Goaltending finally gives out.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-1
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 14 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 3 on 26 shots the rest of the way. Bishop allowed 1 soft goal off his glove (again), which ended up being the GWG. It was wise to get him out and get a rest at that point with the team down 3-0. You're going to have 1-2 stinkers even in a successful playoff season, and the silver lining in those games is you get to give your workhorse goaltender a breather. Vasilevskiy showed significant signs of rust by allowing a softie on his 2nd goal allowed and giving out a bad rebound that led to his 3rd goal allowed. He got better as the game went along, but there's certainly no goaltending controversy in Tampa Bay after that showing.
2:44 MTL Markov (1), (Subban, Pacioretty)
8:43 MTL Pacioretty (4), (Gilbert)(SH)
5:08 MTL Desharnais (1), (Weise, Galchenyuk)
9:39 MTL Petry (2), (Galchenyuk, Subban)(PP)
9:54 MTL Gallagher (3), (Pacioretty, Plekanec)
12:26 TB Kucherov (4), (Palat, Stralman)(PP)
0:17 TB Palat (2), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
4:52 MTL Prust (1), (Eller, Parenteau)
There's a lot of blustering and posturing by Subban and the Habs that's going to get replayed on a loop by the media to try to drum up interest in a 3-1 series. Don't take the bait and panic. The Lightning didn't play well the past 2 nights, but you have to take the magnitude of tonight's 6-2 loss with a little grain of salt given that 3 of the last 4 goals allowed were purely on the netminders. The negatives didn't so much come from effort, for me, but the mental lapses in positioning that led to the first 2 goals. When Bishop allowed the softie, that put the team down 3-0 and that was all she wrote. So, those mental lapses are correctable and you have to proceed under the assumption Bishop isn't going to wet the bet like that twice in a row. He hasn't all season long. You try to take the handful of silver linings out of this game that you can, too. Bishop got some much needed rest after carrying the team on his back for much of the first 10 games of the playoffs. The power play went 2-for-3 and is starting to look respectable in this series. Drouin got some much needed seasoning in garbage time. So, there's some glass half full things to look at.
Have the Lightning elected the easy road for closing out this series? No. This thing may get a little hairy now considering Montreal's going to be a crazy barn on Saturday. But, it was crazy the first two games of the series, too. If they're feeling apprehension, they shouldn't, because they've been through this gauntlet before. They just need to concentrate on getting the first goal, tightening up the positioning lapses, and hope that Bishop shakes off tonight's performance with the same ease he usually shakes off his stinkers. If they do, they'll be ok. Calm needs to be the word of the hour, for sure.
The needle hits E in Toronto.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He wasn't the reason the team lost, but one or two semi-soft goals definitely made the sledding a lot more comfortable for Toronto. In a game like this, the Lightning really needed Andrei to be flawless.
8:53 TOR Kadri (17), (Lindstrom, Brennan)(PP)
12:03 TOR Booth (7), (unassisted)
18:04 TB Callahan (23), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)
0:24 TOR Rielly (8), (Kadri, Gardiner)
Shots were 41-28 Lightning, so I'm not going to say the Lightning were somehow dogging it or that they had a let down in a trap game. I just think they almost emptied out the tank against Montreal, so they simply couldn't muster the same intensity level and didn't have the extra gear against Toronto. Not with all the injuries they are trying to work through, anyway. And, the Leafs got a great performance from Reimer, which compounded things.
I hate to see the Lightning's division title hopes in peril like this, on the one hand. On the other, I don't want to see this team dead dragging tired going into the opening round of the playoffs, either. It's a boon to be able to get Bishop some rest like he did tonight, and it might also be a silver lining if circumstances allow them to take their foot off the gas the last couple of games of the year and give guys like Palat and Paquette a little more time off to get right for the postseason, on top of all the guys who are already on the shelf.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots in 15:31. Didn't look horribly out of place, and the old Joe Reekie number looks good on him. Thought he showed as advertised. I feel like he'll challenge for a roster spot in the Fall, and his progress will be very important for the success of the team next year. You figure he'll either make the squad or be the first call up from Syracuse if he doesn't make it.
Luke Witkowski had 2 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:50. 3 giveaways is a little bit of an ugly number, but all in all he handled the extra workload reasonably well.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 5 shots and 2 hits in 22:11. The minutes don't lie. He's the guy the coaching staff turned to in order to fill the gap, and I suspect they're not at all displeased.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:12 and was 56% on draws. He's 2 games from graduation from prospect status on the site.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 24 shots for the hard luck loss. His save percentage has inched up to .906 for the season, despite the loss.
RCH McPherson, (2) (Catenacci, Ruhwedel), 4:04
RCH Catenacci, (12) , 19:52 (EN)
Gudlevskis was the game's second star. First star Andrey Makarov, who was Andrei Vasilevkiy's tandem-mate with the Russian U20 WJC team once upon a time, stopped 32 shots for the shutout.
ATO signee Brayden Point was -2 with 3 SOG's in his pro debut. As noted yesterday, there are a handful of other potential ATO's which could be added to the Syracuse roster this week, including graduating Quinnipiac senior forward Matthew Peca.
The loss, coupled with Hershey's win, puts Syracuse back into the 3rd seed, 1 point back of the Bears. 9 games remain on the regular season slate.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Goaltending betrays the Lightning in its moment of need.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 11 shots for the loss before getting lifted in the Second Period. 1-2 of those goals were the semi-soft variety. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 8 shots he faced in relief, but he didn't look super-sharp himself, particularly with his rebound control. It was just a rare off night for the tandem on a night where they were dueling with one of the league's best in Rinne.
3:28 NSH Ribeiro (14), (Josi)
4:08 NSH Gaustad (4), (Beck)
19:31 TB Namestnikov (7), (Sustr, Barberio)
6:47 NSH Santorelli (12), (Jarnkrok, Stalberg)
13:19 TB Boyle (15), (Brown, Drouin)
Just a shame to see a reasonably good effort squandered by lackluster goaltending. The Lightning outshot Nashville 30-19 and completely dominated large swaths of play, but they were 0-for-5 on the power play and could not get the equalizer. The silver lining is that Montreal is losing 4-1 to Winnipeg in the Third Period as I type. If that score holds up, there's no harm and the Lightning will still be 1 point out in the division with time to catch up. They could've easily gotten 1-2 points out of tonight, though, and that's the part that stings a bit.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a goal and 1 shot in 10:18. This went about the way most of his games have gone lately where he gets IT and looks dangerous offensively for the first 25 minutes or so of play, and then sees the pine the rest of the way as the coaching staff taps some guys who are perhaps a little more consistent defensively. He's been very good offensively though with his speed and handles, to the extent that the team is maneuvering to try and keep him on the roster right now. He's 5 games shy of graduation from prospect status on the site now.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. You hate to see a goaltender allow 3 in under 3 minutes like he did in the Second Period, but you applaud the mental toughness to not allow anything else the rest of the way.
5:49 TB Morrow (3), (Brown)
7:47 TB Johnson (26), (Callahan)
6:16 FLA Jokinen (7), (Boyes, Gudbranson)
6:34 FLA Pirri (18), (Trocheck)
8:14 FLA Huberdeau (12), (Barkov, Jagr)
1:30 TB Kucherov (27), (Sustr, Palat)
17:32 TB Callahan (22), (Killorn, Stamkos)
Ryan Callahan and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and second stars.
The Lightning didn't deserve a damned thing out of this game. Clearly they talked about their tendency to come out flat in games like these against lesser opposition and they quickly stormed out to the 2-0 lead. But, after the refs gifted a phantom boarding call on Kucherov to the Panthers, and the PK surrendered 5 SOG's in 2 minutes, Florida had the momentum pretty much the rest of the game. It was only by the grace of a great individual play by Kucherov on his wraparound goal and a horrific softie by Luongo on Callahan's goal that Tampa Bay escaped with 2 points. And, yeah, you'll take it, but it's another frustrating example of the team's mental weakness in games like these. It's weird to say you'd rather see top-tier opponents rather than the Jets and Panthers of the world, but you know the team simply hasn't put a 60 minute effort together anytime recently against opponents like the Jets or Panthers.
As I type, the Lightning have moved into a tie with Montreal at 99 points, with the Canadiens just having their game with Nashville tied at 2-2. We'll see how the rest of the night unfolds, but the pressure is still on Montreal to keep their meager lead atop the Atlantic Division.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot in 12:47. Like most of his teammates, his play evaporated in the final 40 minutes of action as they got pinned up in their own zone time and time again.