Music City choke.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. None of the three goals were terrible, but you'd have liked to have seen him squeeze off that third one in tight to preserve at least a point (not that the team in front of him deserved it).
5:26 TB St Louis (26), (Palat)
9:13 TB St Louis (27), (Kucherov, Purcell)(PP)
12:05 NSH Cullen (6), (Ellis, Smith)(PP)
13:16 NSH Josi (9), (Weber)(PP)
13:56 NSH Hornqvist (11), (Fisher, Weber)(PP)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
That was infuriating. I thought the team came out flat as a pancake but lucked out with a goal off the rush in transition and then a softie on the PP. Staked with the 2 goal lead and with Nashville looking like they were in shock, the Lightning had all the momentum and opportunities to end the game early, especially on a PP to start the Second Period.
They sleepwalked through the final 40 minutes of that game. That compete-level was garbage. They should give back 2/3 of their paychecks tonight. Yes. They were bad and they should feel bad, and their special teams are an absolute thermonuclear dumpster fire right now. That PK, if you can call it that, is the worst PK I've ever seen the Lightning put on the ice, and there have been some awful Lightning teams that have come and gone.
The Lightning now will fall short of their 12 point target for this 10 game segment of the season, and if they fail to get a point out of the finale of the segment they will fall behind the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. And, honestly, if they're going to allow themselves to be outworked like that and if their special teams are going to be that craptacular, there's no point in showing up for the postseason tournament. Yes, a healthy Filppula and Stamkos will make a considerable difference, so I'm not ready to load the team in a cannon and shoot them to the moon quite yet. But the work ethic was not there tonight, and that's not good enough.
16 shots on goal against a goaltender, Carter Hutton, that couldn't stop a beach ball? The Lightning should feel deep shame. Deep, deep shame.
Mark Barberio had 3 blocked shots in 16:50. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status on the website. Sad this was such a clunker to get over the finish line on.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:49. He'll graduate from prospect status in his next game this season.
Vladislav Namestnikov had an ill-timed minor penalty and was 20% on draws in 8:10.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and 1 shot in 11:22. He rang a post in the Third Period with the Lightning down 3-2, and that was all she wrote for the team after that. Kucherov needs 5 more games this season to graduate from prospect status.
Lightning manufactures a huge win when the absolutely had to have one.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory. As with the victory against Montreal, if this doesn't get you fired up about Ben Bishop nothing will. The guy's hurt, and Cedrick Desjardins was telling everyone who would listen he was going to start tonight. Bishop showed physical bravery and mental toughness outlasting Howard and the Wings in a game the Lightning had to have. They couldn't lose this game. Their backs were against the wall and, depleted or not, they had to win this game. Bishop willed them over the finish line to the Olympics break. Simply inspiring.
17:18 DET Alfredsson (14), (Datsyuk)
1:44 TB Palat (13), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
11:19 DET Jurco (3), (Sheahan, DeKeyser)
17:14 TB Pyatt (1), (Salo, Brown)
16:49 TB Killorn (14), (Purcell, Pyatt)
18:57 TB Palat (14), (Johnson, Salo)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.
Was that the Lightning's best game of the season tonight. No. Absolutely not. There were several stretches in this contest where they were owned, territorially, by the Wings. But, the effort was there. They scratched, they clawed, they held on by their fingernails, and they got the break they needed on the Pyatt goal to have a tie game going into the Third Period before they manufactured Killorn's greasy goal.
It's huge. I can't tell you how different this feels being at 71 points in 3rd in the East, 8 points up on 9th place going into the break as opposed to 69 points and being in a Wild Card spot by just 6 points. The win tonight gives the Lightning 8 points 8 games going into this segment of the season. They still would have to win both remaining games in this segment to hit that magical 12 points you'd like them to have, but they had 3 insurance points going into this segment, so they just need 1 more point in the next 2 games to be where they want to be heading into the stretch run of the season. That's a stretch run where, once the 3 weeks of the Olympics break is up, they should get back a healthy Anders Lindback, a healthy Valtteri Filppula (who had a fractured ankle and not a hurt hip, as I speculated after the Leafs game), and knock-on-wood a healthy Steven Stamkos, to say nothing of Bishop getting an opportunity to heal (his back must be incredibly sore from carrying this team). So, they'll be rested and healed and have a ton of home games to play, especially in March. Catching Boston for the Atlantic Division title may be extremely difficult now after this last little slump, but pinning down the 3 seed and sailing into the playoffs in solid shape is now entirely do-able.
Young team. Flagging health. Flagging confidence. They had to have the win. Great win. Big win. Huge win.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:13. I wasn't thrilled with his game tonight. When the possession tilts against the Lightning, Barberio becomes a liability and not a plus. But, you know, he's one of those guys who fought and clawed his way through the game. So, there's that.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots in 14:57. Sooner or later shots are going to start going in for J.T., and then watch out. Teams have no answer for his speed and work ethic. None. And, he showed his skill a bit tonight undressing Brian Lashoff to create a First Period breakaway. He just can't seem to find the finish.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 hit and was 50% on 6 draws in 11:55. It seemed to me like he needed to make a quick adjustment to the size/strength at this level in the NHL in the First Period, but once that sunk in he looked fairly comfortable, even landing a huge hit on Brendan Smith in the Third Period. Namesy's not quite there in terms of his play without the puck, especially on the defensive end, but you could clearly see he's going to be an NHLer in the cup of coffee he got tonight helping the team get a huge win.
Nikita Kucherov had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:06. He did just about everything, along with Brown, but score tonight including drawing a penalty shot where he was stopped on a deke to his backhand. Like Brown, when they start going in for Kucherov he's going to go nuts.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 22 shots before leaving the game after the Second Period with the old "upper body injury." Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 13 shots the rest of the way for the backdoor loss. Tough spot for Cedrick to come into, and it cost the Lightning, because there was a goaltending duel in progress at the time.
7:57 TOR Raymond (15), (Kulemin, Rielly)
2:19 TOR McClement (3), (Clarkson, Lupul)
8:10 TOR van Riemsdyk (23), (Gunnarsson, Kessel)
10:28 TB Palat (12), (St Louis, Johnson)
17:08 TOR Bozak (12), (Kessel)(EN)
Ondrej Palat was the game's third star.
Let's recap the past 36 hours. Steven Stamkos' return was postponed another 2-3 weeks because his broken leg hasn't completely finished healing. Ben Bishop is down again with an "upper body injury" which may or may not keep him out of Saturday's game against Detroit. Valtteri Filppula also looked to reinjure his hip after getting the old Russian leg sweep from a Leaf tonight (no call), and he may also be out for Saturday.
Standings-wise, the Lightning are 7 games into segment 6 of the season having only collected 6 points in those 7 games. A loss Saturday would mean the Lightning can't hit their minimum segment target of 12 points again, and puts them in serious jeopardy of not having the minimum 72 points the Lightning really need to have after Game 60 to comfortably be on pace for the playoffs. That's bad. Very bad. This isn't a battle-tested veteran club. You don't necessarily want to see them scrambling for points in March and April against teams that are. Staying on pace is critical.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot in 14:21.
J.P. Cote had 3 shots in 9:05.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 12:57. He keeps generating chances with his speed and grit, particularly in tight, but just can't seem to find a finish.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:34. He had a handful of glorious chances in the First Period before tailing off as the game went on. He also has 2 of his shots blocked and 4 that missed the net, as he may be cutting it too fine right now trying to adjust to NHL goaltending.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the loss. Truly, he was the only reason the Lightning were even in the game. The team in front of him should be upset with themselves for squandering a quality start by the big netminder.
16:04 MIN Niederreiter (10), (Spurgeon, Zucker)(PP)
0:34 MIN Heatley (11), (Spurgeon)
13:53 TB Filppula (20), (St Louis, Gudas)
Just a listless, sloppy effort by the Lightning. They nearly were able to steal a point with Tyler Johnson hitting a post late with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, but it would've been an undeserved point. They didn't appear to have their legs tonight at all and they're passing was fairly atrocious too. They compounded that issue by giving Kuemper way too much respect cutting a lot of chances too fine and missing the net altogether on prime opportunities. They treated the guy like Carey Price rather than getting the puck on him and seeing if they could create some greasy goals.
The Lightning really, really need to have a good little homestand before the Olympics Break. They really risk putting themselves in a bad spot if they keep sleepwalking on their way to vacation.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 hit in 16:25.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:16. He was the one Lightning forward who looked ready to go from the word jump tonight playing in front of the hometown. Looked like he was shot out of a cannon at times.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot in 13:12. He created some good looks for himself and his linemates, but nothing that made the scoresheet, unfortunately.
Lightning pass a big gut check moment in Montreal.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. I don't know about you, but one of my takeaways from today's game is that I'm more fired up about Ben Bishop than ever before. He beat one of the best 2-3 goaltenders in the league across the rink in Price. He did it after getting kneed in the back of the head in the last game and, frankly, he probably wouldn't have played today if Lindback had been available because of it. He responded physically when Brandon Prust speared him during a TV timeout in the Second Period. And, he managed to tune out a hostile Montreal crowd that was all over him after the Prust incident. And, the Lightning really, really needed to have this win to stop the 2 game skid they were on at a key moment of this season. If anyone had any questions about Bishop's physical or mental toughness, this game went a lot toward answering those. It's just one regular season game, but it tells me that when/if the Lightning reach the postseason it's an environment where Ben Bishop may very well thrive.
5:58 TB Thompson (4), (Hedman, Brown)(SH)
7:25 MTL Brière (9), (Gionta)
4:36 TB Thompson (5), (Hedman, Killorn)
The Lightning clearly understood the importance of this game and they came to the rink with renewed purpose. J.P. Cote and Radko Gudas helped set a physical tone early and the Lightning kept working hard for 60+ minutes to secure the 2 points and make sure a small losing streak didn't snowball into one of those disastrous 6 game losing streaks that can really wreck your season at this time of year. They dominated the game from a possession standpoint, they had more and better chances, and they stuck to the program even with Price playing extremely well for Montreal.
The victory in the game gives the Lightning 6 points halfway through this 10-game segment of the season, which is exactly where they want to be. They widened their gap on Montreal to 5 points with the Canadiens being the first Wild Card team and they widened their gap on 9th place, for the moment, to 11 points. Losing this game would've made the situation much more bleak on all of the above fronts. Now the Lightning will look to close out this road trip strong against Minnesota and then I strongly expect Stamkos-palooza to happen Thursday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which would hopefully give Steven 2 games to get re-acclimated before he heads off to the Olympics.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 15:50. He had a pretty good game. He was assertive offensively and no big mistakes defensively. I'd be happy with a lot more nights like the game he had today. He's now just 4 games from graduation from prospect status on the website.
J.P. Cote had 5 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 6:24. Like I said, his hit on Gallagher on the opening shift of the game set the tone, and he kept it going with a decent effort in his fight against Prust. He didn't play a ton of minutes, but they were leadership minutes.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:41. He was the recipient of his helper after PK Subban tipped a centering feed from Nate Thompson into his own net, shorthanded. You make your own luck.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 15:02. He played center between Killorn and Purcell with Valtteri Filppula out of the lineup injured. He looked fantastic in the role in the First Period, setting up a slew of dangerous chances, but his play seemed to tail off a bit as the game wore on and Habs seemed to watch Kucherov a little closer.
Costly night in Ottawa.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 1 shot before leaving the game with an injury. It was a bizarre play where Bishop left his crease to try to play a puck that he had no chance of getting to, and after diving to the ice to get to it he was kneed in the back of the head by his teammate, Kucherov. If it's a concussion, that's probably a week, minimum, without Bishop, but early reports have Bishop passing his concussion test. Lindback allowed 4 on 27 shots the rest of the way for the old backdoor loss.
1:49 OTT Methot (5), (Zibanejad, Spezza)
19:34 OTT Karlsson (13), (Spezza, Michalek)
3:10 TB Killorn (13), (Kucherov, Hedman)
6:25 OTT Smith (10), (unassisted)
18:40 OTT Turris (18), (Ryan)
6:55 OTT Ryan (20), (Turris, MacArthur)
12:54 TB Johnson (17), (Palat)(SH)
17:08 TB Hedman (11), (St Louis, Palat)
Compounding the injury to Bishop was Valtteri Filppula leaving the game with some sort of ailment that limited his mobility after getting hit away from the play. I'm going to go with a hip injury as my guess. If his injury is of any severity, then I'm just going to throw the name Vladislav Namestnkov out there as a possible recall.
The Lightning's effort level really sagged after losing Bishop early in the game, and they looked like they were skating in quicksand until late in the game when the score was well out of hand. Between that and the copious number of turnovers that have ended up in the back of the team's net lately, it's not a good look. In particular, Radko Gudas has really struggled over the last month and he's had turnovers lead to important goals in each of the last two Lightning losses. Against the Leafs, he allowed the GWG. Against the Sens, his mistake led to the Smith goal that destroyed a fledgling rally from the Lightning after they'd cut the deficit to 2-1.
Mark Barberio was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 blocked shots. He was responsible for Turris' goal with an ill advised step up in the neutral zone where he missed the puck to surrender a breakaway to Bobby Ryan, which he compounded by failing to pick up the trailing Turris. There was no atonement for his mistake like the last game against Toronto, either.
J.P. Cote had 6 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:35.
J.T. Brown had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:11.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:59. He got some luck on his helper with a pass that ricocheted off a skate to Killorn in prime scoring position in the slot for the goal.
Sometimes it's a game that comes down to little things.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the loss. He didn't look sharp to me tonight, and probably wants Kadri's first goal back. He just looked unsettled and seemed to be fighting it, whereas Bernier at the other end looked rock solid making 40 stops.
1:49 TOR Kadri (13), (unassisted)
9:47 TOR Kadri (14), (Lupul, Gunnarsson)
13:13 TB Carle (2), (Palat, Kucherov)
17:12 TB Barberio (4), (Palat, Crombeen)
15:57 TOR van Riemsdyk (21), (Kessel, Bozak)
The Lightning probably deserved better than they got out of this game. They outshot Toronto by more than a 4:3 margin, had the better of the balance of play, and hit 3 posts on their power play chances alone. Still, sometimes, you lose games because the other team's goaltender plays well and you make a few mistakes. Heck, New Jersey's lived off of it for years. Toronto's first and third goals came off of giveaways with the first Kadri goal compounded by a less than stellar goaltending effort. Toronto's second goal came on an innocuous looking play off the side boards where Kadri caught Hedman flat footed and made him look stupid on a little toe drag to get a break. Three mistakes end up in the back of your net and you lose. It's not something they should dwell on too long. They didn't play a terrible game. But, they do need to tighten up and shrink their number of errors, because all things being equal they left a point or two on the ice tonight.
Mark Barberio had a goal, 2 shots, and 2 blocked shots in 12:52. Somewhat of a classic Barberio performance. He gave away the puck in the neutral zone leading to Toronto's first goal. That's bad. The good news is that he was very assertive offensively afterwards trying to atone for the mistake and eventually got the goal to tie the contest up at 2-2 off of a goalmouth scrum. That's improvement, in my eyes, from earlier in the season. Barberio didn't hang his head or play scared after the mistake. He stayed in the fight and got a big goal. That's good.
J.T. Brown had 5 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16. Toronto had no answer for his speed. None. He almost slipped a First Period 2-on-1 5-hole on Bernier that ended up finding the post and he was dangerous throughout the game. You just wish he could find the finish and make something out of all the opportunities he produces on nights like this.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes in 10:53. It seemed like a less active night for Kucherov and zero attempted shots on goal seems to confirm that.
Did Tyler Johnson just take the lead in the Calder Trophy race?
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. He made one key stop in the Third Period when the Lightning were clinging to their 1 goal lead, and the team just pulled away from there. That's what good goaltenders do.
7:15 TB Johnson (14), (Hedman, Palat)
8:48 TB Barberio (3), (Filppula, Killorn)
18:04 TB Filppula (19), (Brown, Kucherov)
18:33 COL Mitchell (5), (Landeskog, Barrie)
19:03 COL Barrie (6), (MacKinnon, Parenteau)
14:38 TB Johnson (15), (St Louis, Hedman)
16:55 TB Johnson (16), (Hedman, Salo)
Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars. Much love to the Tampa media for their tip of the hat to Ondrej, who did not get enough credit on the SunSports broadcast for the play he made to create the game opening goal. People, just because Dr. Drej creeps to mic like a phantom does not mean you should treat his contributions as invisible.
Coming into this game, the NHL was just starting to warm up to the idea of Tyler Johnson being a legitimate foil to Nathan MacKinnon in the race for the Calder Trophy. Johnson was second in rookie scoring. MacKinnon was first. And, it didn't hurt that the two were about to play head-to-head, so a little manufactured heat was supplied. Now? Now there's real heat, because Johnson just whipped MacKinnon in the head-to-head with a hat trick. That's the kind of thing that rarely happens that cleanly in team sports and that you cannot ignore. Johnson just ran roughshod over MacKinnon and Colorado, and it's impossible now to argue he's not a serious Calder Trophy contender. In fact, he probably just edged out to a little lead.
That was meat and potatoes Lightning hockey, overall. Very north-south. Rebound goals. Tip in goals. Greasy goals off of deflections. It's the kind of win Jon Cooper's going to point to and say, "See, there? You don't have to tie a ribbon around everything to score 5." It's a beautiful thing. Beating the team Len Barrie's son plays for is also a beautiful thing. Dan Boyle and every Lightning fan around the world approve of the outcome.
Mark Barberio had a goal and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 15:32. It was one of those mixed bag games from Barberio. Offensively he was good, earning his goal off a shot that pinged in off an Avs defender's leg. Defensively, well, the PK bailed him out after he got beat like a drum off the wall and had to haul a man down. I look forward to the day those kind of mistakes don't happen, because it'll mean more ice time for Barberio and more opportunities for him to get on the offensive side of the puck, where he's useful and good.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 12:46. The stat line doesn't tell the tale. His line was en fuego tonight. He nearly completed a nifty deke for a goal in the First Period and nearly set up Valtterri Filppula for a breakaway on a heads up pass in the Third Period. As it was, his awareness led to Filppula's goal in the Second Period, with Brown hitting Filppula streaking off the bench for a one-on-one chance on the netminder.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was +1 in 13:45. How badly did he want to score tonight to get a measure of revenge on Patrick Roy, who traded him when the two were with Quebec in the QMJHL. Again, the stats don't tell the tale. Kucherov had 5 missed shots and one of his shots blocked. He just couldn't find the range, but he was creating deadly scoring chances all night. He just barely missed the icing on the cake goal late in the Third Period on a power play where he, frankly, just decided to take over the game. There was steam coming out of his ears by the end of the shift he wanted it so bad. I predict more classic confrontations against Roy down the road for Kucherov and the Lightning. By the way, as a side note, Roy may very well have shot himself in the foot inserting Varlamov in the Third Period, and I wonder if he regrets that decision considering his team had pulled within 1 goal already.
Harder than it needed to be.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 36 shots but blanked Ottawa on 3 shootout attempts for the W. He made the key saves he needed to, but I suspect he'll be even sharper next time out.
14:32 TB Johnson (13), (Hedman)(SH)
15:12 OTT Karlsson (12), (MacArthur, Spezza)(PP)
3:30 TB Crombeen (2), (Hedman, Filppula)
16:57 OTT MacArthur (18), (Spezza, Ryan)(PP)
5:31 TB Palat (11), (St Louis, Hedman)
17:42 OTT Neil (6), (Smith, Karlsson)
Victor Hedman and BJ Crombeen were the game's first and third stars.
Good news/bad news:
The good news is that, after getting a few days off to rest the bones, the Lightning absolutely dominated 5-on-5 play territorially for about the first 55 minutes of regulation. That was Lightning hockey, and for almost the entire contest you had the impression the Lightning were cruising to victory even though they couldn't get staked to more than a one goal lead. The other bit of good news is that the Lightning appear to have made it through an entire game without someone getting dinged up. It's a beautiful thing.
The bad news is that the Lightning allowed Ottawa to hang around because special teams, putting Johnson's SH goal aside, were pretty darned atrocious. The PK just can't seem to buy a break right now and the PP looked as predictable as an 80's sitcom, including telegraphing one-timers on an Overtime 4-on-3 opportunity. Once Stamkos returns, that should help the PP a lot, but it's getting clearer Yzerman's shopping list at the deadline needs to include an ace PK'er, be that in the form of another veteran d-man or a forward. I'd give my right arm for a time machine to bring back a mid-2000's Freddy Modin or Jassen Cullimore right about now to help get that mess fixed.
The Lightning again tie Boston for tops in the Atlantic Division although the B's hold 2 games in hand.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in 15:20. His penalty was a costly delay of game call where he shot the puck out of play while under duress from 2 Ottawa forecheckers. After two strong games, tonight was a little step back for Mark.
J.T. Brown had 4 shots and 1 hit in 11:44. Off night for his line. He had a really nice hit on Da Costa in the corner in the First Period, showing surprising pop for his size.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 blocked shots in 10:54. Ottawa seemed to be targeting the rookie early, and he was ineffective through much of regulation. He shanked a good chance in the Third Period and snuck a pass through to Filppula for a partial breakaway in Overtime, so he still had moments, and his quick release in the shootout delivered the second point for the Lightning.
Vinik may not have known this, but when he bought the Lightning he got ownership of the Carolina Hurricanes, too.
Ben Bishop stopped 48 of 51 shots for the victory. Whereas yesterday Ben wasn't a difference maker, tonight he was the first, second, and third stars for the Lightning. He made the big saves and a little luck and opportunism did the rest.
6:09 TB Barberio (1), (Killorn, Palat)(PP)
7:32 TB Palat (10), (St Louis, Johnson)
15:07 TB Kucherov (8), (Pyatt, Malone)
0:24 TB Purcell (10), (Gudas, Carle)
1:46 CAR Semin (9), (E. Staal)(PP)
05:40 CAR E. Staal (11), (unassisted)
8:12 TB Barberio (2), (Brewer, Palat)
6:14 CAR Hainsey (4), (Liles, Tlusty)
Mark Barberio and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
It was pretty clear in this one that the Lightning had zero left in the tank after the emotional game yesterday. They were already running on fumes having recently completed a string of games that had them traveling to the far corners of North America and back. Fortunately for the Lightning they got an excellent goaltending performance, Carolina didn't, and they got quite a lot of luck sprinkled in, too. A broken stick aided in the Lightning's first goal, the third and fifth goals had elements of fortuitous bounces in them, and the Lightning's fourth goal came off a misplay by Carolina's backup, Khudobin, after the Lightning chased the starter Peters (sorry, Tripp Tracy, you'll have to keep the Peters for Vezina balloon drop under wraps this time).
It's funny how some teams just have other team's numbers. For years the Lightning owned the Atlanta Thrashers just as for years the Ottawa Senators had the Lightning's. Recently, the Lightning have owned the Carolina Hurricanes, including a regular season concluding victory that knocked the Hurricanes out of playoff contention in one of those years. It's just one of those things. The Lightning have to really try to lose to Carolina, and as much as they did so tonight, they couldn't help but get 2 points. I'll take it, and the end result is that at the 50 game mark of the season the Lightning managed to collect 11 of the minimum 12 points they wanted out of segment 5 of the season. That means they retain 3 insurance points going into segment 6, which should see the return of Steven Stamkos around game 6 or 7 of the segment. So, they're very close to have surviving an injury that many thought would cripple the young club, which is a tribute to the players and coaching staff. Even more impressive, the victory today moves the Lightning into a tie again with Boston for the Atlantic Division lead, though the B's retain 2 games in hand. If they can stay even with Boston until A.) Stammer gets back in the lineup, and B.) Stammer gets the rust off, they've got a chance to go banner hunting. That's something to think about in March though. For now? They need to focus on getting at least 12 points out of the next 10 games.
Barberio had 2 goals and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 17:11. Stepping up into the PP spot vacated by the injured Victor Hedman, Barberio showed good awareness to spot that a Carolina defender had left to go to the bench after breaking their stick, leading him to jump up for a tap-in for his first NHL goal. He later benefited from some luck as a centering feed ricocheted to him in the high slot where he unleashed a low slapper that ramped up a Carolina defender's stick into the top corner for his second NHL goal. Congratulations to the young man. Yesterday, I think he had his best defensive game in the NHL and tonight he had his best offensive showing in the NHL. You hope it portends a big stretch run of the season.
J.P. Cote was -1 in 7:45. He got his pocket picked trying to move the puck at center ice, which led to Eric Staal's goal off a 2-on-1 that developed from it. Not good.
J.T. Brown had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:05. With the Lightning trying to weather the storm in the second half of the game, Brown's line with Kucherov and Thompson was the only line that seemed to really have their legs and they strung together some key forechecking shifts, including one after Carolina's third goal where they did everything but light the lamp.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:08. His goal came on another bit of luck with a deflected centering feed that bounded to him in the slot all alone for the quick release finish. If you're wondering, 8 goals in 27 games projects to 24 goals over 82. Not a bad rookie campaign, I should think.