Nesterov, Nikita

NHL Game Night: 2-22-15 Lightning at Avalanche

Defense falls apart at the end of the road.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots. The stat line looks terrible but there was really only one goal I felt was one that he'd definitely want back. With that said, part of being an elite goaltender is keeping your team in contact and at least giving them a chance by making 1-2 key stops. He didn't do that tonight by allowing the team to fall behind by 3 in the Third Period, which is almost always a death sentence.

First Period
10:53 TB Palat (15), (Johnson)
16:21 COL MacKinnon (10), (Landeskog)

Second Period
3:10 COL MacKinnon (11), (O'Reilly, Barrie)
3:39 COL Duchene (16), (unassisted)
5:51 TB Johnson (23), (Kucherov, Killorn)
12:50 COL MacKinnon (12), (O'Reilly)

Third Period
7:20 COL Tanguay (16), (Everberg)
11:43 TB Connolly (12), (Filppula, Paquette)
18:58 TB Kucherov (23), (Johnson, Hedman)

In the universe I come from, if you score 4 goals and hold your opponent to 18 shots, you should win. The only time that doesn't happen is when you have self-inflicted wounds like really terrible turnovers against a skilled team. And, that's what happened tonight. This youthful defense the Lightning have patched together with Carle and Gudas out has been such a mixed bag. They'll play 2-3 decent games and then absolutely wet the bed like they did tonight. Nesterov, Barberio, and Hedman each had plays I think they'd want back, and it really burned the Lightning hard tonight.

Hedman's inclusion on the goat horn list is particularly vexing given what I've said about best players needing to be best players. So is Steven Stamkos checking in at -3 and 31% on draws. Were both guys so awful they should be traded? No, but as I've said those two guys really need to start being the Lightning's top players night in and night out. Stamkos is the engine that makes Callahan go, and the young defense just seems to go as Hedman goes. God bless the Palat/Johnson/Kucherov line, but I don't want them to have to carry the team in the playoffs and I don't want a guy like Stralman or Garrison to have to play over their head. Stamkos and Hedman are trophy-winning caliber talents who need to start playing like it. I'm not saying it to be mean or to run the guys out of town, it's just the expectations have to rise now.

It's too bad. Winning 4 of 5 on this road trip would've been a wildly successful outcome. 3 out of 5 is minimally acceptable, but leaving 2 winnable points on the ice like the team did tonight will ultimately cost them an Atlantic Division banner at the end of the year, barring them finding their next gear.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:29. He and Garrison got split on MacKinnon's first goal and he made the absolutely horrible turnover of Duchene's goal. That turnover gets you demoted on a lot of teams. As it is, it might get him a seat in the pressbox, at least.

Box scoreand extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-21-15 Lightning at Coyotes

Taking care of business in the desert.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the victory. One goaltender in the game made key saves at key junctures and the other was Mike Smith.

First Period
14:02 ARI Stone (3), (Erat, Korpikoski)

Second Period
6:45 TB Palat (13), (Callahan, Stralman)(PP)
14:31 TB Callahan (18), (Barberio, Stralman)

Third Period
3:27 TB Palat (14), (Hedman)
11:42 ARI Arcobello (11), (unassisted)
19:55 TB Stamkos (32), (Filppula, Garrison)(PP)(EN)

Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

The Lightning just asserted their will on the Coyotes in the Second Period and early Third Period to build a 3-1 lead and eventually take away the victory. It puts them in a position to cap off a very successful road trip that many other teams in the Eastern Conference were desperately hoping would critically wound Tampa Bay.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:19.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-19-15 Lightning at Ducks

Everytime the Lightning carry a 3 goal lead into the Second Intermission an angel gets its wings.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work after the First Period, but he made a handful of key saves over the course of the game to eventually allow the Lightning to stick this one in cruise control.

First Period
4:17 ANA Maroon (7), (Rakell, Palmieri)

Second Period
4:31 TB Stralman (4), (Boyle, Drouin)
5:55 TB Johnson (22), (Palat, Garrison)
18:05 TB Kucherov (22), (Stralman, Palat)
19:39 TB Stamkos (31), (Killorn, Sustr)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn were the game's first and third stars.

Both teams in this contest played a very loose First Period defensively and could've had a handful of goals. Anaheim had a chance to really grab the game by the throat with a two goal lead early when they got a 2-on-0 breakaway, but their failure to convert turned the game into a race to see who could make the adjustments first, defensively. The Lightning, emphatically, took the game by the throat in the middle frame outshooting the Ducks 20-5 and building the three goal lead that allowed them to glide through the last 20 minutes. I find the stress-free lifestyle that affords Lightning fans to be a very good thing.

Steven Stamkos had 6-7 scoring chances in this game and Victor Hedman, although silent offensively, ended up blocking 9 (9!) shots on defense after looking a little iffy on Anaheim's only marker. I'll say it again, when the Lightning's two best non-goalie players play like their best players, everything tends to flow from there.

At the 60 game mark, the Lightning have ended another successful 10-game segment with 78 points, meaning they have 6 insurance points headed into the 7th 10-game segment of the year. 12 in 10 do it again, as we officially move into the stretch run of the season and the final quarter of the regular year. On paper, they should be able to get off to a solid start to the segment as the final two games of the road trip are against opponents in Phoenix and Colorado that don't have the same level of quality as the first three opponents. But, you know, games are played on ice not on paper.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 3 hits in 16:57. He got caught flat footed on one breakaway allowed to the Ducks, but was otherwise efficient.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-17-15 Lightning at Kings

Lightning PP undermines them again.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He kept the game close and gave the Lightning a chance, particularly in the Second Period, but the team had no chance when he couldn't maintain contact by keeping out the third goal.

First Period
12:11 TB Nesterov (1), (Palat)

Second Period
7:04 LA Kopitar (12), (Lewis, McNabb)

Third Period
3:36 LA Nolan (4), (King, Shore)
13:59 LA Carter (16), (Doughty, King)
19:23 TB Johnson (21), (Kucherov, Hedman)

The Lightning power play, which has been around 12% for the past couple of months, is evidently < 3% on the backside of back-to-back games. < 3%? It's hard to imagine a professional power play that bad (sans, of course, Syracuse's). The power play is so bad right now, it actually generates momentum for the other team. It's inexcusably bad, in fact.

One night after stepping up and starting to take the bull by the horns, Steven Stamkos gets the puck taken off of him high in the offensive zone on the play that ended up transitioning into the Kings' lead goal. I don't mean to unfairly single anyone out, but he's got to be better.

Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:25. One night after his best performance of his young NHL career, he got crumpled behind his net in the First Period and subsequently co-donned the goat horns by backing down too much in the face of the rush on the Kings' lead goal.

Nikita Nesterov had his first NHL goal and was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits. It was a mixed bag of good and bad. Overall, you have to praise the assertiveness and whatever mistakes he made were mistakes of commission rather than tentative mistakes.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-15-15 Lightning at Sharks

The biggest win of the season thus far.

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Ben Bishop sparkled, allowing just 2 goals on 35 shots for the victory. He chose a good night to uncork a bottle of '13-'14 Bishop: an excellent vintage, for sure.

First Period
19:44 TB Stamkos (30), (Stralman, Filppula)

Second Period
7:12 TB Killorn (12), (Callahan, Stamkos)
10:27 SJ Couture (21), (Nieto, Irwin)

Third Period
0:10 TB Palat (12), (unassisted)
11:38 SJ Burns (15), (Marleau, Thornton)(PP)
16:19 TB Paquette (12), (Filppula, Garrison)
17:40 TB Callahan (17), (unassisted)(EN)

Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars. Remember what I wrote after the Blues game debacle? The part about the Lightning needing Hedman and Stamkos to step up and be the team's best players? Remember how I also said that when Stamkos is on his game, he makes Ryan Callahan so much better? Case it point: tonight. It wasn't the complete game from either player, but it was a good game from both Hedman and Stamkos, with Stamkos playing an integral role in manufacturing the Lightning's initial 2-0 lead and setting the tone for success. Along with Bishop playing well, you saw the triumvirate that could take the Lightning deep in the playoffs. If those three play well, the Lightning are almost impossible to beat, because it takes pressure off the d-corps and allows the ThatDisputedName/Triplets/AnotherLoveTKO line (I'm not getting into the middle of that mess) to be in a position where they just need to chip in 1 goal instead of carrying the bulk of the scoring load for the Lightning to win.

Beyond those top two lines, you also got a key insurance goal from Cedric Paquette and Jonathan Drouin looking incredibly dangerous all game long, including ringing a post that nearly put the Lightning up 3-0.

Luke Witkowski had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:52. To go through a game against the Sharks and play nearly 19 minutes and stay pretty unblemished is solid. It portends good things. Witkowski could be this Lightning team's Nolan Pratt. That's the type of guy you need if you want to win championships: a bottom pair guy who can go up and play second pair minutes when pressed into service and give you some grit, hustle, and steadiness.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:28. He got stone cold robbed of his first NHL goal by Niemi in the First Period.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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