On a night of farcical officiating, Espo's Rule holds true.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He made a couple of really key saves on the PK that allowed the Lightning to keep the game even and eventually pull away with the win.
13:32 TB Filppula (9), (Stamkos, Callahan)
0:11 TB Killorn (10), (Hedman, Filppula)
4:16 TB Boyle (9), (Connolly, Morrow)
8:09 VAN Corrado (1), (Burrows, Higgins)
17:34 TB Killorn (11), (Paquette, Hedman)(EN)
Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and Jason Garrison were the game's three stars. I'm shocked to see that neither Paul Devorski or Dan O'Halloran got tapped for the honor, because they clearly are the ones people buy tickets and show up to see (or so they appeared to think so, tonight).
The last 40 minutes of that game were an abomination, officiating-wise, from start to finish. I think the refs got paid by the call tonight, because they made a slew of ticky tack bookings that ultimately chopped the game up and made it less enjoyable. When you sprinkle in an icing call on the Boyle goal that probably shouldn't have been waved off and a couple of bad calls resulting in Canucks 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities, neither side can feel good about their treatment by the zebras tonight. Everybody has a hard night on the job, but those two periods were just B-A-D for the zebras.
Ultimately, though, Espo's Rule held up. Espo's Rule, simply stated, is that the team that fails to convert a 5-on-3 nearly always loses. Vancouver had a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities in this game and thanks to Bishop's goaltending on the first and some Radim Vrbata lumberjack-ery on the second, the Lightning got the kills and won the game. It's a good thing, too, because they did zippo with the power play opportunities they had, making this a much closer game than it should've been given the possession advantage the team mostly enjoyed.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and 2 penalty minutes to go with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 14:12. He was also 56% on draws and continues to be entrusted by Cooper when it comes to key shifts late in games.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 10:22.
Luke Witkowski had 2 blocked shots in 14:29 in his NHL debut. He wasn't terribly noticeable, which is a good thing for a rookie defenseman. If you did focus in on him, though, he did a good job of moving the puck quickly and not putting himself in bad positions where he'd have to make plays under duress. Smart man.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:39. He ended up having to be fitted for a full shield after taking a high stick.
All in all, between Witkowski, Nesterov, and Sustr, I thought this younger D-corps did well in their first sans-Carle, sans-Gudas test run. They held Vancouver to 1 goal and under 30 SOG's, and you can't complain to much about that result.
Misdemeanor theft in Tampa Bay.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 40 shots and stopped 2 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Put simply, he outdueled Varlamov to win this game for the Lightning.
1:58 TB Callahan (15), (Killorn, Stralman)(PP)
0:51 COL O'Reilly (8), (MacKinnon, Hejda)
4:08 TB Stralman (3), (Filppula)
19:53 COL MacKinnon (9), (Landeskog, Johnson)
TB- Kucherov, Callahan
Bishop and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and third stars.
Really, this was a game the Lightning probably didn't deserve to get points out of. Varlamov's second goal allowed was extremely soft, giving the Lightning a 1 goal lead that Bishop very nearly made stand up with some outstanding play. But, let's not delude ourselves. The Lightning looked pretty shabby the last 40 minutes of this game as the Avs upped their intensity level and the Lightning failed to match it. I think it's indicative of one of the major flaws that needs to be corrected before playoff time (even larger than the alleged "softness" flaw). The Lightning are built for speed and using that speed to create puck possession and protect their puck moving blueliners. When faster teams like the Oilers and Avs over the past couple of games get against the Lightning and are able to win races to 50/50 pucks, the Lightning are not good positionally without the puck in terms of gap control and separating the other team from the puck. They're not built for it and they're kind of clueless how to handle it, and it's just something that they'll need to continue to work on and get better with as they gain experience. Fortunately, as they do, they've got an elite caliber netminder in Ben Bishop at their backs.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:23. He was also 40% on draws. He was on the ice for MacKinnon's 6-on-5 greasy goal at the very end of regulation, but beyond that he was strong on the forecheck and the PK. Another plus night for #13.
Jonathan Drouin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:17. There was one shift where he undressed 3 of the 5 Avs on the ice and nearly set up a score. One of these days the coaching staff is going to find just the right combination/role to utilize the special talent this guy brings to the table.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:59. He took a puck to the face in the First Period that required stitches, but he gutted it out and had another good game contributing in all three zones.
Lightning put to bed an annoying stat.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. He made the big saves when necessary to give the team a chance to execute the comeback.
13:52 EDM Pouliot (9), (Nugent-Hopkins)(SH)
7:10 TB Stamkos (26), (Carle, Garrison)
19:02 EDM Pouliot (10), (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins)(PP)
1:33 TB Palat (10), (Kucherov, Johnson)
11:59 TB Palat (11), (Johnson, Nesterov)
The Lightning were flat as a pancake the first 40 minutes of play, but recovered in the final frame in time to win their first game this season after trailing at the Second Intermission. That's a stat I've been tired of seeing all year, and I'm happy to see it given a dirt nap courtesy of the victory tonight.
Through 46 games the Lightning have 60 points, meaning they're at the minimum number of points you want to be on pace for the playoffs with 4 more games in this segment to play with. So, again, how many insurance points will they back out of a possible 8 in those 4 games coming up?
Cedric Paquette had 2 shots and 3 hits in 17:12. That's a rookie who plays like a man, and as active as he's been the past couple of weeks, I keep expecting him to start popping in a goal here or there soon. He's due.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 15:49. He's assertive offensively and even when he makes mistakes defensively, he seems able to make hustle plays to mitigate the damage. He's quickly running Barberio out of the organization, in my opinion, because he looks like he might be the better long term bet of two very similar players, stylistically.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 11:10. That wasn't his most artful performance in terms of defensive plays and decision-making with the puck, in my opinion.
Lightning dare to put up a fight.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss.
9:23 TB Stamkos (24), (Palat, Kucherov)
16:42 BOS Marchand (12), (Soderberg, Krug)
10:55 TB Stamkos (25), (Palat, Nesterov)
15:24 BOS Pastrnak (3), (Lucic, Miller)
19:06 BOS Lucic (9), (Krejci, Seidenberg)
1:30 BOS Pastrnak (4), (Krug, Krejci)
14:18 TB Callahan (14), (Killorn, Barberio)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
This was an almost impossible mission for the Lightning tonight. They went into this game against a fresh Bruins team having played the night before in Philly. They were down their All-Star center (Johnson) and their best defenseman (Hedman). And Boston has been a place where the Lightning historically just don't play well. And, even when they do, something weird does them in (as it did tonight).
With all that going against them tonight, and with the Bruins on a 3 game winning streak, the Lightning lost a 1 goal game where the difference was a fluky goal. And, until late in the Second Period where the Lightning started to lose steam and that fluky goal happened, it's a game where the Lightning had the better of the play. Come the Third Period, with the Lightning skating with dead legs, Boston started to take the possession edge of the game and built up the 2 goal lead. At that point it would've been easy for the Lightning to pack it in, but then something happened that might make Lightning fans a little proud of the team.
Responding to seeing one of his teammates get boarded, Cedric Paquette had the audacity to shove mighty Zdeno Chara. Chara, naturally, sucker punched Paquette underneath the chin in the throat area dropping Cedric to the ice. It's an act which made Boston's NESN crew, led by the uber-classy Jack Edwards, pump up Chara's tires for being some kind of invincible warrior for bravely sucker punching a rookie. Yes, quite the feat of valor. I can see why they immediately ordered Chara's new medal. And, when said sucker-puncher was subsequently given a double minor for roughing, Edwards immediately started crying about the referees and generally carrying on about a rookie, Paquette, having the audacity to stand chest to chest with Chara. I mean, if you shove Zdeno Chara in the chest he has every right to sucker punch you in the chin and throat area, right. I mean, that's a totally symmetrical response, right? Wait, what? The refs said it wasn't!?
The game rolled on and there was another physical confrontation between J.T. Brown and David Krejci where Brown initiated dropping the gloves, upon which Edwards immediately excoriated Brown for thuggish behavior beyond the pale. You see, when Zdeno Chara sucker punches a guy in the throat, that makes Chara a world class gladiator worthy of being your son's role model ("Don't poke the bear! Grrrowl!"), but when another team's player drops the gloves first, partially in retaliation in a game that was getting a little physical/chippy, that makes them a thug. Hypocrisy, thy name is Jack Edwards! In any event, these two incidents gave the Lightning a jolt of adrenaline that helped them close the game to 1 goal and really make it interesting at the end. They picked up their hitting in the process and generally came together as a team in that moment, which is an emotionally galvanizing/team building instance in time that might've been lacking to this point of the season.
Note that in the process of that comeback bid, Edwards again showed what a colossal hypocrite and generally classless person he is by excoriating Paquette for throwing a completely clean and monstrously heavy open ice check in the neutral zone on a Bruins player. Citing that Paquette was somehow "standing over McQuaid" (he wasn't) Edwards began to attack Paquette as an unaccomplished player unworthy of the great honor of breathing the same air as a mighty Bruins player. Here's the thing, though:
You know what rookie Cedric Paquette accomplished tonight, Jack Edwards? He got your bummy rear end to talk about him for nearly an entire period of hockey and he got your best defenseman to chase him around for the entire final shift of a game where the Bruins were trying to protect a 1-goal lead. He furthermore so crawled under your team's skin that Brad Marchand was running his mouth about retribution in games later this season. In other words, he played his role to a tee. That'll keep him in the NHL because that's part of what makes for a valuable lower-line role player. Thanks for playing along, smart guy.
In the end, Jack Edwards, your mighty Bruins team only managed to beat a tired Lightning team on the tail end of a back-to-back with no Tyler Johnson and no Victor Hedman by a goal that Anton Stralman kicked into the back of his own net on a fluke play. Wow. Quite the accomplishment. Would you like your Stanley Cup celebratory champagne for that victory now, or maybe wait a couple of hours? I mean, surely Bettman will call off the season and hand you the silver chalice. At least, that's how you and the rest of the NESN crew acted at the end of the game.
The clown princes of the NHL sit in the press box in Boston, Massachusetts. This much I know for sure.
Paquette had 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 9:57, and made the entire city of Boston hate him. He's alright in my books. He took Boston's top defenseman off the ice for 4 minutes to give the Lightning a power play and defended a teammate on the first play, buried a Boston player with a great open ice hit on the second incident, and had Boston's best defenseman chasing him around the entire last shift of a 1-goal game when he should've been 100% focused on protecting a 1-goal lead. Now there's talk the Bruins may be chasing Cedric around the remaining 3 matchups this season? Gee, if I didn't know any better, I'd say he's playing the acerbic 4th liner role to perfection. That's how a guy like Paquette stays employed and stays paid in this league, last I checked.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:34. He had a really nice look on the PP in the First Period I was shocked he didn't finished and looked more engaged in that period than at any time in the Philly game.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper, his first NHL point, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:53. Kind of a mixed bag. He looked dynamic offensively at times, particularly in the First Period, but was a little more iffy in the defensive end with some of his decisions. Fortunately some of his mistakes he helped cover for with hustle. All in all, probably a game you'd say was more positive than negative, for sure.
So ends Evgeny Nabokov's NHL career?
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 13 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 3 on 12 shots the rest of the way. The fact Cooper didn't put Nabokov back in for the Third Period seems a bit telling, like perhaps this is the end of the road. Nabokov appeared to earn the start after playing reasonably well in his last outing, but he once again proved the Lightning just can't rely on him for even a mediocre start in back-to-back situations. Were it me, I'd highly consider calling up Kristers Gudlevskis to assume day-to-day practice duties as a waiver-exempt placeholder and then swap him with Andrei Vasilevskiy for planned starts, such as in upcoming back-to-backs. It could be a sad ending for Nabokov, who is probably one of the 4 or 5 best Russian goaltenders ever. The bottom dropped out quickly for him, though, a la Dwayne Roloson several years back.
6:12 PHI VandeVelde (3), (Schenn, Giroux)
10:26 TB Stamkos (23), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
16:15 PHI Umberger (7), (Read, Coburn)
1:45 PHI Voracek (17), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
2:36 PHI Bellemare (4), (VandeVelde, Del Zotto)
7:02 PHI Streit (5), (Schenn, Simmonds)(PP)
8:37 PHI Schenn (10), (Streit, Voracek)(PP)
15:01 PHI Raffl (11), (Laughton, Simmonds)
15:23 TB Boyle (8), (Paquette, Stralman)
1:20 TB Callahan (13), (Drouin, Filppula)(PP)
Adding injury to insult, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson left the game with lower body injuries, the former of which meant that Brian Boyle ended up having to take shifts on defense. Johnson's injury, which looked like a potential twisted knee, is particularly troubling. So, in addition to whatever happens (if anything) with the goaltending situation, you could see Vladislav Namestnikov called up to fill for Johnson and on defense, I'll guess Luke Witkowski would get the call and the coaching staff might try to slide one of their lefties playing the right side over to the left side.
This was a case where the Lightning got caught peeking ahead to Boston, didn't come out with their best effort, saw some soft goaltending, and allowed it to snowball out of control. Now they'll go into a place they seemingly never win with a depleted lineup after Bishop had to nearly play 2 periods of hockey in the back-to-back situation. So, a minor lapse of mental focus may snowball beyond a single hockey game, which is a lesson Cooper should stress to his team.
Cedric Paquette had a helper with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:32, as he got to fill some of Johnson's minutes. He was also 40% on draws. To his credit, he was still throwing checks and playing hard in garbage time on the Third Period, which isn't unexpected given his well-respected effort level.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 with 1 hit in 15:56. Zero shot attempts. None. The kid sneezes out assists, which is amazing for a guy who rarely even attempts to shoot the puck, and tells you how big a point producer he could be if he actually did.