Nesterov, Nikita

NHL Game Night: 2-26-16 Lightning at Devils

Making it look easy.

TB-4
NJ-0

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.

First Period
15:36 TB Killorn(11), (Stamkos, Callahan)

Second Period
13:02 TB Palat(7), (Johnson)
18:54 TB Stamkos(27), (Stralman, Callahan)

Third Period
11:12 TB Carle(2), (Palat, Sustr)

Bishop, Steven Stamkos, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-23-16 Coyotes at Lightning

Workmanlike effort keeps the Lightning on pace.

AZ-1
TB-2

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.

First Period
12:38 TB Stamkos(26), (Callahan, Killorn)

Second Period
19:55 TB Paquette(4), (unassisted)(PS)

Third Period
4:06 AZ Martinook(8), (Stone, Doan)

Ryan Callahan and Cedric Paquette were the game's first and second goals.

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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-21-16 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning come up big at winning time.

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CAR-2

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. He got fooled badly on Jordan's wraparound goal, but more than made up for it with a handful of amazing situational saves with under 3 minutes to go to preserve the win, punctuated by a rock solid right pad robbery in tight on Skinner with everything on the line. He was the difference in the game tonight, in my opinion.

First Period
11:10 Nordstrom(7). (J. Staal, Slavin)(SH)

Second Period
4:41 TB Brown(8), (Paquette, Sustr)
8:27 TB Callahan(7), (Stamkos, Nesterov)
12:59 CAR Jordan(1), (Skinner, Rask)

Third Period
14:17 TB Stamkos(25), (Johnson, Marchessault)(PP)
19:50 TB Callahan(8), (Palat, Paquette)(EN)

Steven Stamkos was the game's first star. How in the blue hell Bishop didn't get a star is worthy of a Congressional investigation.

Heading into the waning days of the month of February, the Lightning seem to recognize they're getting into the winning time of the season. In the last 48 hours, I think you're starting to see a level of focus up and down the lineup that hasn't quite been there all season. It's like they realized the season was on the line and they only barely slipped the noose against Winnipeg. The power play is still a hot mess, having allowed a SH goal in three straight games, but it produced the winner when the game was in the balance. Even better, you're starting to see the vets start to carry their weight more consistently with Callahan, in particular, finding the scoresheet again tonight. It's nice to have all the young guys like Kucherov and Palat producing, but the team will go as far as the likes of Stamkos, Callahan, and Filppula can take them by balancing out the scoring and giving them multiple lines to make teams worry about.

With one game left to go in this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning have earned 10 of 18 points. That means a win against Arizona on Tuesday night will clinch a successful segment and keep them on track for the playoffs despite their stumbles early in this 10-game set. That would be a huge accomplishment.

Jonathan Marchessault had a helper and was -1 with 4 hits in 17:30. He was also 33% on 6 draws. With Nikita Kucherov a surprise injury scratch, Marchessault went up on the top line with Palat and Johnson and he didn't look out of place. True, he made a poor play or two, including on the Jordan goal, but he figured mightily in the game winner and several other prime scoring chances.

Nikita Nesterov had a helper and 2 penalty minutes with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:23. He was a train wreck in the turnover department early in the game, but thankfully settled down as things wore on and he actually got involved physically with a few good pops. All that said... get well soon Jason Garrison.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-18-16 Jets at Lightning

Lightning manage to snatch their season from the jaws of an epic collapse.

WPG-5
TB-6 (SO)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 41 shots before stopping 4 of 5 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. I thought he was generally good on first shots in this game, but looked a little out of sorts on second opportunities. He made several key situational saves in Overtime to help keep the team alive. In the Shootout, I tend to have a lot of faith with Vasiy in net because he does tend to be so strong facing down first opportunities.

First Period
15:38 TB Hedman(6), (Brown)
17:52 TB Marchessault(7), (Killorn)
19:39 TB Stamkos(23), (Callahan, Sustr)

Second Period
13:45 WPG Myers(6), (Peluso, Lowry)

Third Period
2:00 TB Killorn(10), (Callahan)
6:01 WPG Shiefele(13), (Trouba)(PP)
7:33 WPG Ladd(14), (Armia)(SH)
12:44 WPG Ladd(15), (Schiefele)
14:40 WPG Perrault(9), (Wheeler, Byfuglien)
15:04 TB Kucherov(24), (unassisted)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
WPG- Ladd
TB- Callahan, Stamkos

Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

The Lightning ultimately got the result they needed out of tonight's game, but they hardly cloaked themselves in glory doing so. True, they opportunistically built a pair of 3 goals leads, including the all-important 3 goal lead in the Third Period, despite being on the wrong end of a shot disparity all night. That should've been enough, even despite a very poor power play night that included a blown Second Period 5-on-3 and a blown Overtime 4-on-3 opportunity. Only bad teams blow 3 goals leads in the Third Period, right? Well, the Lightning very nearly lost the game allowing 4 straight before a great individual effort shooting off the rush by Kucherov may have saved the season. Lucky, lucky, lucky, too. Lucky Winnipeg looks completely disorganized defensively and lucky Ondrej Pavelec brought his bullfighting cape to the crease tonight. The Lightning defense, in particular, looked like the completely took their foot off the gas in the Third Period with some very weak work leading to a pair of goals where they were manhandled physically by the bigger Jets. Was that because the Jets started running at the Lightning after Anton Stralman nearly beheaded Bryan Little on a neutral zone hit late in the Second Period? Hard to say. I do know this: I really hope Stralman doesn't face discipline for that head shot because I do not want to watch this team attempt to win a game with both he and Garrison unavailable.

Bottom line: I didn't see anything tonight that developed a wellspring of trust in this team. They still look to be teetering on the edge of disaster.

If any Matt Carle apologists trumpet his +2 to you tonight, remind them of the fable of the blind squirrel. Callahan, on the other hand, had a pair of nice finishes in regulation and OT, as if trying to earn his way out of membership in the imaginary Dead Money Trio. We shall see.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:59. Winnipeg's a rough matchup for a rookie because of their combination of size/speed. He didn't make any huge mistakes, but he also didn't get the amount of open ice he gets against other teams to utilize his skating ability. Mind you, had the Lightning not decided to implode in the Third Period, there might've been a lot of good developmental garbage time for Slater to eat up, but it was not to be. Lost opportunities.

Jonathan Marchessault had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots in 10:53. He remained aggressive tonight and was the recipient of a fine setup by Alex Killorn on his goal.

Nikita Nesterov was -1 in 9:03. Winnipeg's a really bad matchup for Nikita. That's all I'll say.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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