Lightning gets the job done.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the victory. The stat line isn't pretty, but he made some key saves when he needed to and never allowed his team to fall behind on the road. That's how you scratch out points at this time of the season.
0:23 TB Purcell (11), (Hedman, Johnson)
10:44 OTT MacArthur (21), (Turris)(SH)
12:38 TB Purcell (12), (Hedman, Johnson)
13:07 OTT Karlsson (18), (Hoffman, Spezza)(PP)
5:43 TB Filppula (23), (Palat, Salo)(PP)
17:32 OTT Hemsky (11), (Michalek)
3:48 TB Brewer (1), (Brown, Killorn)
11:58 TB Callahan (13), (Palat, Salo)(PP)
17:08 OTT Michalek (13), (Karlsson, Spezza)
Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman were the game's first and third stars.
Giving up 4 goals doesn't exactly give you the warm and fuzzies, and perhaps it was a reflection of the quality of opponent tonight, but this was probably the best game the Lightning played of the 3 game set against Canadian-based teams. Ottawa really didn't seem to have concerted pressure in this game, and they didn't look as dangerous on the rush as Toronto did. The goals the Lightning surrendered were on a puck handling gaffe by Salo in the neutral zone, two clean Filppula faceoff losses, and Gudas and Carle getting undressed by a great individual play by Hemsky. All of these things are, at least, correctable, and the Lightning never fell behind in the game and eventually got the result they deserved.
The Lightning end this 10 game segment of the season right on the target 12 points you want, and at 85 points they're 1 point ahead of pace for the season. At no point this season have the Lightning fallen behind the pace we set forth here, overall, for the year. They've missed 12 points in some segments, but they've always had insurance points saved up to compensate. It's been an impressive, consistent ride by the Lightning thus far. To finish the drill, the Lightning now have 12 games to earn at least 11 points (to hit 96 for the year) and I dare say a 100 point season (15 points in the last 12 games) is certainly not out of the question.
And if that doesn't earn Jon Cooper NHL Coach of the Year, well, that's another rant for another night.
Mike Kostka had 1 shot and 3 blocked shots in 15:56. He wasn't quite as good as he was in Toronto when he was pumped up in front of the home town.
Finish line coming into view.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 39 shots for the victory. He'll rightly regret the Kulemin deflection goal, but he closed out the game strong with 21 saves in the Third Period against a desperate Leafs team.
0:59 TB Gudas (3), (Filppula)
3:31 TOR Kessel (35), (Gunnarsson, Bozak)
10:32 TOR Kulemin (9), (Gleason, Rielly)
13:22 TB Stamkos (17), (Filppula)(PP)
15:39 TB Stamkos (18), (Johnson, Salo)
5:55 TB Stamkos (19), (Malone, Brewer)
8:20 TOR Gardiner (10), (Franson, Bozak)
12:56 TB Johnson (22), (Purcell)(PP)
Much like the Vancouver game, do you see the glass as half full or half empty? Half full, the Lightning again played a strong first 35 or so minutes and built a solid 2 goal lead going into the Third Period. As an added bonus, they showed new strength on special teams with 2 PP goals in this game and the kill of an Alex Killorn boarding major after knocking Paul Ranger out of the game. And, oh by the way, Steven Stamkos is back with the hat trick, which will take the Lightning from good to great offensively. Glass half empty? The last 25 minutes of the game were mentally lazy hockey, and lazy minds lead to lazy legs. They looked like they were coasting, possibly to try to save energy for Ottawa. Whatever that was, it was aggravating, and it took Bishop standing on his head to preserve the win. Being outshot 22-8 in the final frame was a bad joke, and speaks to the Lightning still having problems closing out victories.
With all that said, the Lightning move up to 83 points in 69 games played. With 1 more game to go in this 10-game segment of the season, they need 2 points to hit the segment goal or 1 point to stay on the 12 points per segment pace for the season. They're also now 13 points shy of the 96 point goal I set at the start of the season with 13 games to go, meaning they could go .500 the rest of the way and hit the season target. That's a good feeling. The finish line is coming into view.
Mike Kostka was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:15. He played well in front of the home town. I wasn't too happy he missed the net on a couple of wide open looks, but he was much more active offensively than against Vancouver and he had some really good chances.
Omsk 5 vs. Khanty-Mansiysk 1
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansisysk, 0-1-1, -2, 0 PIM, 8 SOG
Regular season totals: 44 GP, 8-6-14, -6, 10 PIM
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 3-3-6, -3, 0 PIM
Happy trails to Nikita Gusev and Yugra, who dropped the fourth and final game of their second round Nadezhda Cup matchup with Omsk 5-1. Gusev played 16:02 in the match and had a power play assist on his club's only goal. Omsk got a hat trick from former Montreal forward Sergei Kostitsyn as well as 1 goal and 3 points from former Flyers draft pick Stefan Ruzicka in victory.
Despite his team's setback, Gusev can feel good about a fine final couple of months in KHL regular season and in the Nadezhda Cup after playing very sparingly the first 2/3 of the season. His point a game pace in this year's Nadezhda Cup bested his production in last year's Nadezhda Cup with Khabarovsk (5 points) in half the games. Recall, Gusev played much of his junior hockey in CSKA's organization and with Team Russia on a line with current Lightning rookie forward Nikita Kucherov. The end of Gusev's year gives us some optimism he may be able to continue to develop and one day play again with Kucherov in the NHL.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
(4)Ufa 2 vs. (5)Novgorod 1
Ufa Wins the Series 4-3
Andrey Vasilevskiy, Ufa, Win, 34/35, 1.00 GAA, .971 sv%
Regular season totals: 28 GP, 14-8-5, 3 SO, 2.21 GAA, .923 sv%
Playoff totals: 7 GP, 4-3-0, 0 SO, 1.95 GAA, .934 sv%
Andrey Vasilevskiy helped burnish his credentials as a big game goaltender, turning aside 34 shots to help Ufa overcome a 35-21 shot disparity in the team's Game Seven, 2-1, opening round triumph over Novgorod. Ufa built a 2-0 lead in the contest thanks in part to a goal by former Senators second rounder Igor Mirnov and held on for the 2-1 win. Defenseman Sergei Bernatsky had Novgorod's lone goal.
The 4 seed Ufa moves on to face 2nd seeded Barys Astana in the Eastern Conference Semifinals round starting Friday.
Omsk 8 vs. Khanty-Mansiysk 2
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansiysk, 1-1-2, -1, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Regular season totals: 44 GP, 8-6-14, -6, 10 PIM
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 3-2-5, -1, 0 PIM
Ouch. Trailing by 2 goals in aggregate coming into the game, Omsk took a 2-1 series lead and a 4 goal lead in aggregate by pummeling Yugra 8-2. The two teams will square off again tomorrow in the final game of their second round set, but Yugra will have to win by a staggering 5 goals to move on in the Nadezhda Cup on aggregate. Good luck. Valiantly, Nikita Gusev had a multi-point effort in 15:57 of ice time in defeat. Omsk got a hat trick from former Flyers draft pick Stefan Ruzicka and 4 helpers from former Montreal Canadien Sergei Kostitsyn in the win.
Good win tainted by lackluster garbage time performance.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. For the longest it looked like he was going to get his second straight shutout, but then the Lightning decided to dog it a bit in garbage time. They'll learn. Eventually.
17:56 TB Stamkos (16), (Palat, Callahan)(PP)
6:54 TB Palat (18), (Carle)
19:51 TB Filppula (22), (Stamkos)
5:44 VAN Burrows (4), (Bieksa, Edler)(PP)
8:47 TB Pyatt (3), (Brown, Hedman)
11:44 VAN Burrows (5), (Jensen, Sedin)
15:16 VAN Hansen (11), (Burrows)(SH)
Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full person? A glass half full person notes that the Lightning controlled the first 40+ minutes of play in this game and looked like a very polished, well-structured team in the process. A glass half empty person will note that their garbage time stumbles could've easily cost them 2 points were it not for the team getting 2 greasy goal deflections off Canucks defensemen and that absolute gift of a soft goal Lack gave Pyatt. I'm feeling like more of a glass half full person tonight, with the caveat that these garbage time SH goals need to stop. Now. They're the root of a lot of the recent late game drama, and very easy to avoid/correct.
The victory puts the Lightning at 81 points with 14 games to go, now tied with Montreal for 2nd in the Atlantic Division, vaulting over their next opponent, which is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Needless to say, that's a big game. Through 8 games of this 10-game segment of the season, the team has 8 points. They'll need to win the next 2 to hit the 12 point segment goal or earn 3 of the next 4 available points to stay on the season pace to comfortably make the playoffs given the 1 insurance point they had coming into the segment.
My target for the season has always been not less than 96 points, so the magic number of points they need is 15 to hit that goal. Yes, they would likely make the postseason with 94 or 95 points, but 96 is the comfortable target that avoids last minute drama. Keeping this winning streak going at least another couple of games would go a long way to making sure that target goal is achieved.
Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 shot in 15:41. This was the most inactive I've seen him in a game since his first game coming over from the Blackhawks. He might've opened the door for Barberio to get back in the lineup. We'll see.