Nesterov, Nikita

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.

NHL Game Day: 2-8-15 Ducks at Lightning

The opposite of Saturday.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. One of those goals was kicked in by Brian Boyle and another went in off of Anton Stralman's backside, so I'm not mad at Ben.

First Period
2:55 TB Boyle (11), (Hedman, Connolly)
13:42 TB Filppula (11), (Stamkos, Callahan)
18:52 TB Kucherov (20), (Johnson, Filppula)

Second Period
4:49 ANA Getzlaf (17), (Perry, Beleskey)
14:27 TB Boyle (12), (Connolly, Palat)

Third Period
6:14 TB Callahan (16), (Stamkos, Filppula)
14:57 ANA Vatanen (12), (Getzlaf, Bryzgalov)(PP)
17:26 ANA Brewer (1), (Thompson, Cogliano)

Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars. Honorable mention to Victor Hedman's scintillating play to start the game and set up the opening goal by Boyle. That play set the tone in the First Period and allowed the Lightning to jump out and never get caught.

What this game should prove to the Lightning is that when they put the effort in, they can beat anybody. Unlike yesterday's game, where the Lightning didn't put the effort into the First Period against the Kings and fell behind 3-0, they ran roughshod on the Ducks and got up 3-0, never looking back. Effort. It's essential at all times.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 blocked shots in 12:08. He had his first NHL fight against Maroon and held his own against a much bigger/stronger man. That's impressive for an ex-NCAA guy.

Nikita Nesterov was +3 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 12:50.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 2-7-15 Kings at Lightning

Whose idea was it to start a game at 5 pm?

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 9 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 20 shots the rest of the way. Sadly, Vasiy couldn't make that 1 more key stop he needed to give the team a real chance to complete the comeback bid.

First Period
1:33 LAK Toffoli (14), (unassisted)
12:30 LAK Williams (14), (Lewis, Muzzin)
19:58 LAK Doughty (5), (Regehr, Kopitar)

Second Period
0:58 TB Kucherov (19), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:34 TB Hedman (7), (Callahan)
7:46 LAK Williams (15), (Gaborik, Regehr)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.

The Lightning just didn't show up mentally until the game was already 3-0 at the end of the First Period. Chalk it up to the early start tonight, perhaps, but it was unacceptable. They need to be ready to go from the jump tomorrow against the Ducks or they'll have zero chance.

Luke Witkowski was +1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:22. He, unfortunately, fell down trying to backtrack on a Filppula turnover on the first goal against, but was otherwise quiet, as usual.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:15. He was very active on the first shift of the Second Period, with the resulting pressure ending up in Kucherov's goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-29-15 Red Wings at Lightning

Dump Trick!

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Ben Bishop rebounded from his subpar performance against Carolina to allow just 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He was very sharp after shaking off the All-Star Break hangover he had in the last outing.

First Period
2:03 TB Paquette (7), (Killorn, Garrison)
11:59 DET Helm (9), (Ericsson, Datsyuk)
19:23 TB Paquette (8), (Drouin, Killorn)

Second Period
4:18 TB Stamkos (27), (Stralman, Drouin)(PP)
11:03 TB Paquette (9), (unassisted)(SH)
17:39 TB Barberio (1), (Sustr, Johnson)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Cedric Paquette, Bishop, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars.

News of the Tampa Bay Lightning's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. As has occurred several times so far this season, this team seems to have the ability to raise their level of play to match the challenge at hand. Tonight they faced a Red Wings team that has been playing really well and had taken a 1 point lead on the Lightning in the division after a really poor performance against cellar-dwelling Carolina coming out of the All-Star Break. Momentum-wise, this appeared to be a tough mountain for the Lightning to climb.

But, in the end, the Lightning absolutely dominated the Red Wings. After a shaky First Period in which Ben Bishop had to play well to let his team overcome some turnover and defensive zone coverage issues, the Lightning took control of all facets of the game. Shots on goal. Scoring chances. Special teams play. They rolled the Red Wings, and sent Detroit (and their fans) back to Michigan with tails firmly tucked between their legs.

Tonight's victory put the Lightning at the end of the 5th 10-game segment of the season at 66 points, 6 points ahead of the minimum they need to have to be comfortably on pace for the playoffs. They gained 2 additional insurance points in this segment and are slowly inching their way to a position where their focus can turn from clinching the playoffs to loftier aspirations. It starts with the next 10-game segment and our well-worn mantra: "12 in 10, do it again."

Cedric Paquette had his first career hat trick and was +3 with 5 shots and 2 hits. He was also 67% on 12 draws. As noted a few games back, he looked due, and his goal against the Hurricanes appears to have opened up the floodgates in dramatic fashion. The man we affectionately call Dump Truck has 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website. I kind of wish he had hit the 41 game threshold for the season tonight, because tonight's performance would've been quite the mic drop moment for a prospect.

Jonathan Drouin had a pair of helpers and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:49. He rebounded from an awful turnover early in the game that led to Bishop having to bail him out on the ensuing 2-on-0 chance given to the Wings. From there, though, he was dangerous offensively and his line with Paquette and Killorn put all kinds of pressure on the Wings all night long. Drouin's got 2 more games to go until graduation from prospect status on the site.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot in 14:58. He got caught in no-man's land on Detroit's first goal, failing to pick up Helm as he circled from behind the Lightning net, and he had some defensive zone coverage issues. He's taken a little half step back in the past couple of games, which coupled with the improved play of Barberio tells me perhaps more seasoning needs to be in the cards for Nesterov.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-27-15 Lightning at Hurricanes

Hangover in Carolina.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss. This was one of the rare nights Bishop was clearly outplayed by his counterpart at the other end of the rink. His failure to make the Third Period save on Tlusty on a puck he should've gotten really put a fork in any Lightning hopes to pull it out tonight.

First Period
0:22 CAR E. Staal (16), (J. Staal)
6:05 CAR Gerbe (5), (Lindholm, Bellemore)
14:05 TB Paquette (6), (Drouin, Sustr)

Second Period
8:27 CAR Faulk (9), (J. Staal)(PP)
14:06 TB Boyle (10), (unassisted)(SH)

Third Period
7:53 CAR Tlusty (12), (Faulk, E. Staal)

Tonight was just a confluence of a number of things, and it's probably important not to overreact too much to the result, even though it's clearly a loss against an opponent the team should beat. First, and most obviously, the team had an All-Star Break hangover. It took them 8 minutes to get into the game, and the 2 goals they spotted the Hurricanes in that time period turned out to be the difference. That was aided by some bad puck luck against the team. Carolina's first two goals were of the very greasy variety. And then you had Bishop playing really subpar relative to his usual standards. You just have to expect those three things won't happen again with higher stakes against Detroit next time out.

Cedric Paquette had a goal and was +2 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 13:16. He was also 50% on draws. You could make an argument he was the Lightning's best player tonight, although that might be a low bar to clear. Paquette is now 2 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.

Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:19. He came out flying tonight, especially in the First Period. He had 5 attempted shots on goal, and he was rewarded with increased ice time. Drouin is now 3 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 15:56. I don't think he was as bad as the -2 indicates, but I also don't think he was influencing the game positively to the same degree he was leading into the break.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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