Lightning snap losing streak with unexpected gem against a longtime tormentor.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 35 shots before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Bishop was, apparently, pretty sore about not getting the start in hometown St. Louis and was out to make a point tonight. He played well and made key saves at key junctures, before making the big stops in the Shootout to secure the second point. That's one area I can say Bishop's looked better in this season: he's sewed up that five hole and looks a lot more competent in the penalty shot skills competition.
12:38 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
6:24 Backstrom (7), (Carlson, Johansson)(PP)
TB- Point, Boyle
Nikita Kucherov and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.
There were signs of life for the Lightning in the second half of their loss on the road in St. Louis, but coming into tonight against a Washington team that they historically struggle against (in the regular season) there wasn't a lot to hang your hat on with the way the team has been playing lately. I didn't get by Blujus recall, as he hurt his groin earlier this week in Syracuse, but the Lightning did scratch the struggling Nikita Nesterov and commit to giving more minutes to Koekkoek and Witkowski. That was a prerequisite for having any chance from the word jump, and I'm glad Cooper went ahead and made that lineup adjustment. What transpired from there was, by in large, the most focused and impressive three zone effort I think I've seen from the Lightning this season. Through about 35 minutes, they played about as clean and crisp a game as possible. They moved the puck out of their zone crisply and cleanly and contested every inch of the ice against a very quality opponent. Gone were the turnovers and odd man rushes that have marred so much of the team's games over the last two weeks. In their place was a singular resolve to win a hockey game that showed up in every single man up and down that bench. They got a little sloppier on the breakouts after Kucherov's power play goal, and didn't stay out of the box as much as they needed to in the Third Period, where Backstrom tied the game. But, in the end, they deserved the two points and they finally got them with the heroics of Point, Boyle, and Bishop in the Shootout.
Brayden Point had 1 hit in 17:13. It doesn't show up in the scoresheet, but I thought he had an incredibly poised effort tonight with the puck for the Lightning. Just made some really good decisions that allowed the Lightning to either continue possession or stay away from trouble. He's been doing it a lot this season, but tonight he did it against one of the higher quality opponents you'll see.
Luke Witkowski had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:10. He played well tonight. He doesn't bring you the "upside" that Nesterov has, but there's something to be said of a lower pair defenseman who plays a simple game and doesn't make stupid decisions that get you in trouble. Nolan Pratt has his name on the Stanley Cup and all the love in the world from Lightning fans for just that reason.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:04. Just keep feeding him minutes. He can take it athletically. He just needs the experience. Give. It. To. Him. The Lightning will not regret it if they do.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:43. He played another dynamite game as evidenced by Cooper putting Vermin out for the Overtime session. He looks like a player who, if he keeps it up, has the potential to stick.
How many mistakes by #89 do you need to see before you make a move?
1:39 STL Tarasenko (11), (Parayko)
9:37 STL Tarasenko (12), (Steen, Shattenkirk)(PP)
10:39 TB Paquette (2), (Drouin, Vermin)
13:17 STL Shattenkirk (5), (Steen, Fabbri)(PP)
1:44 STL Shattenkirk (6), (Steen, Tarasenko)(PP)
14:25 TB Johnson (8), (Kucherov, Palat)
1:41 TB Kucherov (12), (Hedman, Boyle)(PP)
8:11 STL Tarasenko (13), (Fabbri, Shattenkirk)
11:56 TB Paquette (3), (Drouin, Vermin)
Cedric Paquette was the game's third star.
Valiant effort by the Lightning who overcame a ton of early mistakes in this game to make it competitive in the Third Period. There were a lot of silver linings in this loss that hopefully the team can build off, presuming they can correct the stupid mistakes that led to all 5 goals, be it the turnovers than yielded 2 of the goals directly or the penalties that yielded the other 3.
With that said, I'm placing the goat horns firmly upon the brow of Nikita Nesterov. He had two turnovers that led to a penalty and a goal in the first case and a goal directly in the second case. When you couple that with the fact that just before the second mistake he had the tying goal on his stick and missed the net, I'll come out and say it: I'm over 89. The whole calculus with an offensive defenseman is he's supposed to give you a possession and skill advantage that cancels out any negatives at the defensive end of the ice. But when a guy stinks this bad at his decision making in the offensive zone, struggles regularly with corralling pucks and moving them, and doesn't put points on the board when the chances come, why should the Lightning waste 17:00 of ice time on him? I'll take Dylan Blujus over that tomorrow. Cripes, I'll take the ghost of Yves Racine over him right now.
Halfway through the third 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning are in significant trouble with 27 points. They need 9 of 10 possible points to close the segment to stay on playoff pace and 10 of 10 if they want to get to the desired 12 for the segment. That seems incredibly unlikely at this hour, so the question of the night may be just how deep the hole will be that the Lightning have to dig out of once the next 5 game stretch concludes.
Brayden Point was -2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:24.
Joel Vermin had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:13. He made a definitive statement tonight. He was active and he was dangerous, far more so than fellow call up Bournival. He gave the Lightning exactly what they needed from that transaction. Very impressed.
The desperate search for rock bottom continues.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. One soul destroying softie in garbage time. The rest weren't necessarily his fault.
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)
1:57 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Savard, Anderson)
12:38 CBJ Gagner (8), (unassisted)
17:10 TB Filppula (5), (Point, Sustr)
You have the intersection of two very bad factors conspiring to make the Lightning an uncompetitive team right now. First, you've got an injury to Anton Stralman forcing certain young defensemen to play above their weight class and, at the moment, they're showing they can't handle it. Second, you've got veteran players who should be your best players making mistakes they simply cannot be making. Victor Hedman's looked terrible the past few games. Jonathan Drouin's picture's been on the side of the milk carton. Even Nikita Kucherov had a horrifically bad turnover in this game that led to a key goal that put Tampa Bay down 2-0.
What's needed? A general commitment to get back to basics and play a simpler, harder working game to get a little more possession and draw a few more penalties. Also, perhaps a minor roster shake up. If the coaching staff's faith in players like Koekkoek and Witkowski is flagging, what's the harm in giving a player like Dylan Blujus a look? You'll lose games 6-1? And what's the harm in letting some of the Lightning's tired, nicked up forwards take a little rest in lieu of some speedy energy players like Joel Vermin or Michael Bournival? A little new blood and enthusiasm wouldn't be a bad thing at this moment.
I could comment on Tim Peel's ridiculous wave off of a goal where Ondrej Palat neither touched Bobrovsky nor shoved Jack Johnson into Bobrovsky. As clownish as that call was, and as damaging as it was in this game, though, the Lightning have more than the referees to be concerned about at this time.
Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:56.
Luke Witkowski had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.
Crunch veterans run wild.
Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win while swimming a lazy backstroke in the deep, deep waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
0:43 SYR Taormina (5), (Gourde, Halmo)
6:40 SYR Morin (2), (Richard)
9:20 STJ Brouillette (1), (Hanley, de la Rose)(PP)
15:48 SYR Morin (3), (Vermin, Richard)
2:44 SYR Taormina (6), (Conacher)(PP)
19:50 STJ Friberg (4), (Hanley, de la Rose)(PP)
11:55 SYR Vermin (6), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)
15:51 SYR Halmo (6), (unassisted)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Joel Vermin’s first taste of the NHL only made him hungrier for more.
The forward earned a short stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and was one of the team’s final cuts from training camp this fall. Sent to Syracuse, Vermin has recorded three points in four games for the Crunch.
Vermin is now working toward getting another call-up and a permanent spot with the Lightning.
“It’s a big motivation, to be honest,” Vermin said of his time with the Lightning last year. “Once I saw how it is, the NHL, it’s like a drug. You want more of it. You use that as motivation if you’re struggling or things aren’t going the way you want them to. It keeps you motivated.”
Lightning concludes the preseason with an offensive outburst.
7:29 NSH Smith (1), (Bitetto, Granberg)
9:59 TB Nesterov (1), (Point, Drouin)(PP)
13:27 NSH Smith (2), (Subban)
16:18 TB Point (1), (Stamkos, Nesterov)
2:32 TB Drouin (1), (Stamkos, Palat)
6:43 TB Johnson (1), (Stralman, Stamkos)(PP)
13:12 TB Palat (1), (Drouin)
13:20 NSH Wilson (1), (Gaudreau)
Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point were the game's first and second stars. Point continues to produce in an extended look which may continue on into the regular season thanks to Nikita Kucherov's ongoing contractual impasse.
Point had 1 goal and 1 assist with 3 shots in 13:58 of ice time.
Joel Vermin was -1 with 1 shot in 14:07.
Lightning miss a second straight preseason shutout by an eyelash.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 28 shots for the OT win. The lone blemish was a goal surrendered in a 6-on-4 situation with 1:05 left in regulation. If the performances of the past two nights by Gudlevskis and Vasilevskiy are any indication, Yzerman might have the flexibility he needs if he does choose to move Ben Bishop for cap reasons.
5:21 TB Johnson (1), (Palat, Nesterov)[/b]
18:55 CAR Skinner (2), (DiGiuseppe, Rask)
1:38 TB Palat (1), (unassisted)
Very interesting lineup tonight from the Lightning and a pleasantly surprising performance. Tonight's group mixed in more NHL forwards, at least on the wings, but they pretty much went with Syracuse's defensive corps plus Nikita Nesterov, who may be a bubble player in this camp. It helps when you have Vasilevskiy behind you, but to almost get a shutout with that group is not too shabby.
Brayden Point had 4 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 16:09. He was also 33% on 9 draws. Sorry, son, you don't get to score a goal every game.
Cam Darcy had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:31 and was 30% on 10 draws. PLEASE, Jeff Halpern, teach these kids to win faceoffs.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:44.
Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 14:02. For a guy who didn't score, his stat line still looks quite active, I have to say.
Henri Ikonen had 1 blocked shot in 14:15. The window is closing on the young Finn.
Brian Hart had 4 hits in 10:14. He then hit someone with an aluminum chair and put them in the Sharpshooter.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots in 21:10. He's not giving any quarter in camp to anybody.
Dominik Masin had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 19:55.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot in 19:46.
Dylan Blujus had 3 blocked shots in 19:29.
Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 19:10.
Valiant Third Period comeback bid by Junior Lightning gives hope for the future.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 23 shots before giving way to Adam Wilcox, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots for ye old backdoor loss. It was a respectable outing for both netminders who get additional time thanks to the World Cup of Hockey.
19:07 CAR Br. Sutter (1), (Foegele)
10:26 CAR Wallmark (1), (Kuokkanen)
11:28 CAR Skinner (1), (Stempniak, Pesce)
11:28 TB Point (1), (Johnson, Hajek)
18:41 TB Imama (1), (Vermin, Cerelli)
Brayden Point was the game's third star.
This is going to be a strange camp/preseason because of it being chopped up by the WCOH. The silver lining is some extra time for potential future contributors like Point, who didn't embarrass themselves tonight. Among those prospects, the ice time was as follows, revealing more who the organization wanted to take a long early look at for the future than who they trust and are thinking about from an NHL roster standpoint for this season...
Brett Howden was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:50. He was also 44% on 9 draws.
Point had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:38. He was also 57% on 7 draws.
Anthony Cirelli had a helper and 1 shot in 15:36. He was also 39% on 18 draws.
Joel Vermin had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 15:19.
Mathieu Joseph had 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:04.
Dennis Yan had 2 penalty minutes in 12:40.
Boko Imama had 1 goal, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 10:28. He also killed 0 Hurricanes with his fists... this time.
Libor Hajek had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in a hefty 20:45.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:59.
Matthew Spencer was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 18:51.
Slater Koekkoek had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:23.
Vermin, 24, skated in six games with the Lightning during the 2015-16 regular season, recording one assist and a plus-1 rating. He made his NHL debut on November 19 and recorded his first point on November 21 at the Anaheim Ducks. Vermin recorded a season-high for ice time on November 21 against the Ducks with 12:22.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound forward also appeared in 37 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League this past season, posting nine goals and 21 points to go along with six penalty minutes. Vermin ranked 10th on the Crunch for points despite only skating in 37 games. He has played in 118 career AHL games over three seasons, all with Syracuse, recording 22 goals and 55 points.
A native of Frauenkappelen, Switzerland, Vermin was selected by the Lightning in the seventh round, 186th overall, of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Richard, 23, played in 71 games for the Crunch during the 2015-16 season, recording 11 goals and 54 points to go along with 57 penalty minutes. He ranked first on the Crunch for points and assists (43). Richard’s 71 games played also ranked second on Syracuse. The Jona, Switzerland native has appeared in 214 career AHL games, all with the Crunch over four seasons, notching 26 goals and 112 points.
The 6-foot, 195-pound forward appeared in 95 games with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League over two seasons, posting 24 goals and 110 points. During the 2012-13 season while with the Storm, he led the team for assists with 51 and ranked second for points with 62.
Richard was selected by the Lightning in the third round, 71st overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.
Crunch score bittersweet victory against one of the league's top teams.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 34 shots and stopped all 5 shooters he faced in the penalty shot session for the victory.
TOR Conacher, (2) (C. Smith, Valiev), 0:33
SYR Tambellini, (27) , 6:33
SYR Stephens, (1) (Broll), 11:53
TOR Arcobello, (25) (Corrin, Leivo), 4:45
It was a big win against a very talented Toronto team that by far and away has had the best regular season in the AHL. Unfortunately, the Crunch didn't get any help in the other games around the league and were eliminated from making the postseason. It's a shame for a Syracuse team that's really seemed to find itself in the last quarter of the regular season and had a nice stretch run. As it is, they should finish well over .500 for the campaign with some momentum going into the offseason and some nice new blood coming onto the roster.
Box score from TheAHL.com.