Now THAT was a holiday treat!
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. He got the 3 goal lead, made a flurry of key stops toward the end of the Second Period, and the team got to throw it in cruise control the rest of the way. That's how you show the killer instinct to dispose of an inferior team.
18:56 FLA Bergenheim (5), (Barkov)(PP)
19:15 TB Killorn (9), (Filppula, Hedman)
3:22 TB Johnson (9), (Hedman, St Louis)
8:01 TB Filppula (13), (Purcell, St Louis)(PP)
12:07 TB St Louis (16), (Palat)
3:40 TB Brown (3), (Kucherov, Cote)
13:36 TB Brown (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)
This was billed as a clash of two of the hottest teams of the Eastern Conference. The Panthers saw this as an opportunity to make a statement in the last game before the holiday break in front of their home fans (all 3 of them). They made a statement all right. After a fairly even First Period the Lightning started to take territorial control in the Second Period, got a greasy goal to take the lead and the Panthers reacted to the slightest bit of adversity by absolutely dissolving. Undisciplined, stupid play helped the Lightning get a 3 goal lead at the end of the period, and they rewarded the 2 fans they had that stuck around for the final frame by absolutely laying down in the Third Period. They quit. No effort. Nil. Nada. Lightning fans, if you ever get to feeling down on your team, take a look downstate at that dumpster fire in Sunrise. Be glad you don't have to root for that bunch of lazy, unprofessional quitters.
The Lightning check into the holiday break having already secured the minimum 12 points they want from this 4th 10-game segment of the season. They'll get 3 games after the break to close out the segment and to try to rack up insurance points that may come in handy in January and into February. It's a fantastic spot to be in and a tribute to the guys that their record without one of the game's best players (Stamkos) is nearly identical as what their record was with Stamkos to start the year.
The victory also gives the Lightning the inaugural Governor's Cup, which can be now used to collect Bill Lindsay's tears, that I might drink of their sweet, sweet goodness.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:33. With Brewer out and Salo going down in the First Period, Gudas got the big minutes tonight.
Mark Barberio was +3 in 13:46. Two of those plusses came in garbage time in the Third Period after the Panthers chose to lay down. Again, with regard to Barberio's plus/minus, he's living a charmed life this season.
Tyler Johnson had the GWG and was +2 with 3 shots. He was also 54% on draws. He missed a second goal on a 1-time by just a dash, as well.
Alex Killorn was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 16:05. Killorn's goal 19 seconds after Bergenheim's gift from Carle completely negated the Panthers' momentum and set the stage for the Lightning to beat up their inner children all Second Period long.
Ondrej Palat had a helper and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:48. His nice feed to St. Louis on the 1-timer was almost for naught as Marty flubbed the shot, but he got just enough to put it in and get Ondrej on the scoresheet.
J.P. Cote had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 16:16. That, what, 2 assists in 3 games? They gave him #22 and he's putting up numbers like Dan Boyle. He's played mistake-free the past couple of games and he's consistently given the Lightning another big open ice hitter to go along with Gudas. As such, you've seen his ice time continue to go up with over 16 minutes tonight.
J.T. Brown had 2 goals and was +2 with 6 shots in 16:41. The Third Period, garbage time, was the Kucherov and Brownov show, with Brownov being the recipient of some great playmaking from Kucherov.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots in 16:04. He set up Brown's first goal with a great rush and move around the net and the second goal with an easy tap-in off a feed on a 2-on-1. In fact, it looked like he was going to be credited with Brown's first goal, but the scorekeepers realized only Kucherov shots from the high slot should count as regulation goals.
Andrej Sustr was +1 in 16:20. I'll be honest, although he hasn't made any egregious mistakes, it feels like he may be starting to hit a bit of a rookie wall. He's a slightly built guy and he's playing against guys with a lot more foot speed and upper body strength than him, and he's having a slightly rougher time keeping up 1-on-1. This break might be coming at a good time for him to rest and relax before heading out west.
Take the money and RUN...
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 34 shots and stopped 2 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the shootout victory. He made a handful of critical saves to keep the Lightning in the same area code, which ultimately made tonight's thievery possible.
0:11 NYI Okposo (11), (Tavares, Nelson)(PP)
10:21 NYI Nielsen (11), (Grabner, Bailey)
17:07 TB Filppula (11), (unassisted)
19:56 TB Filppula (12), (Brown, St Louis)
TB- Filppula, Kucherov
Valterri Filppula was the game's first star.
So, yeah, that happened, and I can't stop laughing. The Lightning turned in one of their sloppiest efforts of the season and looked to be dead sunk with under 3 minutes to play down 2-0. They had been outworked half the game. They had been turning over pucks left and right. People were demanding I crucify people in the game write-up. Tar was being boiled and feathers were being plucked, bagged, and brought to the ready. Then Kyle Okposo, bless him, decided to hand a puck to Val Filppula in a prime scoring area to make the game 2-1 with under 3 minutes left, a ridiculous goalmouth scrum with the extra attacker led to the tying goal with under 4 seconds left, and Filppula and Kucherov finished off two nasty dekes in the shootout to steal the points. STEAL THE POINTS! I expected the Nassau County Sherrif's Department to show up at the Lightning bench after Bishop made the last save on Tavares to put the entire Lightning squad in irons and make the team do the collective perp walk all the way to the paddy wagon. Thievery. On nights like this, whoever on Long Island made that deal with the devil to get those 4 Cups has to be wondering was it really worth it to now have to watch an eternity of... this.
4 games into the 4th 10 game segment of the season, the Lightning somehow managed to get halfway to the minimum segment goal of 12 points. If they can pull out another win Thursday against Nashville, they'll be in really good position to meet (and probably exceed) their target for this stretch with Carolina and Florida coming up after that. Heck, after tonight, how can they lose? I'm still laughing at the result.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, 5 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:07. Uncredited was a point shot rom Gudas that deflected off the post in the First Period. His hip check on Kyle Okposo, run to the end board with John Tavares, and otherwise snarly game was a page straight out of Dale Carnegie's classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," or Radko's own soon-to-be-published masterwork (I know because I'm ghost writing it), "Radko Gudas' Big Book of Making Friends and Influencing People". With Hedman out, Gudas has been matching up against the opposition's best players, and he's been hitting them and harming them on a nightly basis. At this point, I wonder if they might be just as happy to see Hedman possibly coming back Thursday as we are, if only to get a reprieve from the Wrath of Radko (which, coincidentally, is the working title of the film adaptation of "Radko Gudas' Big Book of Making Friends and Influencing People", for which I'm also getting credit as an Executive Producer).
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 10:55. You know a guy has had a really good game (and I mean that with the most burning sarcasm possible) when people submit requests for me to light the guy on fire verbally... in the Second Period. He was a turnover machine tonight (he wasn't the only one), and he also got caught at least once on a play that led directly to Ben Bishop having to fend off a breakaway. It continues to puzzle me how Barberio's +/- isn't the exact opposite of what it currently is. Is it clean living? Is he secretly Irish? Who knows, but his d-play is almost as big an eyesore as that dump of an arena the Lightning had to play in tonight.
Tyler Johnson had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, 2 hits, and he was 44% on draws.
Alex Killorn had 2 shots and 1 hit in 19:12.
Ondrej Palat had 4 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:32.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots in 17:37. He got increased IT tonight and was in the middle of the glorious netmouth scrum that led to the tying goal. Points are starting to flow a little.
Matt Taormina was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 12:23. Taormina has one virtue (and only one) on defense: if you come down on him on the rush and try to make a move around him he will hit you and put you on your back (there's your carrot, get ready for the stick). Beyond that, he has next to no redeeming qualities that I can detect in his own third of the ice. He turns the puck over with the same magnanimous generosity as Barberio, which is why I'd expect to see him headed back to Syracuse if Hedman is healthy enough to go on Thursday against Nash-Vegas.
Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:32. His move in the shootout, eventually slipping the puck 5-hole on Nabokov, whether you call it a Datsyuk or a Forsberg... filthy. Nasty. Evil. Mean spirited. It's the kind of move that says to a goaltender, "You're bad. You should feel bad. You've been playing the goaltending position your entire life, and the best you could do was still look utterly weak and pathetic and now you're laying prostrate at my feet with the puck behind you and the red light on. And, partly because of that and partly because you look funny and your personality stinks, no one will ever love you." So. Not. Nice.
Andrej Sustr had 3 shots in 15:33. I tell you, if there's one guy who loves Barberio and Taormina, it has to be Sustr. He looks like Larry Robinson in his prime next to those two.
Richard Panik had 3 hits in 10:40. I long for the day he gets a batch of sticks from the manufacturers that doesn't have an awful first touch in every single blade.
Lightning flip the script in Detroit.
Ben Bishop stopped all 28 shots he faced to get the shutout. That there was some more U of Maine Justice!
3:13 TB Johnson (8), (St Louis, Palat)
9:16 TB Brown (2), (Thompson)
18:45 TB Killorn (7), (Filppula, Brewer)(EN)
Bishop and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. In many ways, this was a reversal of the game last night in New Jersey. The Lightning were very patient, got their key saves from Bishop, got their greasy goal, and ended up riding the snowball to a 3-0 win. That's good road hockey, to be certain.
Remember when, going into this season, everyone was saying Detroit was going to eat our lunch in this new division? The Lightning improve to 3-0-0 against Detroit so far this year.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:56. Add Johan Franzen to his list of victims. He hit Franzen and knocked him out of the game in the Second Period. Gudas doesn't care what your resume says you are, to him you're just another target. I think he really sets the tone for the rest of the youngsters on this team. He's not intimidated by the league, and they shouldn't be either.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 9:23. His harrowing moment of the night was when he got stripped by Pavel Datsyuk trying to carry the puck out from behind his net in the Second Period. Like taking candy from a small child.
Johnson had a goal and was +2 with 4 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and he was 23% on draws. He forced the turnover that led to his goal and had his stick on the ice and was in proper position to be the beneficiary of it. Nice play. You make your own luck.
Alex Killorn had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:33. He was awarded the empty netter when he was hooked on the shot attempt. Even if the call had not been made, Teddy Purcell knocked in the rebound off the end boards. Hopefully that opens the flood gates.
Ondrej Palat had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 18:46. He made the pass that led to the key goal and had at least one amazing back checking play defensively.
J.T. Brown had the big insurance goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:41. Good things happen when you go to the net. Hopefully that opens the floodgates for J.T., too.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 10:21.
Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 2 shots in 13:39. He set up Panik on a ten bell opportunity in the First Period and had a breakaway in the Third Period. He's a dangerous offensive player, needless to say.
Andrej Sustr had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:24.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:24. That was a pretty good response coming off of the suspension.
Lightning get back on the right side of the shootout.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots and denied all 6 shooters he faced in the penalty shot session for the SO victory. He made 2-3 amazing lateral saves over the course of the game to keep the Lightning in position to take away the 2 points, which erased memories of the lone goal he allowed which was a little soft mismanagement of a backhand rebound. On a tangent, I found Detroit's strategy of shooting only and not trying to deke Bishop in the shootout bizarre, and he ate their lunch because of it.
15:04 DET Quincey (1), (Nyquist, Franzen)
19:16 TB Kucherov (3), (Brown)
TB- St. Louis
Bishop and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and third stars.
This was a very evenly played game, and the kind of game the Lightning is going to have to continue to win if they're going to stay on track for the postseason. With the exception of the first 10 minutes of the Third Period, I thought they had a slight advantage territorially, but Detroit probably had slightly better chances. Where the Lightning can help themselves are in some obvious areas: 1.) Be better on the PP, 2.) Be better on odd man rushes. I see too many PP's where it takes 3/4 of the PP just to try to get a decent set up. I see too many 3-on-2's where the Lightning settle for a bad, unscreened shot from the side instead of moving the puck to the middle or getting something laterally. I see too many 2-on-1's where passes are broken up and the Lightning get no shots on goal. I see too many breakaways where the Lightning miss the net or fail to put the opposing goaltender in a challenging position to make a save. They wasted several opportunities like this tonight, and if they can start improving in these areas I think they'll find the games will go a lot easier for them. When you take advantage of opportunities like those, you don't have to be as perfect to win games.
Tampa Bay starts the 4th 10 game segment of the season with 2 points. Just 10 more to go in this segment.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 1 shot, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 23:49. Stud. He does not care what your resume says. He does not care how many rings, trophies, or trophy wives with rings that you have. He will hit you, and he will hit you to hurt. Tonight's victim was Pavel Datsyuk, who by the Third Period looked very tired of Radko being on his back like a cheap, scratchy bearded t-shirt. He is blowing all expectations out of the water proving he can play against the other team's top line and excel defensively.
Mark Barberio had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 7:13. He had a better game than against Washington, but that's an awful low bar to clear. A flea couldn't limbo under that bar.
Tyler Johnson had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 23:33 and was 46% on draws. His line was not nearly as dangerous as in the previous two contests.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:50. I thought his line with Filppula and Purcell was the most dangerous, and Filppula and Killorn in particular were very hard on the puck and created quite a few chances. If he can get one, I think the floodgates open for Killorn. He's back to playing his game.
Ondrej Palat had 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 22:26. He had one really awful turnover in his own end in the First Period that he got away with, but started to atone after that pick pocketing a Wing to get a partial break that resulted in a penalty and setting up a couple of chances with cross ice passes through traffic that took a lot of vision and touch. He's getting the bigger minutes now for a reason. He's earned them.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 12:41. Feed Kucherov in his spot, get points.
Matt Taormina had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:42. I think Lightning fans give him a pass because he's fighting above his weight class, but he's almost as bad in his own end as Barberio is. He had 5 giveaways tonight. The team only had 11 overall. On the good side, he did land a really nice hit tonight and he looks decent using his big shot on the PP. But, man, he's pretty scary in his own third.
Kucherov had the big goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:47. He has a spot. High slot. Quick release. All 3 goals have come from that spot. I think he might even be 3/3 on shots from that spot (or pretty close). As anemic as the PP has been, were I Cooper, I would be scheming ways to get Kucherov looks on the PP from that spot.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 15:09. He didn't stick out tonight, which is good for a rookie defenseman playing against Detroit.
Capitals steal a point from the Lightning.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 31 shots and 3 of 5 shooters to convert in the Shootout for the SO Loss. He wasn't as on top of his game as usual, but the only goal I might be able to fault him for was Ovechkin's tying goal with the empty net, which squirted underneath his armpit.
2:26 TB St Louis (13), (Salo, Johnson)(PP)
10:49 TB Kucherov (2), (Purcell, Carle)(PP)
11:07 TB Thompson (3), (Brown, Crombeen)
14:15 WSH Ovechkin (23), (Backstrom)
6:24 WSH Backstrom (7), (Grabovski, Brouwer)(PP)
12:41 TB Johnson (7), (Palat, St Louis)
16:38 WSH Ovechkin (24), (Johansson, Backstrom)(PP)
18:48 WSH Ovechkin (25), (Green, Backstrom)(PP)
8:36 TB Palat (5), (Johnson, St Louis)
19:27 WSH Ovechkin (26), (Carlson, Backstrom)
TB- Kucherov, Purcell
WSH- Fehr, Grabovski, Brouwer
Martin St. Louis was the game's third star.
The Lightning have nothing to feel ashamed of in this game. They dominated, and I mean DOMINATED play at even strength. They outshot Washington 42-31 and if it weren't for Washington being spotted two goals on a boarding major, I suspect the Lightning would have won this game in regulation going away. That's quite the achievement going against a high-powered team like Washington with their top defenseman, Victor Hedman, out of the lineup. I'll take that effort, minus the boarding major, 9 nights out of 10 and win on most of those nights.
The Lightning close the third 10-game segment of the season with 9 points, 3 shy of the minimum 12 you want every 10-game segment. That's bad. However, because the team had gotten a surplus of 4 points in the first 2 segments of the campaign, they remain on track for the season. However, they cannot afford to keep falling behind schedule in these 10-game segments and this fourth segment coming up is going to be critical for the Lightning as they attempt to stay in position for a postseason run.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 2 shots, 10 hits, and 3 blocked shots in a huge 28:38 of ice time. That's not a typo (neither the minutes nor the hits). The young man's a stud.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 7:18. Only Panik had less ice time (for reasons that will be obvious later), and that is very reflective of how he played. If you're ever looking to make the case on why plus-minus is a deceptive stat, Mark Barberio might be Case 1. Yes, he's got a good plus-minus so far this season and even got a plus rating in this game. No, he's not good defensively at all. He had an ill-advised step up in the neutral zone in the Second Period that led to a quick 3-on-1, a really long foray for Washington in the offensive zone, and eventually a penalty on the Lightning that Backstrom scored on to cut the Lightning's lead to 3-2. In the Third Period, Barberio was defending a defenseman, Karl Alzner, on the rush and Alzner nearly beat Barberio around the corner. Barberio made a stay-at-home defenseman look like Bill Guerin in his prime. So, you have bad decision making and a guy who is physically weak. That's a recipe for disaster the Lightning coaching staff decided not to bake with tonight.
Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 points, and was +2 with 3 shots in 20:50. He was also 42% on draws. He was certainly on the right line tonight, supporting St. Louis and Palat as they ran wild on the Caps. He wasn't the straw that stirs the drink, but he's a nice compliment to those two.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 22:20. The penalty he took was a complete fabrication by the refs and it's fortunate that didn't cost the Lightning. Beyond that, I thought Killorn had one of his better games in a while. He was strong as an ox on the puck and getting shots in bunches, playing his game. This is what you expect from Alex Killorn.
Ondrej Palat had 1 goal, 2 points, and was +2 with 6 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:25. In my mind he was the Lightning's best player tonight. He was so dangerous on the rush and he already is showing incredible chemistry with Martin St. Louis. Those two look like they have magic together and Palat nearly won the game twice in Overtime hitting the post from the RW circle on one play and toe dragging into the slot for another opportunity he was denied on. He was outstanding, and it speaks to the quality of Palat's game that of all the talented rookies this team has he is the one that is standing out the most right now.
J.T. Brown had an assist, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:02. He played sparing minutes with the fourth line but made the most of them, in my mind. He gave Nate Thompson an easy goal on a 2-on-1 by freezing the goaltender with a fake shot before dishing and he helped that line put together a stabilizing forechecking shift when the team was clinging to a 1 goal lead at 3-2 in the Second Period.
Matt Taormina had 2 hits in 11:33. A lot of his time came on the second PP unit as the Lightning tried to hide him a bit from Washington's skillful forwards.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:07. He has a spot. High slot. Give him the puck there for a quick release slapper and he's looking as money as Steven Stamkos from the left wing circle. As breathtaking as that goal was, his Pavel Datsyuk impression in the Shootout is the one you're going to see on highlight reels. The young man has ridiculous hands.
Andrej Sustr had 1 hit in 11:36. He stood up ok with his reach on the one really dangerous rush I recall him facing, but it's clear he wasn't comfortable with Washington's pace so the Lightning coaches appeared to protect him just like Barberio and Taormina.
Richard Panik had 5 penalty minutes with 1 shot and 1 hit in 5:29. His major for boarding Alzner was obviously the turning point of the game. The Lightning held a 4-2 lead on Washington at the time he took the penalty and appeared to be cruising toward a victory. Washington emerged from that major penalty with a 4-4 tie, and that allowed Washington to avoid getting run out of their own building, in my opinion. The Lightning have Tyrell on emergency recall from Syracuse, so I don't know if it's feasible to send Panik down right now, but something's got to give. He's just not contributing anything right now, and he owes the team a point after tonight's debacle. I feel bad for the young man, but the team can't keep investing time in him and keep getting nothing in return. Ultimately, Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper aren't running a charity. This is a results oriented business and 30 games into the season Panik simply hasn't been getting results.