Shorthanded Lightning can't overcome the odds.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss. I'm not mad about the Jagr and Huberdeau goals and the Hudler goal was just crummy puck luck, but he was horribly off his angle on the Trocheck goal. He can't allow that goal in that spot given the pretext in this game. The Lightning had to get out of the First Period with a lead feeling good about themselves, and that softie was soul-destroying.
5:52 TB Johnson(14), (Nesterov, Palat)(PP)
13:36 FLA Trocheck(25), (Jokinen)
18:02 FLA Jagr(25), (Barkov, Huberdeau)(PP)
15:53 FLA Hudler(15), (Petrovic, Bjugstad)
4:02 FLA Huberdeau(15), (Barkov, Jagr)
16:48 TB Stamkos(36), (Boyle, Nesterov)(PP)
19:35 FLA Jokinen(17), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
It was just a tough spot for the Lightning to come into. Not only did they lose Stralman to the broken leg last night, but Kucherov also sat out today after getting nicked blocking a shot last night. There's one of your two best defensemen and one of your two most dynamic offensive players out going into a high stakes game against a rested game where the Lightning were on the back-to-back. Then, you throw on top of that the Lightning playing their youthful backup who, unfortunately, gives up a pretty soft goal after a fantastic start by the team. No chance. It was all down hill from there, and when the Panthers got the puck luck with the double deflection on the Hudler goal, it was pretty clear it was not to be Tampa Bay's night. Throw on top of that some... creative... officiating, and you have about three hours every Lightning fans wishes they could get back in their lives.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 in 5:57. I don't get the sparing way he's been used in his last two recalls. There's pretty much no point to having him with the big club if he's only going to get 10 shifts in a game like he did tonight. It doesn't benefit the player or the team.
Jonathan Marchessault was -2 with 2 shots in 16:01. I thought he had another strong game tonight, but his line struggled to get the payoff against Luongo. The game marks Marchessault's graduation from prospect status on the website, meaning he'll join Nesterov in the 2015-2016 Lightning class.
Victory... at a price.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the win. He was not at his best, but thankfully the team in front of him, more or less, was, as he drank again from the cool waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
8:54 NYI Nelson(25), (Strome, Bailey)
13:42 TB Kucherov(29), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:51 TB Namestnikov(14), (unassisted)
5:02 TB Stamkos(35), (Garrison, Kucherov)
5:25 NYI Prince(5), (unassisted)
16:18 NYI Boychuk(8), (Tavares, Bailey)
6:03 TB Sustr(3), (Garrison)
6:22 NYI Kulemin(7), (Nielsen, Hamonic)
10:09 TB Johnson(13), (Palat, Marchessault)
10:32 TB Garrison(5), (Palat, Marchessault)
18:35 TB Hedman(7), (Carle, Palat)(EN)
That was a wild game where the Lightning were dominant offensively, outshooting the Islanders 42-31 and probably outchancing them by an even greater margin, but never pulling away because of some defensive let downs and soft goaltending. In the end they deserved the 2 points for the night, and they got it. That's the good news.
The price was steep, however. Anton Stralman left the game in the First Period with what appeared to be a significant leg injury. Post game we've learned that Stralman has a broken leg, which barring an extremely deep playoff run may pretty much end Stralman's season. This team looked pretty bad just missing Jason Garrison from the lineup. They're ill-equipped to handle losing any of their top-4 defenseman, and losing Stralman will be an extra strain. And no, there isn't a callup from Syracuse who can help fill those shoes. That's a blow that may ultimately torpedo Cup hopes.
With the victory, the Lightning's magic number is cut to 5 points now with 6 games left to play in this segment. They've got a really tough draw tomorrow, though, having to face a rested Panthers team with first place in the division on the line in the wake of the Stralman injury. Maybe they just turn it over to Vasilevskiy tomorrow and hope the kid just does his thing and stands on his head. He's capable of it.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 assists, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 13:24. He was, in my opinion, the key man in the Johnson goal in the Third Period that gave the Lightning the breathing room to pull away in this one. His addition to the line with Johnson and Palat has been productive, and by freeing Kucherov to go play on Stamkos' line it's given the Lightning the scoring balance they have struggled to find over the past two years. Note how well this team has played offensively the past two games despite having veterans Filppula and Callahan out of the lineup due to injury. This is important for Cooper to understand: playing 51 and 24 as much as he has costs the Lightning possession and goals, and their identity is to have possession and be a potent offensive team. So, when Filppula and Callahan come back, one has to live in hope that Cooper uses them in more targeted roles as opposed to lavishing ice time in them in all situations, because it ends up being dead minutes. Either way, Marchessault's next NHL game this regular season will graduate him from prospect status on the website, and he appears to be peaking just ahead of that milestone.
Erik Condra obliterates everything you thought you knew about this team...
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the win. Honestly, I thought he was fighting it hard tonight and got the benefit of two posts early on. He may need to go back into five-hole rehab after that Helm goal, in fact. Fortunately, the puck luck early on went the Lightning's way and allowed them to settle into a pretty good defensive game that protected Ben while allowing him to drink from the waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
1:47 TB Condra(4), (Palat, Boyle)
9:55 TB Namestnikov(13), (Brown)
0:33 TB Stamkos(34), (Kucherov, Hedman)
8:08 DET Abdelkader(18), (Zetterberg, Kronwall)(PP)
15:25 DET Helm(12), (Datsyuk, Mantha)
17:42 TB Kucherov(28), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
1:03 TB Palat(14), (Johnson, Hedman)
16:56 TB Condra(5), (Boyle)
Erik Condra, Victor Hedman, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars. Yes, Erik Condra. And, what should terrify you more about the face that Condra had 2 goals is that he probably should've had 1-2 more. Try to think what a Condra hat trick would've done to the laws of time and space... and then thank your lucky stars tragedy was averted tonight.
Tonight's game was a convergence of them being on their possession game and getting the benefit of a lot of the puck luck. It wasn't a perfect game. They were sloppy at times with turnovers. Bishop was a little off, as noted. Alex Killorn looked like he was Magnus ver Magnussen in one of those strongman competitions pulling a semi truck behind him all game. But, on balance, they were on their possession game forechecking hard, their power play was actually not a liability tonight, and they got some breaks. That's a good formula for beating down a team 6-2, and one you'd hope will be repeated a few more times before all is said and done in the 2015-2016 campaign.
The win vaults the Lightning into a tie with the Panthers atop the Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay holding the big advantage in ROW. More importantly, with 7 games to go in the final 10 game set of the year, the Lightning have a magic number of 7 points to ease into the playoff comfortably. That's what you want. You want to be in comfortably at the end of 80 games with the chance to either go for a banner or rest some guys in the final 2 games of the regular season. The Lightning look to be back on track to do that, only needing to go .500 the next 7 games to hit the season target of 96 points.
Jonathan Marchessault was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:22. By my count he's now 2 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Bishop outlasts Domingue in goaltending duel to set franchise SO record.
Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout, handing down U of Maine Justice for a franchise record 15th time in a Lightning uniform. Arizona didn't have a ton of A chances, and he had some long stretches of inactivity, but he stood on his head in the Third Period and on two 5-on-3's in the Second Period to get his team with win tonight.
19:03 TB Palat(13), (Hedman, Killorn)
19:10 TB Kucherov(27), (Stamkos)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue was the third star. True, his soft goal allowed to Palat ended up being the difference in the game, but he can stay in the Western Conference, thank you very much. He's looked like Tony Esposito reincarnate the two times the Lightning have had to play him this season.
All-in-all, the Lightning put forth the effort they needed to tonight at even strength and especially on the penalty kill where they were masterful against an extremely good Arizona power play. Espo's Rule about not scoring on 5-on-3's held up. The Coyotes squandered a pair of them and, sure enough, they lost. In the half empty portion of the glass, the Lightning absolutely wet the bed on a 4 minute power play in the Third Period that begged to deliver the put away goal, but only delivered disappointment instead.
The Lightning pulled to within 2 points of the Atlantic Division lead, but more importantly, they cut their target number to 9 points. 9 points in the next 8 games and they should be in solid shape to make the playoffs comfortably. Get that and I'll be happy. Anything above that is gourmet gravy.
Jonathan Marchessault had 6 shots and 1 hit in 15:23 and was even pretty good when pressed into service on 3 faceoffs, going 67%. Tonight was a night where he played his game. Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. If he keeps doing that, good things will happen. He needs 3 more games to reach graduation from prospect status on the website. I doubt Cooper can sit him next time out with the way he played tonight.
Lightning take 40 minutes off... face the consequences.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for a fairly hard luck loss. He made several high-difficulty saves, but got precious little in the way of goal support.
13:34 TOR Carrick(1), (Holland, Greening)
6:33 TB Boyle(11), (Stralman)
9:07 TOR Smith(1), (Grabner, Michalek)
18:27 TOR Hyman(3), (Smith, Marincin)(EN)
19:47 TOR Parenteau(17), (unassisted)(EN)
This team is so bad, particularly on offense, when they try to get by just going through the motions. I thought they were flat the first 40 minutes tonight and tried to come back and win the game in one period, and that just can't cut it at the NHL level. 11 shots, total, through two periods is just awful. The only thing you'll win is a dog show with numbers like that.
Tampa Bay will now enter the final 10 game segment of the season needing at least 11 points to reach the season target at the end of 80 games. It's certainly do-able, but the team needs more consistent urgency and focus than it has shown the past week or two to close the deal.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 penalty minutes and 4 hits in 11:40. One shot attempt. One. I applaud the young man for having some abrasiveness to his game despite his small size, but that's not his game. If I had Jonathan Marchessault's shot, I'd start shooting from the team hotel and I wouldn't stop until they had to wrap my wrists in ice. Just saying. With 12 games left in the Lightning's season, Marchessault needs 4 more appearances to graduate from prospect status on the site.
One bad shift costs the Lightning a signature win.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the OT loss. He was excellent in the game, and it was a difficult game to be excellent in because it had long stretches of inactivity after which Bishop would have to make a Grade A save on a high quality chance. He deserved better than the finish.
0:10 BOS Marchand(34), (Bergeron, Krug)
Bishop was the game's second star.
Considering the setup to this game, with the clunker in Philly last night and Stralman missing the game, this was a strong, strong effort by the Lightning. They got everything but the result, which robs them of a richly deserved signature moment. This felt like a playoff game. "Playoff atmosphere" is an overused cliche in the regular season, but it would've actually been applied correctly tonight. Unfortunately, the Lightning just couldn't get anything past Gustavsson and one flat shift by the 4-man unit to start OT cost them, big time.
With 3 games left to play in this 10-game segment of the season, Tampa Bay needs just 1 more point to stay on minimum playoff pace. They also retain a lead in the Atlantic Division title chase based on the ROW tiebreaker and their game in hand on Boston.
There are just 15 games left to go in the regular season, and they'll be gone in the blink of an eye.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot in 11:05. Rookie defender in a 0-0 game all the way through regulation? He simply wasn't getting the ice time tonight under those circumstances.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot in 12:02. He had 5 other attempts on goal, though, that were either missed or blocked. So he was active in limited IT.
All good things...
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 39 shots for the loss. It was an unfortunate result for Andrei, because he was the only reason the Lightning had any chance at all tonight. He played really well.
4:07 TB Palat(11), (Koekkoek, Johnson)
16:51 PHI Gostisbehere(13), (Raffl, Couturier)
7:21 PHI Gostsbehere(14), (Giroux, Streit)(PP)
13:57 PHI B. Schenn(22), (Giroux, Simmonds)
14:53 TB Namestnikov(11), (Johnson, Kucherov)
19:33 PHI Simmonds(24), (B. Schenn)(EN)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
So ends the Lightning's franchise record 9-game winning streak. The Lightning got the goal early in the First Period and then played the role of spectator the rest of the night. They were flat, lifeless, and unfocused. They were second to loose pucks all night long, they were weak on their sticks, and their decision-making, positioning, and passing were remarkably poor. That's one of the worst games the Lightning have played in years, and would be easier to shrug off if, A.) They hadn't played poorly in their last game a stolen a win, and B.) They didn't have a good Boston team on a back-to-back tomorrow night. Just as concerning, as quickly and unexpectedly as Callahan and Killorn started playing well on Stamkos' line, that trio has gone back into the witness protection program again. Look, I love "The Triplets," but the Lightning will go as far as the vets like Stamkos and Callahan can take them, because they will have to give the Lightning the scoring balance they need to compete in the playoffs.
Get well soon Brayden Coburn and Andrej Sustr.
Slater Koekkoek had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:27.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:12. If you blinked, you probably missed him tonight. He's 7 games from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Jack Edwards' tears are sweet.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory.
6:01 BOS Miller(5), (Kemppainen, Ferraro)
11:19 TB Killorn(12), (Stralman, Callahan)(PP)
14:39 TB Callahan(9), (Killorn)
8:18 TB Callahan(10), (Stamkos, Stralman)(PP)
10:04 TB Stamkos(28), (unassisted)(PS)
Right now, the Lightning are playing fairly tight defense and they're pretty ruthless in capitalizing on their chances. The combination is absolutely potent, and these laughers where they build a 3 goal lead at the end of 40 minutes never get old. They're also really helpful on the front end of back-to-backs where you can conserve energy for the back end by playing an efficient Third Period. It's amazing how easy they made it look tonight given how close the two teams are in the standings, what was at stake, and the fact that Boston has been hell on earth for the Lightning over the past couple of decades.
With 20 games left to go in the season, the Lightning are 2 points back of the Panthers for the division lead. They're also 1 ahead in the win column and 4 ahead in ROW. Florida's margin is purely built on loser points, and I suspect Florida's recent flurry of trade acquisitions was prompted by the realization they're a paper tiger. Go get your banner, Lightning.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:56.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 15:17.
Making it look easy.
Ben Bishop stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout victory. He made a strong handful of situational saves in the Second Period when it was still a 1 goal game that allowed the Lightning to eventually pull away and make it a laugher. U of Maine Justice was served.
15:36 TB Killorn(11), (Stamkos, Callahan)
13:02 TB Palat(7), (Johnson)
18:54 TB Stamkos(27), (Stralman, Callahan)
11:12 TB Carle(2), (Palat, Sustr)
If the win against Arizona was workmanlike, this win was almost like a walk in the park. New Jersey had a little fight in them for about 30 minutes, but once they made that miscue with Henrique picking off his own d-man to produce the Palat goal to make it 2-0, it was over. From that point on the Lightning just put it in cruise control. Looked smooth and comfortable all the way to the finish line. Rarely has Bishop had to do so little in the last half of a game to keep a clean sheet. And, the Lightning did it with balance, with 2 goals a piece from the Stamkos and Palat lines.
The Stamkos line is such an interesting case. The TV guys have been throwing roses at Cooper for putting that line together, but it's the same trio that was the dog's breakfast most of the first half of the season. Their recent successes, to me, come down to Stamkos and Callahan simply playing a lot better. Stamkos, in this game, was as good as I've seen him in a long, long time. His goal on the long deflection was the kind of goal that's been notoriously absent from his repertoire this season, and I was really pleased to see it tonight. He used to get a ton of those long deflection goals with his hand eye coordination flashing through the edges of the high traffic areas.
I'm admittedly a little unsure and scared of living in a world where Matt Carle is both scoring and racking up pluses. It'd be an unmitigated positive thing if I didn't have a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me it was a sign of a coming apocalypse.
It wasn't all positives in the game, but close. The road power play continues to be quite stinky and Victor Hedman got dinged up in the Third Period with what appeared to be a hand/wrist injury. That bears watching because with Garrison already out, the Lightning really can't afford to lose another regular.
Jonathan Marchessault had 4 shots and 2 hits in 16:17. My feeling is tonight was right around the sweet spot for Jonathan, minutes-wise, to be effective.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots in 15:28. A quiet game is a good thing for Nikita right now. He's now 3 games from graduation from prospect status on the site. Marchessault is 8 games out, if anyone is counting.
Workmanlike effort keeps the Lightning on pace.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. His lone goal against was a little unlucky deflection on a point shot off a faceoff loss, otherwise this would've been a shutout. This was his sharpest performance in his past several starts, in my opinion.
12:38 TB Stamkos(26), (Callahan, Killorn)
19:55 TB Paquette(4), (unassisted)(PS)
4:06 AZ Martinook(8), (Stone, Doan)
Paquette's smooth finish on the penalty shot at the end of the Second Period was crucial to helping the Lightning fend off the smash and grab attempt by the Coyotes. Domingue played really well in net for Arizona and I think it's always tough for shooters when they have to go against a goaltender who catches righty. You tend to be hard wired to shoot for rebounds stick side from distance, especially coming off the right wing, and those shots get swallowed up easily by a wrong-handed netminder. Domingue had to be that good because the Lightning came out storming in the First Period and had a possession advantage they maintained for pretty much the entire game.
The victory caps this sixth 10-game segment of the season with a 4-game winning streak to put the Lightning at exactly the 12 points you ask for out of the set. So, while it looked more than dicey just a week ago, the Lightning remain exactly on the number they need to be on to make the playoffs comfortably. So, they advance on: 12 in 10, do it again.
Jonathan Marchessault played 12:54 and saw his 3-game point streak snapped.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:59. He looked so good tonight in the offensive zone, especially in the 4-on-4 situation. But, man alive, he looked so bad with the puck in his own end. He had a critical turnover in the Third Period passing blindly out of his corner that he's very fortunate Arizona didn't make more of. He's now 4 games shy of graduation from prospect status on the site, by my count.