Kucherov, Nikita

NHL Game Night: 12-29-13 Rangers at Lightning

Turnovers and poor luck doom the Lightning in their last game of 2013.

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Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the loss. It was one of those Lindback games where he wasn't the reason the Lightning lost, but he couldn't make the 1-2 key saves to be the reason they won.

First Period
4:30 NYR Nash (7), (Stepan)
10:41 TB Johnson (10), (Purcell, Filppula)(PP)
16:05 TB Palat (6), (Gudas, Cote)
18:25 NYR Zuccarello (9), (Brassard, McDonagh)(PP)

Second Period
4:35 NYR Kreider, (Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh)(PP)
7:51 NYR Pouliot (7), (Brassard, Zuccarello)(PP)

Third Period
8:14 TB Filppula (14), (Purcell, Korobov)

Teddy Purcell was the game's third star.

The effort for the Lightning tonight was very good. They had good speed and the passing was better in 2 of 3 zones than against Montreal. However, they really struggled getting out of their own end with turnovers and they had some bad breaks between pucks bouncing in off d-men and unlucky penalties with sticks breaking off a faceoff. Outshooting New York 40-29 they probably deserved better, and looking back at this weekend they may regret only getting 1 point out of these 2 games with so many road games coming up.

Radko Gudas had a helper, 2 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:03. He had a rough night. His turnover led to the first Rangers goal. He had the second bounce in off his skate. Then on the third goal he got caught flat footed for Kreider's breakaway. He'll want to burn that game tape.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:58. He was relatively mistake free in a game where everyone else played like a dumpster fire with the puck in their own third. Go figure.

Tyler Johnson had a goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 20:43 and he was 53% on draws. New York had no answers for his line's speed.

Alex Killorn had 4 shots and 2 hits in 18:04. His line did well generating a lot of greasy goal opportunities in tight but couldn't cash.

Ondrej Palat had the quick release rebound goal and was +1 with 4 shots in 19:29. Again, that line was all over the Rangers like fire ants tonight.

J.P. Cote had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:37. I thought he was absolutely hosed on the high sticking call that resulted in the GWG. To my eyes, they basically called J.P. For hitting someone too hard (but cleanly).

J.T. Brown had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:45. He made one sweet play off the rush that nearly resulted in beating a d-man one on one for a goal, but all in all his line was off tonight.

Dmitry Korobov had a helper, his first NHL point, 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 10:35. His foot speed has really showed up as a liability in the 2 games this weekend.

Nikita Kucherov played 16:19. It was perhaps his first really ineffective game offensively as an NHLer.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 16:42. He was credited with 1 giveaway. It felt like there were more. I thought it was his poorest game at breakout passing this season.

Richard Panik had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 7:27. He and Pyatt looked strong on the puck early, but played sparingly after a couple of defensive zone turnovers.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-28-13 Canadiens at Lightning

Rusty Lightning salvage a point coming off the break.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots before allowing 1 of 2 shooters to convert for the SO loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
5:15 MTL Plekanec (13), (Gionta, Moen)
11:43 TB St Louis (17), (Johnson, Palat)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
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TB- NONE

Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's second and third stars.

It was a hangover from the holiday break, plain and simple. The team's legs were there but the timing/passing weren't. It was an awful showing for the first 30 minutes before the timing started coming back and they nearly stole 2 points with goaltending and some luck (posts). As it is, they stole an insurance point and move on to the Rangers tomorrow night.

Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:00. Gudas played huge minutes with both Salo and Brewer out. The D did hold Montreal to 21 shots although their chances were higher than that reflects.

Mark Barberio had 1 shot in 13:27. Dangerous in the O zone. Dangerous in the D zone.

Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +1 in 20:51. He was 53% on draws.

Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:01. His timing was clearly off early scuffing some good chances and he was on the wrong side of Plekanec driving the net on Montreal's goal.

Palat had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot. With all due respect to the SunSports crew that called Palat's star selection a surprise: you're blind. Palat was everywhere. 3 brilliant cross ice feeds for chances. Drawing 2 penalties. Sweeping a potential goal out of danger. Backchecking to defuse at least a couple other chances. Tonight the term "Ondrejpresent" was coined for good reason. He was a plus player for all 200 feet of the rink tonight.

J.P. Cote was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 10:43. They clearly hid him against a superior skating Montreal team.

J.T. Brown had 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:17. He creates greasy goal opportunities. Reliably.

Dmitry Korobov had 3 hits in 8:08. His skating was exposed by Montreal creating a 2-on-1 and hemming the Lightning in a majority of the shifts Korobov was out.

Nikita Kucherov had 1 shot in 16:58. He had a partial breakaway where he drew a penalty that should've been a penalty shot and another breakaway where he lost control of the puck going in. If he converted half of the breakaway chances he's had he'd be sitting on 4-5 more goals.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 18:05. I thought he played with a little more snarl as the game went on, realizing he can't keep up with Montreal's speed, so pin and seal with a little nasty.

Tonight was game 38, so we're fast approaching graduation from prospect status for several of these players. Not that I'm complaining, but there were 10 (10!) prospects in the lineup tonight. Amazing.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-23-13 Lightning at Panthers

Now THAT was a holiday treat!

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. He got the 3 goal lead, made a flurry of key stops toward the end of the Second Period, and the team got to throw it in cruise control the rest of the way. That's how you show the killer instinct to dispose of an inferior team.

First Period
18:56 FLA Bergenheim (5), (Barkov)(PP)
19:15 TB Killorn (9), (Filppula, Hedman)

Second Period
3:22 TB Johnson (9), (Hedman, St Louis)
8:01 TB Filppula (13), (Purcell, St Louis)(PP)
12:07 TB St Louis (16), (Palat)

Third Period
3:40 TB Brown (3), (Kucherov, Cote)
13:36 TB Brown (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)

Martin St. Louis, Valtteri Filppula, and Ben Bishop were the game's three stars.

This was billed as a clash of two of the hottest teams of the Eastern Conference. The Panthers saw this as an opportunity to make a statement in the last game before the holiday break in front of their home fans (all 3 of them). They made a statement all right. After a fairly even First Period the Lightning started to take territorial control in the Second Period, got a greasy goal to take the lead and the Panthers reacted to the slightest bit of adversity by absolutely dissolving. Undisciplined, stupid play helped the Lightning get a 3 goal lead at the end of the period, and they rewarded the 2 fans they had that stuck around for the final frame by absolutely laying down in the Third Period. They quit. No effort. Nil. Nada. Lightning fans, if you ever get to feeling down on your team, take a look downstate at that dumpster fire in Sunrise. Be glad you don't have to root for that bunch of lazy, unprofessional quitters.

The Lightning check into the holiday break having already secured the minimum 12 points they want from this 4th 10-game segment of the season. They'll get 3 games after the break to close out the segment and to try to rack up insurance points that may come in handy in January and into February. It's a fantastic spot to be in and a tribute to the guys that their record without one of the game's best players (Stamkos) is nearly identical as what their record was with Stamkos to start the year.

The victory also gives the Lightning the inaugural Governor's Cup, which can be now used to collect Bill Lindsay's tears, that I might drink of their sweet, sweet goodness.

Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:33. With Brewer out and Salo going down in the First Period, Gudas got the big minutes tonight.

Mark Barberio was +3 in 13:46. Two of those plusses came in garbage time in the Third Period after the Panthers chose to lay down. Again, with regard to Barberio's plus/minus, he's living a charmed life this season.

Tyler Johnson had the GWG and was +2 with 3 shots. He was also 54% on draws. He missed a second goal on a 1-time by just a dash, as well.

Alex Killorn was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 16:05. Killorn's goal 19 seconds after Bergenheim's gift from Carle completely negated the Panthers' momentum and set the stage for the Lightning to beat up their inner children all Second Period long.

Ondrej Palat had a helper and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:48. His nice feed to St. Louis on the 1-timer was almost for naught as Marty flubbed the shot, but he got just enough to put it in and get Ondrej on the scoresheet.

J.P. Cote had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 16:16. That, what, 2 assists in 3 games? They gave him #22 and he's putting up numbers like Dan Boyle. He's played mistake-free the past couple of games and he's consistently given the Lightning another big open ice hitter to go along with Gudas. As such, you've seen his ice time continue to go up with over 16 minutes tonight.

J.T. Brown had 2 goals and was +2 with 6 shots in 16:41. The Third Period, garbage time, was the Kucherov and Brownov show, with Brownov being the recipient of some great playmaking from Kucherov.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots in 16:04. He set up Brown's first goal with a great rush and move around the net and the second goal with an easy tap-in off a feed on a 2-on-1. In fact, it looked like he was going to be credited with Brown's first goal, but the scorekeepers realized only Kucherov shots from the high slot should count as regulation goals.

Andrej Sustr was +1 in 16:20. I'll be honest, although he hasn't made any egregious mistakes, it feels like he may be starting to hit a bit of a rookie wall. He's a slightly built guy and he's playing against guys with a lot more foot speed and upper body strength than him, and he's having a slightly rougher time keeping up 1-on-1. This break might be coming at a good time for him to rest and relax before heading out west.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-21-13 Hurricanes at Lightning

Large kitchen sink eventually crushes Justin Peters.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the OT win. I'm shocked Carolina even had 27 shots in this one. The game seemed totally slanted, especially during the first 30 minutes. Bishop could've read the paper, had a cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette, broke into Khabi's old stash of Pedialite, and still had time to shoot dice with Chief.

First Period
4:35 CAR Tlusty (5), (Dwyer, Nash)
16:12 TB Hedman (7), (Filppula, Killorn)

Second Period
10:11 CAR Tlusty (6), (Staal, Hainsey)(SH)

Third Period
7:56 TB St Louis (15), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)

Overtime
2:16 TB Gudas (2), (Thompson)

Victor Hedman was the game's second star. He has been outstanding since returning from injury. We're 36 games into the season and he's already set a career high with 7 goals. The Lightning are starting to look like they're in good hands with two young d-men like Hedman and Gudas with, hopefully, Koekkoek on the way. For the future, the picture was fuzzy a year ago, but it's looking a lot better right now.

The Lightning did an outstanding job of putting the work in tonight to deny Carolina the 2 points. Carolina played a classic road game getting a lot of timely saves from Peters and then cashing in on their few chances when they came. Against New Jersey, the Lightning fell into the trap of making mistakes trying to open up the offense even more to try to get goals back. Here, against Carolina, they just applied their system with more and more zest. They threw the kitchen sink at Peters, a nice one too. Like, a Toto or a Kohler. Not an American Standard. Vinik buys quality. And, they did it, for the most part, without compromising their defensive structure and eventually the pressure was just too much for the Canes to take.

And now, an aside about the Filppula one-timer goal that was waved off. Folks, the NHL needs to take a look at their replay rules. Right now there's a strict standard where a puck has to clearly be over the line to be counted a goal. However, some sort of allowance for common sense needs to be added to the criteria. Justin Peters gloved Filppula's shot and his glove was clearly inside the net when he did so. However, because the puck was concealed inside the glove, it could not be said in absolute terms whether the puck crossed. But folks, c'mon. If the puck's in the glove and the glove's over the goal line, you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce the puck is also over the goal line. There was a similar play a few years back where Shanahan concealed a puck under his glove in a game against the Rangers where the goal was also disallowed because you couldn't conclusively say where the puck was under the glove, even though the glove was completely in the net (should've been a PS for a skater covering the puck with a glove in the crease at a minimum, but I digress). The chances of this sort of scenario happening in a Stanley Cup Finals game at a critical juncture are slim, but the chance should make the league sweat a little, and if they're smart they'll create some wiggle room for the Toronto war room on these calls. Mind you, Toronto doubled down on the stupidity by saying the video conclusively proved the puck didn't cross the line tonight (it didn't), but the league office's bias again Tampa Bay (which is real) is a different issue.

6 games into this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning already have 10 of the minimum 12 points you want out of every 10-game segment. They have a real opportunity to packrat some points in these next 4 games that can help them get through January and into the time when Stamkos returns. This is a big bonus if the Lightning can capitalize on it.

Radko Gudas had the GWG, 4 penalty minutes, 5 shots, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 22:34. He atoned for his mistake on Tlusty's shorthanded goal, where he just made a poor decision to try to cross the ice to hold a puck in leading to a clean breakaway for Tlusty. And, he atoned in classic Radko Gudas style: atomize Jeff Skinner along the boards in his own end to spring a 2-on-1 and then blast a slapper past Peters with extreme velocity. I'm risking committing hockey sacrilege with this statement, but there's something reminiscent of Scott Stevens in how Gudas can change games by physically taking out your best players and his ability to chip in offensively, too.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 1 shot and he was 31% on draws in 19:08. It wasn't for lack of trying. His line, like every other line on the Lightning, was dangerous all night long.

Alex Killorn had a helper, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 18:00. His north-south game clicks well with Filppula's four-directional game. Very well.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 3 shots and 2 hits in 16:59. He's so crafty, his secondary nickname (besides Dr. Drej) might need to be Martha Stewart. When he has the puck, working with Marty, it's a good thing.

J.P. Cote had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:28. Two of his hits were of the bone-crunching variety and he had no boo boo's in this game that I detected. I'm a little squeamish about the trainers giving him Dan Boyle's #22, but all in all I'll take what the Lightning got out of him tonight. Hopefully they won't have to ask for too much more with Eric Brewer leaving tonight's game in the Second Period with an upper body injury after his arm got wrenched awkwardly.

J.T. Brown had 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:40. His work with Kucherov and Thompson is clicking right now, too.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 15:01. He gets a breakaway in pretty much every single game and he fails to complete it in every single game. I'm beginning to think he needs to stop and fire from his spot in the high slot. That's where all 3 of his goals have come from so far, after all.

Andrej Sustr had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 13:33. There were moments he seemed to have a hard time keeping up with the seemingly endless supply of Staals Carolina has, as well as Skinner, inside of the zone when they were really working his stop-starts hard. That said, he made arguably the biggest shot block of the Third Period to make sure the game got to OT for Gudas' heroics.

Richard Panik was -1 with 1 shot in 9:46. He had 1 or 2 decent shifts with Pyatt, who returned tonight off IR, but honestly the Lightning had 3 lines rolling so well the extra forwards were an afterthought.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-19-13 Predators at Lightning

Nashville almost got run out of the building.

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Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the victory. Christmas came early as the Lightning skaters finally gave him some goal support. Ho, ho, ho!

First Period
2:25 TB Killorn (8), (Hedman, Cote)
19:06 TB St Louis (14), (Salo, Killorn)(PP)

Second Period
6:36 NSH Smith (7), (Cullen, Weber)
08:27 TB Purcell (8), (Filppula, Carle)
13:02 NSH Smith (8), (Cullen , Ellis)(PP)
13:51 TB Panik (2), (Brewer, Sustr)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Alex Killorn, Lindback, and Valtteri Filppula were the game's three stars.

The scoreboard and shots on goal say this game was a lot closer than what the eyeball test said. The Lightning dominated territorially throughout this contest and clearly had the bulk of the scoring chances. They had so many opportunities to get a 3 goal lead and turn this into a complete squash that they just couldn't quite cash in. In the future, as they mature, they'll refine their killer instinct and get that last goal they need to put teams away early. As it is, I'm just pleased they put that steaming pile they played for 56 minutes in Long Island behind them and showed a much higher quality effort tonight.

This game marked the halfway point of the 4th 10-game segment of the Lightning's season, and they already have 8 of the minimum 12 points you want in each segment. They've got a really good opportunity to not only hit their target for this segment but also, if they keep the hammer down, to rebuild some of the insurance points they lost in the last segment when they had to burn 3 of the 4 they had earned in the first 20 games of the year. If you're wondering, the Lightning have ~20 games to get through before Steven Stamkos' rumored target to return. So the goal needs to be to continue to stay on target through about 60 games of the season when, after some time to knock off the rust, you hope Stamkos can re-add about 1 goal a game to the offense when he comes back (statistically, that's about what his absence has meant). That could make a good Lightning team a great Lightning team if they can pull it out, because it's like adding a 50-goal scorer at the trade deadline for F-R-E-E!

Radko Gudas was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 17:23. As expected, his ice time went down a bit with Hedman back in the lineup. He also had to deal with the frustration of having no star forwards to drive insane tonight because Nashville doesn't have one. Zing!

Tyler Johnson had 1 shot and was 44% on draws in 20:40. His line was crazy active tonight. They did everything but light the lamp offensively.

Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 5 shots in 17:56. We can officially declare any slump he was in to be deceased, because he could've easily had another goal and he was nice and active all night long. You could see it coming once he switched back to wing. This is obviously the role he's comfortable in.

Ondrej Palat had 2 shots and 2 hits in 21:37. He's a crafty one, that Ondrej Palat. He'll take your wallet, keys, and your girl if you're not looking. He's sneaky good with and without the puck.

J.T. Brown was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:33. He shows good chemistry with old Syracuse linemate Kucherov from time to time.

Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 3 shots on goal in 11:36. He got stopped on a breakaway in this one and was dangerous throughout the game both shooting and passing the puck. His stickhandling skill puts a tremendous amount of pressure on defenders, and will benefit his linemates even more than Kucherov at this level because teams will break down defensively trying to stop Kucherov, which will free up space for other guys. There's two other guys, Drouin and Namestnikov, waiting in the wings who also have that ability. It'll be fun. Trust me.

J.P. Cote had his first NHL point - an assist - and 2 hits in 9:43. He's 31 years old and he got his first NHL point. Nice stuff. He looked pretty poised with the puck on breakouts. Very quick and crisp moving it. He got absolutely torched by Hornqvist on a 1-on-1 play in the First Period, though, and was used very sparingly thereafter. The coaches will be easing him in slowly.

Andrej Sustr had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 11:02. He's another guy who should see his ice time reduced a bit with Hedman back.

Richard Panik had a goal and was +2 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:09. He's about as complicated to read as Highlights Magazine. You can tell within the first couple of shifts every night if he's got it, usually, and tonight it was obvious early he was going to do something. He got one deflection goal and nearly had another and popped Hornqvist pretty good at the benches at center ice in the Third Period. Cooper had him on late with Nashville with the 6th attacker out because I think Cooper wanted to try to get Panik another goal to really get him rolling. If he can get back on track, that'd be a big bonus for the Lightning.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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