (Filppula, Stralman)
19:29 TB Drouin (10), (Hedman, Filppula)(EN)
Just when you think the team is ready to collapse under the weight of the bloated, overfed injury bug that has feasted on the roster all year, the Lightning show the pride of an elite franchise and rise from the ashes. The Lightning went tonight without Paquette and Namestnikov, which led to the quick recall of Michael Bournival and playing Nikita Nesterov at forward (by the way, let's not be quick to dismiss the whole "Nesterov to forward" idea). The Lightning came out and played a sloppy First Period falling behind 2-0. Vultures were circling. Anton Stralman was threatening to politely go postal in the intermission interview. And then, the Lightning resolved to tighten up their game, and the final 40 minutes became a Lightning clinic. Bournival, fresh off the airplane, tied the game on a tip late in the Second Period setting the stage for a Third Period that was punctuated by Jonathan Drouin literally breaking a goaltender on a deke. Not figuratively. In basketball, they talk about a guard figuratively breaking a defender's ankles with a cross over. So sudden and nasty was Drouin's deke left to right on the Lightning's fourth goal that he literally broke Jake Allen. I don't think I've ever seen that in a game. Mercy. Merci.
Brayden Point had 2 shots and 1 hit in 18:46 and was 29% on 7 draws. He had a turnover in the First Period that ended up in the back of the Lightning net, which is a rare mistake this year for a player who has shown maturity beyond his years.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:24.
Tanner Richard was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:37. He was also 83% on his 6 draws.
Lightning dominate Wings even as injuries continue to mount.
Ben Bishop stopped all 4 shots he faced before leaving in the First Period with an apparent groin or other kind of soft tissue injury. I'm not a doctor, but I'll play one on the internet: the eye test indicates that's likely a week-to-week injury rather than a day-to-day injury, but we'll see and hold out hope. Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal (with under 11 seconds left to go) on 23 shots for the rare back door win. Hmmmmm.
7:02 TB Boyle (7), (Stralman, Drouin)
7:41 TB Drouin (8), (Killorn, Johnson)(PP)
17:04 TB Point (3), (Johnson, Hedman)
19:27 TB Namestnikov (4), (Killorn, Point)
19:49 DET Mantha (5), (Jensen, Zetterberg)
Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point, and Brian Boyle were the game's three stars. Drouin and Point were very dangerous all game and Drouin is starting to be the star his skill set always said he was going to be. If he ever figures out the nuances of situational hockey on top of this, he's going to be a Hall of Famer.
Point had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 2 shots in 19:32. He could've had a second goal easily on a shot where he hit the goalpost flush.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit in 11:23.
Tanner Richard had 1 shot, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot and was 27% on 11 draws in 12:23 in his NHL debut. He wasn't glaringly good or bad, which is neither particularly good or bad for a first game. He'll need to get used to going against the best faceoff men in the world at this level and I think the speed of the skaters up top will be a challenge for him to adjust to.
Lightning close out a .500 road trip.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots before allowing 2 of 3 to convert in the Shootout for the penalty shot session loss. What's the difference between this game and the game against Vancouver? One less bit of bad luck, but more importantly better situational goaltending and no softies. Bishop made sure the Lightning kept contact in the First and Second Periods. It's a shame his PK couldn't help him get it over the finish line in regulation. He played well.
3:58 EDM Lucic (9), (Draisaitl, Sekera)(PP)
18:59 TB Drouin (7), (Hedman, Point)(PP)
2:35 TB Johnson (9), (Conacher, Nesterov)
7:03 EDM Draisaitl (14), (Letestu, Sekera)(PP)
EDM- Letestu, McDavid
Victor Hedman was the game's second star. He played 28:26 tonight on the tail of a back-to-back and was good from the first shift to the last.
Coming into this game, after looking underwhelming against the Canucks and losing Paquette from the lineup, the expectations were low for the night. In pregame, the HNIC crew didn't mince words about Tampa's chances, or lack thereof. The Lightning weathered kind of a tough First Period just continued to get stronger at 5v5 as the game wore on. By the Third Period, despite being the more road weary team, they were fairly dominant in possession and managed to build the 2-1 lead. It's tough that they couldn't close it out in regulation and tough Namestnikov had a chance in OT that came within an eyelash of securing the second point, but there was a lot to like tonight. Under the gun with roster issues and fatigue issues, the Lightning trusted their structure and played well within it. When guys like Palat and Kucherov return, there's reasons for optimism even though there's no moral victories with the standings situation what it is at the moment.
Brayden Point had a helper, 2 PIMs, and 1 shot in 23:33. He was also 30% on 10 draws. Tonight was one of the 2-3 best games he's had all season, faceoffs aside, and his ice time reflected it.
Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 7:23. He got on the wrong side of a 50/50 play and took the penalty that allowed Edmonton to tie the game at 2-2. Later in the game he made a decent breakout play under duress in a key shift late in the Third Period. Mixed bag.
Joel Vermin had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:42. He crushed Sekera on a hit that was a thing of beauty.
Self-inflicted gunshot wound claims Lightning's collective foot.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss. One of those goals was an egregious soft goal that, as soft goals often are, became the margin in this game, sans the meaningless empty netter at the end of the contest. After seemingly pulling even with Ben Bishop about a month ago, Vasilevskiy has slid back a little bit as his game has sagged a little behind the Lightning's dubious defensive efforts.
6:31 TB Hedman (6), (Filppula, Boyle)
1:37 VAN Sutter (8), (Granlund, Eriksson)
13:25 VAN Sbisa (1), (Burrows, Baertschi)
3:53 TB Conacher (1), (Drouin, Hedman)(PP)
7:46 VAN Horvat (9), (Eriksson, Granlund)(PP)
19:13 VAN Burrows (6), (Horvat)(EN)
Victor Hedman was, rightfully, the game's second star. He's really elevated his play so far on this road trip.
There are plenty of excuses that could be made for this defeat. Horvat's game winner was a bit of a freak goal on a horribly unlucky bounce that nobody could really be faulted with. The Lightning are also now playing without Stamkos, Kucherov, and Palat. Etc. Etc. Ultimately, though, excuses are irrelevant in the cold calculus of the standings. Against a lower rung team like Vancouver, the Lightning simply have to find ways to manufacture points or they're going to slide so far behind schedule that their playoff hopes cannot recover.
Brayden Point was -3 with 2 shots and 2 hits and he was 50% on 10 draws in 15:36.
Slater Koekkoek was -2 with 1 hit in 14:25. Lost a board battle cleanly to allow Vancouver's first goal.
Joel Vermin had 1 blocked shot in 9:07.
Lightning close clunker of a season segment with a critical win.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the victory. That's not a sexy stat line and it wasn't a flawless night from Bishop in terms of positioning and rebound control, but he had 2-3 really crucial situational saves that helped the team earn the win. At this juncture, those are way more important in the grand scheme of things.
3:06 CGY Brouwer (7), (Monahan, Brodie)(PP)
10:04 TB Boyle (5), (Hedman, Johnson)(PP)
13:42 TB Boyle (6), (Filppula, Hedman)
4:40 TB Coburn (1), (Killorn, Namestnikov)
18:47 TB Sustr (1), (Filppula, Hedman)
0:37 TB Killorn (9), (unassisted)(SH)
3:59 CGY Brodie (2), (Gaudreau, Brouwer)(PP)
4:20 CGY Ferland (5), (Stajan, Bouma)
19:15 TB Killorn (10), (Filppula)(EN)
The Lightning desperately needed this game, and even with Nikita Kucherov out of the lineup they handled Calgary in fairly convincing fashion. The penalty kill is still not fully well having allowed 2 more power play markers in this contest, and Bishop wasn't textbook in net, but overall a lot of players started to get well in this game and the team carried the balance of 5 on 5 play by a reasonable margin. In particular, the most hopeful sign to me was a rebound performance by Victor Hedman in all three zones. Assists in triplicate stand out on the scoresheet, but some key situational defensive plays were equally as important. Hedman hasn't been making those plays consistently during this slump and has been handing out some bad turnovers. That was cleaned up in this game and it's no coincidence the team plays a lot better when Victor's playing his A game.
With the third 10-game segment of the season in the books, the Lightning sit at 32 points, which is 4 points off the pace you'd like them to be at for the season (technically, 3 points back of Boston for the closest playoff spot in the actual standings with 1 game in hand). They had just 7 of the preferred 12 points in this last segment after being a point ahead of pace through 20 games. Being 4 points behind isn't great, but it's manageable provided the Lightning start to put together successful 10-game segments from here on out. Last season they went on a long winning streak to cancel out a mid-season deficit, but you can't always count on those kind of tears to get you out of trouble. A more reasonable strategy is to aim at seeing if they can get 13-14 points out of this next 10-game stretch and start to whittle that number down until they get back on pace after another 20-30 games. Bottom line: if they had lost this game it might've been time to get panicky. The win tonight puts them in a position to weather the storm if they keep tightening up their game without too much undue hardship.
Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot and was a gaudy 78% on 9 draws in 15:40.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 3 shots and 3 blocked shots in 13:38.
Joel Vermin had 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 13:52.
Lightning grind out a road point before a much needed rest.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the OT loss. It wasn't a great goal to allow, but he made several fantastic stops in regulation just to make OT possible.
1:26 CAR DiGiuseppe (1), (Stalberg)
Bishop was the game's third star.
The Lightning emptied the tank tonight knowing they have a rare 3 day break coming up before their next game on Thursday night. This is a tired, banged up team that is in the middle of a November/December schedule that is relentless in its pacing. 3 of 4 points on this weekend set may mean the Lightning can't finish with 12 points in this 10 game segment of the year, but they're still alive to stay on playoff pace in the final 3 games of the segment if they can harness the rest they're getting this week to gather themselves and string together some more wins.
Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 15:52.
Luke Witkowski had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:55.
Slater Koekkoek had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.
Joel Vermin had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:46.
Lightning snap losing streak with unexpected gem against a longtime tormentor.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 35 shots before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Bishop was, apparently, pretty sore about not getting the start in hometown St. Louis and was out to make a point tonight. He played well and made key saves at key junctures, before making the big stops in the Shootout to secure the second point. That's one area I can say Bishop's looked better in this season: he's sewed up that five hole and looks a lot more competent in the penalty shot skills competition.
12:38 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
6:24 Backstrom (7), (Carlson, Johansson)(PP)
TB- Point, Boyle
Nikita Kucherov and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.
There were signs of life for the Lightning in the second half of their loss on the road in St. Louis, but coming into tonight against a Washington team that they historically struggle against (in the regular season) there wasn't a lot to hang your hat on with the way the team has been playing lately. I didn't get by Blujus recall, as he hurt his groin earlier this week in Syracuse, but the Lightning did scratch the struggling Nikita Nesterov and commit to giving more minutes to Koekkoek and Witkowski. That was a prerequisite for having any chance from the word jump, and I'm glad Cooper went ahead and made that lineup adjustment. What transpired from there was, by in large, the most focused and impressive three zone effort I think I've seen from the Lightning this season. Through about 35 minutes, they played about as clean and crisp a game as possible. They moved the puck out of their zone crisply and cleanly and contested every inch of the ice against a very quality opponent. Gone were the turnovers and odd man rushes that have marred so much of the team's games over the last two weeks. In their place was a singular resolve to win a hockey game that showed up in every single man up and down that bench. They got a little sloppier on the breakouts after Kucherov's power play goal, and didn't stay out of the box as much as they needed to in the Third Period, where Backstrom tied the game. But, in the end, they deserved the two points and they finally got them with the heroics of Point, Boyle, and Bishop in the Shootout.
Brayden Point had 1 hit in 17:13. It doesn't show up in the scoresheet, but I thought he had an incredibly poised effort tonight with the puck for the Lightning. Just made some really good decisions that allowed the Lightning to either continue possession or stay away from trouble. He's been doing it a lot this season, but tonight he did it against one of the higher quality opponents you'll see.
Luke Witkowski had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:10. He played well tonight. He doesn't bring you the "upside" that Nesterov has, but there's something to be said of a lower pair defenseman who plays a simple game and doesn't make stupid decisions that get you in trouble. Nolan Pratt has his name on the Stanley Cup and all the love in the world from Lightning fans for just that reason.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:04. Just keep feeding him minutes. He can take it athletically. He just needs the experience. Give. It. To. Him. The Lightning will not regret it if they do.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:43. He played another dynamite game as evidenced by Cooper putting Vermin out for the Overtime session. He looks like a player who, if he keeps it up, has the potential to stick.
The desperate search for rock bottom continues.
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.
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)
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.