Nesterov, Nikita

NHL Game Night: 1-5-16 Lightning at Flames

The hole gets deeper.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. Can't fault him for the goals (a 2-on-1 and a tip by an unmarked man in front). Can't fault him for the lack of goal support, either.

First Period
3:56 CGY Stajan (4), (Giordano, Brodie)

Second Period
15:30 CGY Jones (8), (Giordano)

Third Period
18:21 TB Stamkos (17), (Stralman, Filppula)
19:02 CGY Bouma (1), (Wideman, Russell)(EN)

They might as well have not gotten off the bus. They came out flat as a pancake, which they compounded with some pretty bad turnovers in the First Period. Calgary gets the early goal on the odd man rush, and from that point on the game never felt within reach. Calgary was too good defensively, and although the Lightning outshot the Flames 31-24, you could probably count the number of real scoring chances they had on one hand. The Lightning had nothing on the rush. Nothing off counters. No odd man rushes. And they were incapable of threading anything threatening through Calgary's defensive zone coverage inside the Flames zone. It was a clinic.

The Lightning finish Segment Four of the season with just 11 points in 10 games. Their overall season deficit climbs 1 point to 6 points overall at approximately the halfway point of the season. It's going to take a Herculean effort by the team in the second half just to make the postseason, and frankly they don't look like they have it in them. To reach 96 points, the Lightning have to play .643 hockey the rest of the way (with the extra 2 games at the end of the year factored in). That's pretty difficult stuff. What that means for the future of Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin, and a few others in the organization? Nothing good, I would venture to guess. The frustrating thing is the Lightning probably left 5 points on the ice in this segment between the collapse in Washington, the power play futility against Vancouver, and the poor shift after taking the lead in Toronto. The deficit could be a very manageable 2 points right now. Instead, it's gone up to 6, and the fat lady is already starting to warm up on January 5th.

Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:29. He's become sort of a power play specialist for the Lightning in the past couple of weeks, and when you get no power plays, the specialist's effectiveness tends to slide.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:45. He also had 4 other shot attempts he couldn't get on net. Calgary's defense climbed into his head with their shot blocking, and he ultimately froze on a great chance late in the game from the slot when he should've shot immediately. Not good.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-28-15 Canadiens at Lightning

Another opportunity slips away.

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TB-3 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 34 shots before allowing 2 of 3 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. The 5-hole goal he gave up to Flynn in the SO was abysmal.

First Period
15:58 MTL Plekanec (8), (Subban, Andrighetto)

Second Period
5:40 TB Kucherov (13), (Filppula, Stralman)(PP)
9:57 MTL Galchenyuk (9), (Markov, Petry)

Third Period
13:21 TB Garrison (4), (Killorn)
13:42 TB Callahan (5), (Filppula, Sustr)
14:14 MTL Weise (11), (Desharnais, Pacioretty)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
MTL- Flynn, Pacioretty
TB- Filppula

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

I would call tonight's contest another bizarre and regrettable exercise that the Lightning may live to regret when they're scratching for points in the standings later this year. The First Period was awful. The effort level was unacceptable and the team looked completely flat and unprepared to play a hockey game. They disrespected an opponent on a losing streak and they surrendered an early power play opportunity to them to allow them to build a ton of early momentum. They almost weathered it, but then Nesterov and Johnson got abused by two of Montreal's stars and the Lightning found themselves down 1-0 at the intermission. They probably deserved to be down 1-0 at the intermission, mind you, but it still hurts because they nearly got away with the flat start.

The Second Period was a case study in sheer frustration as the Lightning outshot Montreal 16-8 and outchanced them by an even wider ratio. Unfortunately, Condon was somehow making ten bell saves despite using the unorthodix thrashing around his crease like a dying fish technique. Kucherov was able to tie the game early in the frame on a greasy goal on the PP, but a temporary loss of coverage by Condra (one mistake) allowed Galchenyuk to quickly re-establish Montreal's margin.

The Third Period was one of the sloppiest displays of passing you'll ever see the Lightning put on the ice this season, and for the bulk of the final frame it looked like Montreal would coast to victory. Tampa Bay couldn't hit a break out pass to save their lives and Montreal was more than content to work the play below the Lightning goal line. Then, somehow, Garrison scored a wraparound goal on the rush and 20 seconds later a broken play led to Callahan potting one in an open side, and it looked like the Lightning might snatch victory for the jaws of defeat. Not so fast, as they came out flat the shift after the goal and lost coverage on Weise on a bang-bang goal in tight that was put on the board by replay. Oof. We head to Overtime.

The first half of Overtime was a textbook display of possession by the Lightning. They held onto the puck for nearly all of 2:30 seconds and developed some chances from the slot but couldn't finish. It could've easily been all over in that first half of OT, but the Lightning just couldn't find that moment to bear down and finish. Montreal then managed to surge at the end of OT where the Lightning had to survive some goal mouth scrambles before it headed to the Shootout where the Lightning suffer from a significant handicap.

That handicap: Ben Bishop's 5-hole. The book's out around the league. Galchenyuk nearly scored on Bishop's 5-hole on the Habs' first attempt and Flynn scored a laughably lazy shot through Bishop's 5-hole on the second attempt. It puts the Lightning in a situation where they're spotting opponents 1-2 goals in the SO every time. It's bad.

Like the Vancouver game, a big opportunity to grab points and set themselves up to cut into their overall season deficit goes by the board. Tampa Bay sits at 9 points through 7 games of Segment Four of the season. If they go .500 the rest of the way in the segment, they won't dig the hole any deeper, but the time is running out to slice into that 5 point season deficit and get firmly back in playoff position. That makes this next game against the Rangers, a really tough opponent, doubly huge.

Tyler Johnson was back tonight, along with Brian Boyle, but he looked rusty as a wrecked ocean liner at the bottom of the ocean. That was rough to watch.

Jonathan Marchessault was -2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:53. Johnson's return is going to seriously curtail Marchessault's ice time and role, and I don't know that the Lightning got quality for the trade off tonight, although it is obviously hugely important to knock the rust off Johnson.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:31. He was God awful against the rush tonight. Simply God awful. He was directly responsible for Montreal's opening goal and there were times tonight he looked more like a bullfighter (a really good one!) than a NHL defenseman. All he needed was the red cape. Ole!

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-26-15 Blue Jackets at Lightning

Apocalypse in Tampa.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory.

First Period
5:34 TB Blunden (2), (Sustr, Condra)
9:44 CBJ Bourque (1), (Jenner, Johansen)

Second Period
3:07 CBJ Hartnell (14), (Wennberg, Prout)
6:21 TB Stamkos (15), (Kucherov, Marchessault)(PP)
6:53 TB Stamkos (16), (Marchessault, Kucherov)(PP)
14:17 TB Nesterov (2), (Callahan, Stamkos)(PP)

Third Period
4:39 TB Garrison (3), (Blunden)

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Mike Blunden were the game's three stars.

Let it be noted that Nikita Nesterov brought about the apocalypse at 14:17 of the Second Period. One game removed from a tear stained 1 for 10 effort in defeat against the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored 3 power play goals in the Second Period tonight to break open a must-win game against Columbus. It also likely turned Tampa Bay into a lake of fire, because I'm pretty sure 3 power play goals by the Lightning is one of the signs of the end of days. Columbus opened the door by getting in severe penalty trouble with back-to-back 5-on-3's and later a major penalty on Scott Hartnell for running Ben Bishop, and lo and behold the Lightning power play actually made them pay for it. Good thing, too, because trailing 2-1 in the Second Period and being outshot by a decent margin, it looked like the Lightning needed the help.

Mind you, as exciting as the Lightning PP showing a pulse tonight was, nothing will beat the thrill of watching Vladislav Namestnikov beat the living daylights out of a man twice his size in Ryan Johansen. People forget Namestnikov had a rep as an instigator in junior, and they tend to sleep on him because of the Russian last name. He'll surprise you with his ability with the fisticuffs though, and he embarrassed the much bigger Johansen tonight.

Mike Angelidis was +1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 7:57. He was also 13% on 8 draws.

Jonathan Marchessault had 2 helpers and was -1 with 2 shots in 15:25. He looked very comfortable running the center point position on the 5-on-3's where he got his two apples.

Nesterov released the 4 Horsemen with his PP goal and had 2 shots and 2 hits in 16:57. Tonight was a night where he started to look like the same Nikita Nesterov who was such a positive story for the Lightning last season, and his goal celebration was flavorful.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-22-15 Canucks at Lightning

Lightning waste an opportunity to climb in the standings.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for the loss. I can't be mad at him. He gave them a chance with 2-3 really important saves in the Second Period.

First Period
15:57 VAN Baertschi (5), (Vrbata, Biega)

Second Period
19:38 TB Marchessault (5), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)

Third Period
11:09 VAN D. Sedin (16), (H. Sedin)

Jonathan Marchessault and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

First, the Lightning came out with a flat as a pancake First Period that they simply cannot have in the standings situation they're in. They only played energetic hockey for 40 minutes tonight and that just isn't good enough. Second, and most obviously, the power play went 1-for-10. There's the game right there. The first 6 chances on the PP were pretty putrid by the Lightning. They got the goal from Marchessault on the 7th and the 8th and 9th really fed on that and created the chances that the Lightning just couldn't bury, punctuated by one Stamkos crossbar. There's some good tape to study there, though. Marchessault, as a sniper in the slot/RW circle, helps the team develop a pressure point on the strong side of the ice and allows Stamkos to drift to the open area away from the play. That's how the Lightning power play needs to start to work. They can do that with Marchessault in that spot and they can do it with Tyler Johnson in that spot when he returns from injury. So, even though it's small solace right now, there's something to build off of despite how statistically ugly that performance was.

The kick in the pants is this game was a nice opportunity for the Lightning to close out this half of Segment Four of the season in great shape. They already had 6 points through the first 4 games and even 1 point would've put them in good shape to start to cut into their season deficit and get them back into playoff position. It's been a recurring pattern over the last 15 games: they've had their chances to do more than just tread water in the standings, and they just haven't been able to pull that one more win out to start to get their heads up above water. At some point, those chances will run out, though.

The Lightning, at least, will now take the holiday break to hopefully get a handful of their forwards out of the tub and back with the club with a must-win against Columbus coming up on Saturday.

Mike Angelidis had a 5 minute fighting major and 1 hit in 5:56. He was also 50% on 6 draws.

Marchessault had a goal and was -1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 19:03. He was also 67% on 6 draws. He played really well and displayed his best quality again: he's a pure sniper.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:03.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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