Nesterov, Nikita

NHL Game Night: 1-23-16 Lightning at Panthers

Lightning winning streak snapped in front of "full house" in Sunrise.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped all 4 shots he faced in the Third Period.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
8:50 FLA Huberdeau (8), (Barkov, Ekblad)
12:36 FLA Bjugstad (9), (Huberdeau)(PP)
15:56 FLA Smith (15), (unassisted)
17:33 FLA Trocheck (13), (Shaw, Jokinen)

Third Period
5:39 TB Hedman (4), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
15:52 FLA Campbell (4), (Bjugstad, Jagr)(EN)
18:31 TB Brown (4), (Boyle)

The Lightning were probably due for a little stock correction, and unfortunately it came tonight in a pretty big divisional game. Obviously, things came off the rails in the Second Period, compounded by some good puck luck for the Panthers that ultimately doomed the whole endeavor. Burn the tape, I say. The big thing is to not allow your loss after a long winning streak to balloon into a losing streak the way Chicago did when they went down to Sunrise last night. Get the focus and jump back and move on.

So with that said, rather than lambaste the team, I'll take this opportunity to have a little fun with the Florida Panthers organization. You see, the Panthers announced a sell out tonight... but anyone with two eyeballs saw a half empty arena. Yes, with a Saturday night contest with the Panthers in first place facing off against the team in second in the Atlantic Division and a playoff atmosphere on the ice, Panther Nation, stayed home. Mind you, Panther Nation is a lot like the Lock Ness monster and the sasquatch, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised they were difficult to see through the forest of empty red seats. I remain amazed that market still has a franchise given that it's even more deserving of a relocation dirt nap than Atlanta was, at this stage, but I digress. The really amazing thing to me is that the Panthers broadcast team of "Goldie" and "Peanut Butter" Potvin decided to crow at length about the Panthers winning in front of this amazing "full house" in Sunrise. Baghdad Bob would've been proud.

Gentlemen, if I may...

When Kenny Rogers, as Brady Hawkes in The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues, had 3 aces and 2 kings, THAT was a full house.

When President Obama gave his State of the Union address before the entire Legislative Branch of the United States government and numerous other invited dignitaries and guests, THAT was a full House.

When Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos raised three adorable young girls (two out of the three, anyway) in a house in San Francisco that there's no way in hell they could plausibly afford, THAT was a TV show called Full House.

STOP LYING and self-aggrandizing about how you had a sell out and played your game in front of a bristling, bustling "full house." We all know better. That's just SO Panthers. You win back-to-back home games against last year's Cup finalists, which should be your crowning moment of glory (supplanting your near annual trip to the front row of tables at the June draft) and what do you do? Put on the clown shoes... again. I suppose at least this time you didn't reach for the opaque plexiglass. Silver linings.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 15:10. It seemed like Cooper was trying to get him out with the Filppula line in front of him as a security blanket defensively, but that line got run roughshod over them tonight and therefore Nesterov was spending too much of the night on the run in his own zone. He doesn't excel with a guy on his back in his own end. He did, at least, draw a penalty with a good individual effort of his own on a rush in the First Period, so there's that.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-21-16 Blackhawks at Lightning

They're baaaaaaaaack, NHL!

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Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 18 shots for the victory. You could probably count the number of good chances CHI had in this game on one hand. It was a defensive masterpiece and Bishop got the benefit of having to face a surprisingly low amount of work tonight.

First Period
0:43 CHI Anisimov (17), (Kane)
7:14 TB Stralman (6), (Hedman, Filppula)

Second Period
16:39 TB Kucherov (20), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

In the battle of the unstoppable force (Chicago's 12-game winning streak) and the immovable object (Tampa Bay's fledgling 6-game winning streak) the unstoppable force found itself thrashed to pieces on the rocks of a complete 60 minute gem by the Lightning. The final score was 2-1, but without the heroics of Cory Crawford (third star) the Lightning could've won this game by about a 4-1 or 5-1 margin pretty easily. They outshot Chicago 33-18 on the night, denying the Blackhawks anything resembling possession and hounding them for every inch of open ice. The league is on notice now: after floundering for the first half of the year the defending Eastern Conference Champions are back, baby, and they might even be better this year. As mentioned in earlier game blogs, if you're an optimist you'll see the silver lining of the first half is that the Lightning have learned to play a far more defensively responsible game out of necessity that, when fused with their offensive firepower of a year ago, could be nearly unstoppable. Heck, the Lightning power play even looked dangerous on 3 of their 4 opportunities tonight and netted the eventual game winning goal. It's like the stars are aligning.

It's all very impressive, but 7 is a fluke and 8 is a streak.

If you're referring back to the 10-game segment mathematics, the win tonight means the Lightning will cut their season-long points pace deficit to not less than 4 points, and they have 3 more games left in this 10-game segment to cut that down even more or eliminate it altogether. And, guess what? The Lightning have cut the Florida Panthers' division lead to 1 point with a head-to-head matchup coming up on Saturday. Delicious. Pending the outcome of tomorrow's game between the Panthers and Blackhawks, the Lightning could have the opportunity to take over the top spot in the Atlantic in their next game and do so at the hands of their downstate little cousins. We sat through ~42 games of lukewarmness... give us this one, please, Lightning.

Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot in 8:29. He had one really good chance from the slot he nearly got five-hole on Crawford in the First Period. But, in a 1 goal game against the defending Stanley Cup champs, rookies aren't getting a ton of ice time.

Nikita Nesterov played 14:53. He didn't look all that great under physical duress against the Blackhawks forecheck, but he hung in there. And, offensively, he wasn't going for it as much tonight, in my opinion, understanding the situation of the game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-19-16 Oilers at Lightning

Lightning win 80's throwback night at Amalie.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the victory. Two short side goals and a whole lot of rebounds handed out. This was a rough outing for Vasilevskiy, and the silver lining is the team managed to find a way to pull it out for him anyway. That hasn't happened much for Lightning goaltenders this season, so the role reversal was a nice change of pace.

First Period
3:57 TB Nesterov (3), (Killorn, Sustr)
5:25 EDM Kassian (1), (Pakarinen)
16:57 TB Kucherov (19), (Johnson, Killorn)
19:26 EDM Letestu (7), (Nurse)(SH)

Second Period
6:09 TB Palat (4), (Namestnikov, Stamkos)
17:12 TB Namestnikov (10), (Palat, Stamkos)

Third Period
2:10 EDM Draisaitl (11), (Hall, Kassian)
4:29 EDM Pakarinen (4), (unassisted)
7:42 TB Boyle (9), (Coburn, Brown)(SH)
19:33 TB Killorn (8), (Kucherov)(EN)

Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

So, now that they've re-found their goal scoring groove, the Lightning got away with a night of pond hockey against Edmonton. That won't please Jon Cooper. Too many turnovers. Too many odd man rushes. Too many plays that weren't situationally smart, especially early in the Third Period. And, it was all compounded by some subpar goaltending. Maybe it's fitting that Edmonton was the opponent in a game that took a definite 1980's feel in the style department. I'm not inclined to freak out about it, because the Lightning haven't played many games this wide open all year, but they do need to get back to a responsible mindset with a beast like Chicago coming to town... because 6 is a fluke, 7 is a streak.

The good news: the Palat/Namestnikov/Stamkos line is the truth, and Kucherov is starting to pull Johnson and Killorn along with him to build a second, potent scoring line. The Lightning never had a second scoring line last season despite leading the league in goals. If they can piece two together down the stretch and into a presumptive playoff run, they'll be that much more dangerous in the postseason. And, if they ever find anything approaching consistency on the power play, well, that's the stuff of dreams and legends, isn't it?

Advancing to 6-0-0 in this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning now have 4 games to pay down/off their 6 point season deficit and get on firm pace to make the playoffs. There's still a lot of work to do, but even going .500 the next 4 games would put the Lightning in considerably better shape than they were after the stinker they laid in Calgary just a couple of weeks ago. Also, with the win, the Lightning have pulled to within 3 points of idle Florida for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with another head-to-head matchup between the two clubs coming up in 4 days.

"But Pete, don't you tell us to ignore the standings and keep an eye on the segment goals?" Yes, yes I do. But, I'm willing to forego that discipline on this one occasion because I really hate the Panthers with the intense burning heat of about 1,000 exploding suns and it would bring me infinite joy to pass them like a road cone on the way to the playoffs while they're still in the haze of the false euphoria of their precious little turn-of-the-year winning streak.

Bring forth the Governor's Cup and I shall use it as a chalice to hold the bitter tears of Panther fan(s), to be garnished by their broken dreams (and a lime)!

Nikita Nesterov had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 17:08. Nesterov certainly looked like he was in his element playing in a game this wide open. He really appeared to savor it.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-17-16 Panthers at Lightning

5 is a fluke. 6 is a streak.

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Ben Bishop sparkled down the stretch of the game, and ended up allowing just 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory in the duel with Luongo.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
4:21 TB Kucherov (17), (Nesterov, Stralman)
18:30 TB Sustr (2), (Garrison, Filppula)

Third Period
8:06 FLA Bjugstad (8), (Jokinen)
18:36 TB Kucherov (18), (Hedman)(EN)

Nikita Kucherov, Bishop, and Andrej Sustr were the game's three stars.

The Lightning controlled the bulk of this game, and the Panthers were very fortunate just to have a chance to pull the game out late. Tyler Johnson had the kill shot on his stick 2-3 times and just couldn't get it to go, including a rebound chance he chunked off the post that nearly ricocheted in anyway. Ultimately, though, the Lightning probably sealed the game on a marathon PK that saw the Lightning weather nearly the full 2 minutes in their own end and still maintain their positional discipline. It was majestic.

The Lightning advance to 5-0-0 in this 10-game segment of the season, and now have set themselves up with a chance to get on really solid footing for the playoff chase. In fact, with the Florida Panthers coming up on the schedule again in about a week, the team has a really unique opportunity to interject themselves fully into the division title hunt, as nobody in the Atlantic Division has really been all that consistent thus far this year. Edmonton is next on Tuesday, with the opportunity to hit the 12 point mark for this 10-game segment in a perfect 6 games.

Jonathan Marchessault had 2 shots and 1 hit in 8:45. In limited ice time, he looked dangerous offensively.

Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:28. He's terrifying to watch if teams get their forecheck on him in deep, but he's been excellent otherwise and he's been collecting pluses at a big clip lately.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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