Sometimes it's a game that comes down to little things.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the loss. He didn't look sharp to me tonight, and probably wants Kadri's first goal back. He just looked unsettled and seemed to be fighting it, whereas Bernier at the other end looked rock solid making 40 stops.
1:49 TOR Kadri (13), (unassisted)
9:47 TOR Kadri (14), (Lupul, Gunnarsson)
13:13 TB Carle (2), (Palat, Kucherov)
17:12 TB Barberio (4), (Palat, Crombeen)
15:57 TOR van Riemsdyk (21), (Kessel, Bozak)
The Lightning probably deserved better than they got out of this game. They outshot Toronto by more than a 4:3 margin, had the better of the balance of play, and hit 3 posts on their power play chances alone. Still, sometimes, you lose games because the other team's goaltender plays well and you make a few mistakes. Heck, New Jersey's lived off of it for years. Toronto's first and third goals came off of giveaways with the first Kadri goal compounded by a less than stellar goaltending effort. Toronto's second goal came on an innocuous looking play off the side boards where Kadri caught Hedman flat footed and made him look stupid on a little toe drag to get a break. Three mistakes end up in the back of your net and you lose. It's not something they should dwell on too long. They didn't play a terrible game. But, they do need to tighten up and shrink their number of errors, because all things being equal they left a point or two on the ice tonight.
Mark Barberio had a goal, 2 shots, and 2 blocked shots in 12:52. Somewhat of a classic Barberio performance. He gave away the puck in the neutral zone leading to Toronto's first goal. That's bad. The good news is that he was very assertive offensively afterwards trying to atone for the mistake and eventually got the goal to tie the contest up at 2-2 off of a goalmouth scrum. That's improvement, in my eyes, from earlier in the season. Barberio didn't hang his head or play scared after the mistake. He stayed in the fight and got a big goal. That's good.
J.T. Brown had 5 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16. Toronto had no answer for his speed. None. He almost slipped a First Period 2-on-1 5-hole on Bernier that ended up finding the post and he was dangerous throughout the game. You just wish he could find the finish and make something out of all the opportunities he produces on nights like this.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes in 10:53. It seemed like a less active night for Kucherov and zero attempted shots on goal seems to confirm that.
Did Tyler Johnson just take the lead in the Calder Trophy race?
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. He made one key stop in the Third Period when the Lightning were clinging to their 1 goal lead, and the team just pulled away from there. That's what good goaltenders do.
7:15 TB Johnson (14), (Hedman, Palat)
8:48 TB Barberio (3), (Filppula, Killorn)
18:04 TB Filppula (19), (Brown, Kucherov)
18:33 COL Mitchell (5), (Landeskog, Barrie)
19:03 COL Barrie (6), (MacKinnon, Parenteau)
14:38 TB Johnson (15), (St Louis, Hedman)
16:55 TB Johnson (16), (Hedman, Salo)
Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars. Much love to the Tampa media for their tip of the hat to Ondrej, who did not get enough credit on the SunSports broadcast for the play he made to create the game opening goal. People, just because Dr. Drej creeps to mic like a phantom does not mean you should treat his contributions as invisible.
Coming into this game, the NHL was just starting to warm up to the idea of Tyler Johnson being a legitimate foil to Nathan MacKinnon in the race for the Calder Trophy. Johnson was second in rookie scoring. MacKinnon was first. And, it didn't hurt that the two were about to play head-to-head, so a little manufactured heat was supplied. Now? Now there's real heat, because Johnson just whipped MacKinnon in the head-to-head with a hat trick. That's the kind of thing that rarely happens that cleanly in team sports and that you cannot ignore. Johnson just ran roughshod over MacKinnon and Colorado, and it's impossible now to argue he's not a serious Calder Trophy contender. In fact, he probably just edged out to a little lead.
That was meat and potatoes Lightning hockey, overall. Very north-south. Rebound goals. Tip in goals. Greasy goals off of deflections. It's the kind of win Jon Cooper's going to point to and say, "See, there? You don't have to tie a ribbon around everything to score 5." It's a beautiful thing. Beating the team Len Barrie's son plays for is also a beautiful thing. Dan Boyle and every Lightning fan around the world approve of the outcome.
Mark Barberio had a goal and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 15:32. It was one of those mixed bag games from Barberio. Offensively he was good, earning his goal off a shot that pinged in off an Avs defender's leg. Defensively, well, the PK bailed him out after he got beat like a drum off the wall and had to haul a man down. I look forward to the day those kind of mistakes don't happen, because it'll mean more ice time for Barberio and more opportunities for him to get on the offensive side of the puck, where he's useful and good.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 12:46. The stat line doesn't tell the tale. His line was en fuego tonight. He nearly completed a nifty deke for a goal in the First Period and nearly set up Valtterri Filppula for a breakaway on a heads up pass in the Third Period. As it was, his awareness led to Filppula's goal in the Second Period, with Brown hitting Filppula streaking off the bench for a one-on-one chance on the netminder.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was +1 in 13:45. How badly did he want to score tonight to get a measure of revenge on Patrick Roy, who traded him when the two were with Quebec in the QMJHL. Again, the stats don't tell the tale. Kucherov had 5 missed shots and one of his shots blocked. He just couldn't find the range, but he was creating deadly scoring chances all night. He just barely missed the icing on the cake goal late in the Third Period on a power play where he, frankly, just decided to take over the game. There was steam coming out of his ears by the end of the shift he wanted it so bad. I predict more classic confrontations against Roy down the road for Kucherov and the Lightning. By the way, as a side note, Roy may very well have shot himself in the foot inserting Varlamov in the Third Period, and I wonder if he regrets that decision considering his team had pulled within 1 goal already.
Harder than it needed to be.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 36 shots but blanked Ottawa on 3 shootout attempts for the W. He made the key saves he needed to, but I suspect he'll be even sharper next time out.
14:32 TB Johnson (13), (Hedman)(SH)
15:12 OTT Karlsson (12), (MacArthur, Spezza)(PP)
3:30 TB Crombeen (2), (Hedman, Filppula)
16:57 OTT MacArthur (18), (Spezza, Ryan)(PP)
5:31 TB Palat (11), (St Louis, Hedman)
17:42 OTT Neil (6), (Smith, Karlsson)
Victor Hedman and BJ Crombeen were the game's first and third stars.
Good news/bad news:
The good news is that, after getting a few days off to rest the bones, the Lightning absolutely dominated 5-on-5 play territorially for about the first 55 minutes of regulation. That was Lightning hockey, and for almost the entire contest you had the impression the Lightning were cruising to victory even though they couldn't get staked to more than a one goal lead. The other bit of good news is that the Lightning appear to have made it through an entire game without someone getting dinged up. It's a beautiful thing.
The bad news is that the Lightning allowed Ottawa to hang around because special teams, putting Johnson's SH goal aside, were pretty darned atrocious. The PK just can't seem to buy a break right now and the PP looked as predictable as an 80's sitcom, including telegraphing one-timers on an Overtime 4-on-3 opportunity. Once Stamkos returns, that should help the PP a lot, but it's getting clearer Yzerman's shopping list at the deadline needs to include an ace PK'er, be that in the form of another veteran d-man or a forward. I'd give my right arm for a time machine to bring back a mid-2000's Freddy Modin or Jassen Cullimore right about now to help get that mess fixed.
The Lightning again tie Boston for tops in the Atlantic Division although the B's hold 2 games in hand.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in 15:20. His penalty was a costly delay of game call where he shot the puck out of play while under duress from 2 Ottawa forecheckers. After two strong games, tonight was a little step back for Mark.
J.T. Brown had 4 shots and 1 hit in 11:44. Off night for his line. He had a really nice hit on Da Costa in the corner in the First Period, showing surprising pop for his size.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 blocked shots in 10:54. Ottawa seemed to be targeting the rookie early, and he was ineffective through much of regulation. He shanked a good chance in the Third Period and snuck a pass through to Filppula for a partial breakaway in Overtime, so he still had moments, and his quick release in the shootout delivered the second point for the Lightning.
Vinik may not have known this, but when he bought the Lightning he got ownership of the Carolina Hurricanes, too.
Ben Bishop stopped 48 of 51 shots for the victory. Whereas yesterday Ben wasn't a difference maker, tonight he was the first, second, and third stars for the Lightning. He made the big saves and a little luck and opportunism did the rest.
6:09 TB Barberio (1), (Killorn, Palat)(PP)
7:32 TB Palat (10), (St Louis, Johnson)
15:07 TB Kucherov (8), (Pyatt, Malone)
0:24 TB Purcell (10), (Gudas, Carle)
1:46 CAR Semin (9), (E. Staal)(PP)
05:40 CAR E. Staal (11), (unassisted)
8:12 TB Barberio (2), (Brewer, Palat)
6:14 CAR Hainsey (4), (Liles, Tlusty)
Mark Barberio and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
It was pretty clear in this one that the Lightning had zero left in the tank after the emotional game yesterday. They were already running on fumes having recently completed a string of games that had them traveling to the far corners of North America and back. Fortunately for the Lightning they got an excellent goaltending performance, Carolina didn't, and they got quite a lot of luck sprinkled in, too. A broken stick aided in the Lightning's first goal, the third and fifth goals had elements of fortuitous bounces in them, and the Lightning's fourth goal came off a misplay by Carolina's backup, Khudobin, after the Lightning chased the starter Peters (sorry, Tripp Tracy, you'll have to keep the Peters for Vezina balloon drop under wraps this time).
It's funny how some teams just have other team's numbers. For years the Lightning owned the Atlanta Thrashers just as for years the Ottawa Senators had the Lightning's. Recently, the Lightning have owned the Carolina Hurricanes, including a regular season concluding victory that knocked the Hurricanes out of playoff contention in one of those years. It's just one of those things. The Lightning have to really try to lose to Carolina, and as much as they did so tonight, they couldn't help but get 2 points. I'll take it, and the end result is that at the 50 game mark of the season the Lightning managed to collect 11 of the minimum 12 points they wanted out of segment 5 of the season. That means they retain 3 insurance points going into segment 6, which should see the return of Steven Stamkos around game 6 or 7 of the segment. So, they're very close to have surviving an injury that many thought would cripple the young club, which is a tribute to the players and coaching staff. Even more impressive, the victory today moves the Lightning into a tie again with Boston for the Atlantic Division lead, though the B's retain 2 games in hand. If they can stay even with Boston until A.) Stammer gets back in the lineup, and B.) Stammer gets the rust off, they've got a chance to go banner hunting. That's something to think about in March though. For now? They need to focus on getting at least 12 points out of the next 10 games.
Barberio had 2 goals and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 17:11. Stepping up into the PP spot vacated by the injured Victor Hedman, Barberio showed good awareness to spot that a Carolina defender had left to go to the bench after breaking their stick, leading him to jump up for a tap-in for his first NHL goal. He later benefited from some luck as a centering feed ricocheted to him in the high slot where he unleashed a low slapper that ramped up a Carolina defender's stick into the top corner for his second NHL goal. Congratulations to the young man. Yesterday, I think he had his best defensive game in the NHL and tonight he had his best offensive showing in the NHL. You hope it portends a big stretch run of the season.
J.P. Cote was -1 in 7:45. He got his pocket picked trying to move the puck at center ice, which led to Eric Staal's goal off a 2-on-1 that developed from it. Not good.
J.T. Brown had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:05. With the Lightning trying to weather the storm in the second half of the game, Brown's line with Kucherov and Thompson was the only line that seemed to really have their legs and they strung together some key forechecking shifts, including one after Carolina's third goal where they did everything but light the lamp.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:08. His goal came on another bit of luck with a deflected centering feed that bounded to him in the slot all alone for the quick release finish. If you're wondering, 8 goals in 27 games projects to 24 goals over 82. Not a bad rookie campaign, I should think.
Lightning waste what could've been a special day.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 32 shots for the loss. I thought he might want the last goal back, although it was apparently slightly deflected. Still, it was a long lazy point shot that he saw all the way in, and it highlighted the weakness in Bishop's game. That's why it's so imperative for the Lightning to block point shots for their netminder: he struggles on shots from distance. It was a rare game where I thought Bishop pulled a Lindback: he wasn't the reason they lost but he wasn't good enough to be a reason they won, either.
9:46 SJ Nieto (4), (Marleau, Wingels)
11:56 TB St Louis (22), (Johnson, Purcell)(PP)
12:52 SJ Marleau (21), (Nieto, Wingels)
15:44 TB St Louis (23), (Cote, Bishop)
19:30 TB St Louis (24), (Brown, Barberio)
2:07 TB St Louis (25), (Purcell, Johnson)(PP)
12:48 SJ Pavelski (23), (Kennedy, Demers)
13:09 SJ Pavelski (24), (Boyle, Marleau)(PP)
19:00 SJ Pavelski (25), (Irwin, Thornton)
Martin St. Louis was the game's first star. I think the Lightning, like their fans, got caught up in the moment with Marty matching Chris Kontos' record for goals in a game. Hopefully they gained a valuable lesson from it: San Jose didn't panic falling behind and simplified their game. They kept playing hard, used face-offs to leverage some more possession, and got pucks to the net. And, once they got the lead with 1 minute to go in the Third Period, they completely changed up their style to protect it. The Lightning got, maybe, 3 chances the rest of the way including a glorious opportunity by Martin St. Louis walking out of the corner that he shot wide. When he missed that chance, I had a sick feeling that was going to be the game. I wasn't wrong.
If you're looking for moral victories, the Lightning certainly showed how much they've improved since they got blown out in San Jose on that disastrous West Coast swing after the Stamkos injury. There is no column in the standings for moral victories, though, and today's loss guaranteed the team won't get 12 points out of this 5th 10 game segment of the season. They're fortunate they had 4 insurance points stored up, so they're still in good shape with 1 more game to go until segment #6, but mark my words: this is the most important 10-12 game stretch of the regular season coming up for the Lightning. They have another 7 or so games until Stamkos is likely to return and another 4-5 games of adjustment once he does. If they continue to leave points on the ice like they've done over the last 4-5 games, they will make things a lot harder for themselves in March and April. Now is the time to focus and nail down points, more than ever.
Mark Barberio had an assist and was +1 with 1 hot and 1 blocked shot in 17:04. Bookmark it: that was Barberio's best game in a Lightning jersey. He did well getting the puck up and out of his zone quickly and there were moments he seemed to be everywhere in the offensive half of the ice, including assisting on Marty's third goal. It's no coincidence his ice time shot up to over 17 minutes today. It was deserved.
J.P. Cote had an assist, 7 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 6:47. He assisted on Marty's second goal on a bank pass/clear hard up the boards to spring a breakaway and he fought Andrew Desjardins after Desjardins boarded Alex Killorn in the Third Period. So, I'd call it a productive 6:47.
J.T. Brown had an assist and 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:28. Dirty secret: I'm kind of certain that Marty's 3rd goal should've gone to J.T.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 1 hit in 11:22. He had a good shift in the Second Period with the Lightning pressing to gain a 3 goal lead, but as the game kept tightening up his ice time kept getting trimmed back. With Sustr being sent to Syracuse, Panik looks like he'll be the last mid-season graduation from prospect status on the site, and that could happen as early as Thursday against Ottawa.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 16:20. He has become one of Cooper's go-to's in tight games where he needs a goal, and deservedly so.