Character building victory for the weary Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the OT victory. None of his goals were brutally soft tonight, mind you, but you had goals resulting from rebound control in tight, sliding too far out of position to challenge a first shot, and another going through him under his arm. Point being: he can play better. And, for everyone who was ready to usher Ben Bishop out of town to anoint Vasilevskiy just a couple months ago: slow down.
2:59 TB Kucherov (12), (Namestnikov)
10:40 TOR Bozak (5), (van Riemsdyk, Parenteau)(PP)
18:03 TOR van Riemsdyk (9), (Bozak, Parenteau)
11:34 TOR Rielly (4), (Komarov)
19:24 TB Stralman (3), (Kucherov)
5:56 TB Blunden (1), (Gourde, Sustr)
6:32 TB Marchessault (4), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:28 TOR Winnik (3), (Polak, Spaling)
2:01 TB Namestnikov (6), (unassisted)
Vladislav Namestnikov was the game's first star. Well deserved because he was excellent from start to finish. He's now got double the goals of Valtteri Filppula and has edged ahead of Filppula in points despite playing fewer minutes. Oh, and one is +7 this year and the other is -9, too. I feel like Vladislav's clearly on the cusp of stardom and Filppula is borderline stealing money, which points to some difficult moves that Yzerman really needs to make happen.
Overall the game was 39 minutes of some of the worst hockey the Lightning have played all season followed by the kind of character-building moments that could allow the Lightning to come out a much better team by the end of the year if they can keep manufacturing points. The Lightning looked dead tired and flat as a pancake for most of the first two periods after playing on the tail end of a back-to-back and their 3rd game in 4 nights while also dealing with the clown show that is the Toronto media whenever Stamkos is in town. They looked dead late in the Second Period when the Toronto defense decided to revert to the norm and the Red Sea parted for Anton Stralman to cut the lead to 3-2. Game changing moment.
From that point on, the Lightning took control of the tenor of the game with two key strikes brought by fresh legs from the Syracuse Crunch. Toronto managed to get a seeing eye goal off a faceoff to salvage a point, but it's an absolutely amazing thing to see the Lightning athletically dominating a Toronto team late even after Toronto had a week off heading into this one. Namestnikov punctuated it by scorching past the Toronto 3-man unit to create his own breakaway and the game winning goal.
Bear in mind this is a Lightning team that has absolutely stunk at coming from behind in Third Periods the past couple of years. I haven't looked it up, but it feels like the Lightning have only won 3 or 4 games (including tonight) coming from behind in the Third Period the last 2 seasons, and they hadn't done it yet this year. They're learning how to win games when the goals don't come to them. They're learning how to win games when they're hurt. They're learning how to win games when they're tired. They're learning how to win games from behind. Sure, a lot of that education also came in the playoffs last year, but I want you to imagine what this graduate course in weathering adversity could lead to once Johnson, Palat, Drouin, Paquette, and all of Santa's other reindeer come off the IR. If I were the NHL, I'd be terrified if the Lightning can weather this storm and make the playoffs.
Jonathan Marchessault had a goal, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 17:13. He was really good tonight. Caught some bad luck with his stick breaking leading to the 2-on-1 that led to the Rielly goal, but he stuck to it and got the goal to go ahead 4-3 in the Third Period. Note, he now also has more goals than the previously mentioned Filppula.
Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 6:55. It's Gourde's birthday and his NHL debut, and it improved greatly once he got that interference call out of the way in his first or second shift in the league.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:45. He's still not where he was a year ago, and that's a little concerning.