Peca, Matthew

Peca Adjusts Quickly with Lightning

By Steven

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Matthew Peca is just eight games into his NHL career since being recalled from the Syracuse Crunch on Dec. 27, but he’s adjusting quickly to playing at the game’s highest level.

Peca has a goal and an assist and is averaging 12 minutes of ice time per game as the Lightning seek to close a six-point gap for the final wild card position in the Eastern Conference currently held by the Philadelphia Flyers.

NHL Game Night: 1-8-17 Lightning at Penguins

Better effort. Crushing result.

TB-2
PIT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)

Third Period
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)

For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.

Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.

Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 1-7-16 Lightning at Flyers

The Lightning's season is circling the drain.

TB-2
PHI-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 44 shots for the loss. He was markedly better today than his past couple of starts, but unfortunately he didn't get much support in front of him as the Lightning got outpossessed and outplayed at the skater positions.

First Period
5:34 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Nesterov)

Second Period
1:11 PHI Konecny (6), (Voracek, MacDonald)
8:42 PHI Couturier (7), (Provorov, Voracek)
9:51 PHI Raffl (8), (Giroux, Schultz)
16:44 TB Killorn (13), (Nesterov, Drouin)
17:41 PHI Gudas (2), (Schenn)

Third Period
NO SCORING

The Lightning just got whipped today. They got outshot 44-26 and the score reflected it. They simply played a flat game, lost most every 50/50 puck, and their passing was awful in all three zones. There's no excuse for this team to play this flat, given that they should be fighting for the playoff lives at the moment. We're getting very near to a point of no return from which the Lightning simply won't have a realistic chance to get back into it in the standings. You'd think you'd see the urgency because of that. Nope. This team, after two and a half years of heavy lifting, just looks out of gas. There's consequences (big roster changes) that come with that if that happens to be the case.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:29. I thought he played a really nice game this afternoon.

Matthew Peca was -2 in 13:07. He made a pretty horrendous turnover to Voracek at the end of the First Period that Vasilevskiy bailed him out of. Beyond that, it was his second straight subpar outing. He's probably not much longer for the NHL on this callup stint if this keeps up.

Adam Erne had 3 shots and 3 hits in 8:36. He played another nice game today. He had some big hits, stole the puck to create a scoring chance for a teammate in the offensive zone on another play, and drew a penalty getting hooked on a breakaway on another play. He was one of the few Lightning players who looked like he had energy today.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-5-17 Predators at Lightning

Awful goaltending hands Lightning failure.

NSH-6
TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Three of those goals were of the awful variety, and the third goal, which came as the Lightning were mounting a push to try to knot the game at 2-2, was an absolute back breaker. Hockey is a frustrating, terrible sport when you're the victim of bad goaltending and your team has to work five times harder to get a goal, which is what happened tonight.

First Period
2:25 NSH Fisher (11), (Johansen, Ekholm)(PP)

Second Period
3:56 NSH Forsberg (9), (Fiala, Johansen)
6:12 TB Johnson (12), (Hedman, Killorn)
13:21 NSH Sissons (3), (Fisher)
14:04 NSH Ellis (5), (Wilson, Arvidsson)

Third Period
14:02 NSH Sissons (4), (Jarnkrok)(EN)
17:00 NSH Sissons (5), (Jarnkrok, Bitetto)

The Lightning actually had a decent night in terms of raw puck possession stats. It wasn't equaling a ton of scoring chances, but the game was not nearly the lopsided disaster the score indicates... except that the goaltending was terrible. That's been the biggest difference between this Lightning team and those of the recent past. Even when Bishop was healthy earlier this year the Lightning were not getting consistent goaltending. They have to hope and pray when he returns that he will re-find some of his Vezina candidate caliber form. Without it, they haven't got a prayer.

The Lightning failed to get 12 points for a second 10-game segment of the year, getting just 10 points in this one after managing just 7 points the previous segment. At the roughly midway point of the campaign, they're a full 6 points off comfortable playoff pace, meaning they'll have to play at least .675 hockey the rest of the way to get there safely. That's not impossible, but it's incredibly difficult and pretty much a fool's errand to try without good goaltending.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:29.

Matthew Peca was -2 with 2 hits in 11:17. He was also 56% on 9 draws. This was the first night of his NHL stint that he wasn't really a noticable positive in the lineup.

Adam Erne was -2 with 1 shot and 6 hits in 14:59. He continues to look the part and made a swooping power forward move off the right wing that was a bright spot in a fairly abysmal night.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-3-17 Jets at Lightning

Lightning crumble under Jets forecheck.

WPG-6
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 33 shots for the loss. He made a lot of big saves on odd man rushes and breakaways, but at the end of the day his 4th goal allowed to Byfuglien, which was extremely soft, ended up being the critical margin (empty netter excluded) as soft goals often are.

First Period
7:25 WPF Scheifele (16), (Laine, Enstrom)(PP)

Second Period
3:43 TB Peca (1), (Namestnikov, Killorn)
4:30 WPG Ehlers (11), (unassisted)(PS)
5:19 WPG Trouba (2), (Perrault, Wheeler)
14:44 WPG Byfuglien (5), (Morrissey, Wheeler)

Third Period
3:26 TB Palat (7), (Johnson, Kucherov)
9:28 WPG Ehlers (12), (Laine, Trouba)
12:22 TB Kucherov (14), (Johnson, Hedman)(PP)
17:29 TB Kucherov (15), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
18:37 WPG Laine (20), (Scheifele, Ehlers)(EN)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's second star.

The Lightning were by far and away the better team in this game for the first 24 minutes of hockey before the bottom dropped out. The other 36 minutes were absolutely embarrassing as Winnipeg's forecheck ran roughshod over Tampa Bay and revealed a lot of coverage and puck moving mistakes. It's disappointing.

The Lightning now must defeat Nashville in the segment four finale to avoid digging their season playoff pace deficit of 4 points any deeper. This Winnipeg game was very winnable on paper and would've given the team a chance to trim their deficit. Now there's a very real possibility the hole will be even deeper at the season's midway point, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. I mean, I could complain about the dubious nature of the Ehlers penalty shot goal given it wasn't really a clear breakaway and more of a partial break, in my view, but I can't muster outrage against the refs considering the team allowed themselves to get run over the rest of the night.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 13:57. His lack of development this season has been an unfortunate impediment for the team. They desperately could use a big, consistent, mobile puck mover. Koekkoek has all the athletic tools to be that, but it just hasn't settled down and come together for him yet.

Matthew Peca scored his first NHL goal and 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:33. He was also 50% on 10 draws. His goal showed off one of his strengths coming up from the NCAA out of Quinnipiac. He's very dangerous off the rush and his wrister coming in off the wing for the score was beautiful. I say it again: he's really helped replace a lot of what the team could have lost with the Point injury.

Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 12:03. He had a very impressive debut despite the inauspicious stat line. Clearly, you can see the athletic gifts he brings to the game. He's a very good skater for such a big game with a surprisingly strong, swooping stride, and he's a very good offensive player from the hashmarks down. He had a chance on a rebound he overskated and nearly set up Bournival for a goal on a nice move peeling out of the corner but was a little off on his pass. He's going to be an NHL'er. There's little doubt of that. You could see that in tonight's game. The question is whether he can put all of his gifts together consistently to becoming a scoring line contributor.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-31-16 Hurricanes at Lightning

Lightning get key, clinical win.

CAR-1
TB-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 22 shots for the win. After stealing the point against Toronto, he might be due to go on a little hot streak here.

First Period
7:35 TB Boyle (10), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
19:50 TB Drouin (11), (Kucherov, Palat)(PP)

Second Period
13:22 TB Killorn (12), (Peca, Hedman)
15:20 CAR Aho (7), (Slavin, Teravianen)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Jonathan Drouin, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

With points at a premium after lacking the gas to deal appropriately with Toronto, the Lightning made sure they took care of business against a beatable Carolina club. It may have cost them Brian Boyle as the injury bug continues his rampage unabated, but the Lightning got another key win tonight. With 2 games left to play in this 10 game segment of the season, Tampa Bay needs 2 points to clinch a successful segment with the possibility of trimming 1-2 points off their season playoff pace deficit hanging out there as a real possibility.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 9:47.

Matthew Peca had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 2 hits in 12:05. He was also 50% on 8 draws. His style of game is helping to alleviate some of the stress from the injury to Brayden Point

Yanni Gourde was scoreless in 8:12.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-29-16 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Vasilarceny pilfers one point.

TOR-3
TB-2 (OT)

Andre Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the OT loss. Under siege most of the night, he turned in a plus performance to deliver the Lightning at least a single point.

First Period
14:46 TOR Matthews (18), (Hyman)

Second Period
9:26 TOR Bozak (7), (van Riemsdyk, Zaitsev)
12:12 TB Boyle (9), (Drouin, Sustr)
17:38 TB Palat (6), (Kucherov)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
3:37 TOR Kadri (13), (Nylander, Matthews)(PP)

Brian Boyle was the game's second star.

It's a young man's sport, and with both teams coming in on the latter half of a back-to-back, the youthful Leafs had the legs. The Lightning's fatigue started to kick in the second half of the Second Period and the team came completely unglued in the Third Period as tired legs began to manifest themselves in copious mental mistakes. Only Vasilevskiy's goaltending and a couple of opportunistic goals allowed the Lightning to pull out a point, which is still a positive result. If the Lightning can win 2 of the next 3, they'll succeed in at least hitting 12 points for this 10-game segment of the season. Given all the injuries over the past couple of weeks, simply not digging the hole deeper is a virtual win.

An aside about the goaltending interference call in OT. No chance. Filppula got a step around the corner and had the Leafs defender with his stick and one arm wrapped around his body turning him and the free hand pushing him from behind. If the roles had been reversed, there's no way the Leafs would've been called for goaltender interference on that play. No chance. It was complete baloney and ultimately took away a chance for the Lightning to steal the second point in this game.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:32.

Matthew Peca had 2 shots and 1 hit and was 45% on 11 draws in 13:52. He played on a kid line with Gourde all night with some spare power play time, so it was more of a checking/energy role tonight for Peca. He did decent, after a rough first few shifts that included a turnover and a bloodied nose.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot in 9:49. He was one of the few Lightning players with energy in the Third Period and had at least one key forechecking shift that made it possible for the Lightning to release some pressure and limp out of regulation with a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-28-16 Canadiens at Lightning

Lightning soar from the ashes for turning point victory.

MTL-3
TB-4 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the win. Let's be real: Vasilevskiy's teammates got him off the hook tonight. His puckhandling gaffe in the First Period is the kind of mistake that almost always ends up being the margin of losing in a game like this. Vasilevskiy worked very hard on his puckhandling and awareness around the cage in the offseason and showed glimmers of improvement early in the year, but he's slid back pretty hard in those areas recently. He's got to cut those soft and semi-soft goals that come from mistakes around the back of his cage out of his game. Immediately.

First Period
3:24 MTL Radulov (7), (Byron)
10:39 TB Johnson (10), (Kucherov, Palat)
13:31 MTL Weber (9), (Byron, Pacioretty)(PP)

Second Period
3:07 MTL Terry (2), (Carr, McCarron)

Third Period
11:14 TB Hedman (7), (Kucherov)
16:30 TB Palat (5), (Hedman, Point)(PP)

Overtime
1:36 TB Johnson (11), (Garrison, Vasilevskiy)

Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.

This was a game where there were a lot of positive things being accomplished by the Lightning through the first 50 minutes of it, and yet it seemed the team was destined for tragedy nonetheless. They had a little rust in the First Period from so many guys returning from injury, but all in all they played Montreal pretty even and only Vasilevskiy's mistake was the margin that put them in a one goal hole. I thought they methodically took control of the game at even strength in the Second Period, but got an opportunistic counterattack goal scored on them after some great goaltending by Price, and heading into Second Intermission down two goals, things looked dire. For this team to find a way to scratch within one goal and get the tying goal on the power play when they absolutely had to have it may very well be the turning point of the season. They still have to follow this up with a result against Toronto tomorrow night, but at this hour you can see a little light at the end of the tunnel after a long, miserable last month and a half of dealing with injuries and inconsistency.

A brief note on the officiating in the Third Period. First, Shea Weber darn near killed Vladislav Namestnikov on a play where he pretty much lawn darted him head first into the boards crossing the Montreal blueline. Was it charging? Yes. Weber moved from the center of the ice all the way over to the boards with several strides with the intent of putting Namestnikov in a body bag. The only thing I think that mitigated the situation from an officiating standpoint is that Weber didn't gallop over there at full speed or leave his feet to land the hit. And, frankly, Namestnikov did a really poor job of protecting himself in that situation knowing Montreal has a few killers on their backline. Should there have been a call there? Yep. Game misconduct? I don't know about that. Supplemental discipline? If what DeHaan did to Drouin earlier this season didn't merit a suspension, I'm not sure you can make this case this does. DeHaan, from the high angle camera, clearly went in with an elbow to Drouin's head. Weber's hit was a hockey hit, albeit one executed with too many strides beforehand. I've seen guys get away with worse against the Lightning earlier this year, so I'm not sure Weber's going to get the book thrown at him for this, and I'm not sure I can muster the same level of outrage about this one as I can about those other calls. Second, the too many men call: Cooper and the coaching staff were being slick and nearly pulled it off sending Kucherov off the bench for the hop off breakaway, but I do think Boyle was too far away from the bench and I think that given the play did result in a breakaway the refs had to call it. If the situation had been reversed, I do think we'd be really upset if the other team got away with having a guy 15 feet from the bench on that play when his replacement hopped on. So, neither of those may be the popular opinions, but they're honest ones, at least. Now, would we have gotten that call if the roles were reversed given the latent pro-Montreal bias in the officiating corps? That's a debate for another night.

The Lightning HAD to have the win tonight. With Kucherov, Palat, and a partridge in a pear tree returning from injured reserve, and the standings math being what it is, they needed to get points out of this game. Thank goodness they pulled them out. When you find yourself in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. For the Lightning, that meant at least getting 12 points out of this 10 game segment of the season and not making the 4 point deficit behind playoff pace any worse. A loss tonight would've put the Lightning in the unenviable position of needing 7 out of 8 possible points over the next 4 games to make that meager goal possible. Now they just need 5 out of 8, which is very do-able, and you hope they can clinch that in the next 3 games and have that 4th game to try to "pay down the debt," so to speak, as they try to get their playoff hopes fully recovered. So, big win. Now whip Toronto and put yourselves in an even better position.

Brayden Point had a helper and was -2 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 19:33. He was also a gaudy 73% on 11 draws in the circles.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:31.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot and 2 hits and was 50% on 12 draws in 13:03 in his NHL debut. I was impressed. Truly. If there's one silver lining to Namestnikov getting his clock cleaned, it may be a little longer look at Peca. You saw some of the concerns with his game tonight, specifically where he got ragdolled off the puck a little because of his small size, but overall there's a lot to work with there because I think he's got such a wide ranging skill set. Coming out of Quinnipiac, he always displayed a lot more speed and creativity than he's shown consistently, in my opinion, in Syracuse. I think that's because he's been a very malleable player as a pro in that he will morph his game to suit the role and the linemates he's put together with. So, when he got an opportunity to play with speedy skilled players like Drouin, for instance, he was able to keep up. He showed his speed and his creativity on top of the fact that he is willing to at least get his nose dirty along the wall even if he may lose some battles because of his lack of size. He's a guy I can honestly see thriving anywhere you put him on the third or fourth line and he can even do spot duty, convincingly, on the second line. The ceiling's just a lot higher than Vermin or Richard or some of the other recent recalls, in my opinion, and that's why I'm pretty excited about what I saw tonight. I think his debut hints at some exciting possibilities and a guy who could be a leadership piece among the next wave of youngsters with half of Team Canada's WJC team seemingly coming into the organization starting next year to mix in with him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-17-16 Crunch at Sound Tigers

Saturday night's alright for fighting.

SYR-5
BRI-3

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 13 shots before getting booted from the contest for fighting. Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 10 shots the rest of the way in cleanup duty to claim the rare bird that is the backdoor win.

First Period
14:01 SYR Hart (2), (Thomas, Peca)(PP)
14:47 SYR Gourde (8), (Brodeur, Bournival)
15:03 SYR Morin (4), (Dotchin, Taormina)

Second Period
9:24 BRI Gionta (1), (K. Jones, C. Jones)
14:05 BRI Pulock (1), (Toews, Kearns)
17:32 BRI Mayfield (2), (Kearns, St. Denis)
19:56 SYR Halmo (7), (Taormina, Gourde)

Third Period
5:53 SYR Comrie (2), (Taormina, Peca)(PP)

Matt Taormina and Matthew Peca were the game's first and second stars.

Syracuse scorched their way to a 3-0 lead in the First Period and looked completely in control until 9:25 of the Second Period when Stephen Gionta scored Bridgeport's first goal and the following insanity broke loose:

Quote:
09:24 SYR Jake Dotchin, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 SYR Jake Dotchin, Game misconduct - Secondary altercation, 10 min
09:24 SYR Kristers Gudlevskis, Leaving the crease, 2 min
09:24 SYR Kristers Gudlevskis, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 SYR Kristers Gudlevskis, Game misconduct - Secondary altercation, 10 min
09:24 SYR Daniel Walcott, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 SYR Daniel Walcott, Game misconduct - Secondary altercation, 10 min
09:24 SYR Luke Witkowski, Slashing, 2 min PP
09:24 SYR Luke Witkowski, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 SYR Luke Witkowski, Misconduct - Continuing altercation, 10 min
09:24 BRI Patrick Cullity, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 BRI Patrick Cullity, Game misconduct - Secondary altercation, 10 min
09:24 BRI Kellen Jones, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 BRI Kellen Jones, Game misconduct - Secondary altercation, 10 min
09:24 BRI Scott Mayfield, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 BRI Stephon Williams, Leaving the crease, 2 min
09:24 BRI Stephon Williams, Fighting, 5 min
09:24 BRI Stephon Williams, Game misconduct - Secondary altercation, 10 min

And a good time was had by all. Syracuse blew the 3 goal lead but were able to eventually regain the winning edge with a late Second Period marker by Halmo.

Syracuse is now 4 points clear of the rest of the North Division in first place and 6 points back of the conference lead with games in hand.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 11-12-16 Americans at Crunch

Crunch put up a touchdown and an extra point.

RCH-2
SYR-7

Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 31 shots while drinking from the cool, clear waters of sweet, sweet goal support for the win.

First Period
2:46 SYR Peca (4), (Condra, Walcott)
12:07 RCH Geiger (1), (Nylander, Muzito-Bagenda)
17:04 SYR Richard (1), (Conacher, Gourde)

Second Period
5:09 SYR Gourde (4), (Morin, Masin)
19:00 SYR Vermin (3), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)

Third Period
9:04 RCH Muzito-Bagenda (2), (Strachan, Rodrigues)
12:28 SYR Erne (3), (Morin, Peca)
13:34 SYR Richard (2), (Conacher, Gourde)
19:36 SYR Richard (3), (Condra, Bournival)

Tanner Richard, Yanni Gourde, and Matthew Peca were the game's three stars. All hail Tanner Richard, your Dark Swiss Overlord of Garbage Time Hat Tricks. After a less than stellar training camp and difficult start to the season. Richard now has points in consecutive games and hopefully will take off from here. Also good to see youngsters like Peca and Adam Erne find the scoresheet. This is a veteran dominated team, but these talented youngsters are the ones who are going to push this team over the top. Also, congratulations to defenseman Dominik Masin on his first pro point.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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