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NHL Game Night: 1-21-16 Blackhawks at Lightning

They're baaaaaaaaack, NHL!

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TB-2

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 18 shots for the victory. You could probably count the number of good chances CHI had in this game on one hand. It was a defensive masterpiece and Bishop got the benefit of having to face a surprisingly low amount of work tonight.

First Period
0:43 CHI Anisimov (17), (Kane)
7:14 TB Stralman (6), (Hedman, Filppula)

Second Period
16:39 TB Kucherov (20), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

In the battle of the unstoppable force (Chicago's 12-game winning streak) and the immovable object (Tampa Bay's fledgling 6-game winning streak) the unstoppable force found itself thrashed to pieces on the rocks of a complete 60 minute gem by the Lightning. The final score was 2-1, but without the heroics of Cory Crawford (third star) the Lightning could've won this game by about a 4-1 or 5-1 margin pretty easily. They outshot Chicago 33-18 on the night, denying the Blackhawks anything resembling possession and hounding them for every inch of open ice. The league is on notice now: after floundering for the first half of the year the defending Eastern Conference Champions are back, baby, and they might even be better this year. As mentioned in earlier game blogs, if you're an optimist you'll see the silver lining of the first half is that the Lightning have learned to play a far more defensively responsible game out of necessity that, when fused with their offensive firepower of a year ago, could be nearly unstoppable. Heck, the Lightning power play even looked dangerous on 3 of their 4 opportunities tonight and netted the eventual game winning goal. It's like the stars are aligning.

It's all very impressive, but 7 is a fluke and 8 is a streak.

If you're referring back to the 10-game segment mathematics, the win tonight means the Lightning will cut their season-long points pace deficit to not less than 4 points, and they have 3 more games left in this 10-game segment to cut that down even more or eliminate it altogether. And, guess what? The Lightning have cut the Florida Panthers' division lead to 1 point with a head-to-head matchup coming up on Saturday. Delicious. Pending the outcome of tomorrow's game between the Panthers and Blackhawks, the Lightning could have the opportunity to take over the top spot in the Atlantic in their next game and do so at the hands of their downstate little cousins. We sat through ~42 games of lukewarmness... give us this one, please, Lightning.

Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot in 8:29. He had one really good chance from the slot he nearly got five-hole on Crawford in the First Period. But, in a 1 goal game against the defending Stanley Cup champs, rookies aren't getting a ton of ice time.

Nikita Nesterov played 14:53. He didn't look all that great under physical duress against the Blackhawks forecheck, but he hung in there. And, offensively, he wasn't going for it as much tonight, in my opinion, understanding the situation of the game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Game Day: 1-21-16

Magnitogorsk 1 vs. Kazan 0 (SO)
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Win, SO, 32/32, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%
Season totals: 45 GP, 20-13-9, 3 SO, 2.12 GAA, .915 sv%

Vasily Koshechkin made 32 saves and then held off 6 of 7 shooters in the penalty shot session to life Magnitka to a 1-0 SO victory over Kazan. 27 year old netminder Stanislav Galimov stopped all 32 shots he faced in regulation and OT in the hard luck OT loss.

St. Petersburg 3 vs. Vladivostok 4 (SO)
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 0-1-1, -1, 4 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals (St. Petersburg): 26 GP, 11-17-28, +5, 6 PIM
Season totals (Khanty-Mansiysk): 23 GP, 7-7-14, +6, 4 PIM
Season totals: 49 GP, 18-24-42, +11, 10 PIM

Nikita Gusev had a power play helper and scored on his lone attempt in the penalty shot session in SKA's 4-3 SO loss to Admiral Vladivostok. Gusev also took minors for diving and hooking in his 11:28 of ice time. Ex-Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum notched the shootout winner for Admiral.

Juniors Game Night: 1-20-16

Western Hockey League

Moose Jaw Warriors 1 @ Red Deer Rebels 6

C Brayden Point, MJ: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Season totals: 23 GP, 20-29-49, +12, 17 PIM
2014-15 totals: 60 GP, 38-49-87, +6, 46 PIM

Point was back in the Moose Jaw lineup after serving a 1-game suspension for a clipping major. The Warriors, who held onto Point at the trade deadline with the hopes of making a run in their captain’s final junior season, have lost two straight and are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 games. They are third in the east, five points behind Prince Albert and 12 points up on the first team out of the Wild Card spot.

AHL Game Night: 1-20-16 Crunch at Marlies

Allan Walsh publicity stunt postponed for a short time for a hockey game.

SYR-4
TOR-5 (OT)

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 5 goals on 44 shots for the OT loss.

First Period
SYR Blunden, (9) (Erne, Taormina), 12:25 (PP)
TOR Loov, (1) (Brennan, Arcobello), 18:29

Second Period
SYR Darcy, (3) (Paradis, Witkowski), 19:13

Third Period
TOR Arcobello, (13) (Leipsic, Kapanen), 5:22
SYR Richard, (5) (Gourde, Blunden), 5:59
SYR DeAngelo, (4) (Gourde, Richard), 6:39
TOR Hyman, (8) (Baier, Soshnikov), 10:47
TOR Arcobello, (14) (Morin), 18:33

Overtime
TOR Leipsic, (12) (R. Rupert), 1:22

Tanner Richard was the game's third star.

Prior to the game the Tampa Bay Lightning suspended Jonathan Drouin for failure to join the Crunch for tonight's game. Drouin's agent issued a statement claiming that the Lightning had told his client that a trade was imminent and that the agent and the player had made the decision to forego further games in the AHL to avoid the risk of injury prior to any trade. The tell in this situation is that the Crunch are playing Toronto tonight, which makes the decision by Drouin and his agent look like a very transparent attempt to create a media feeding frenzy in one of the two biggest media markets in Canada in order to force Steve Yzerman's hand.

If a trade were close at hand, though, Drouin and Walsh have almost certainly jeopardized it with this stunt. The move is clearly an orchestrated effort to hurt the organization while Drouin also, point blank, gave up on his teammates in both Tampa Bay and Syracuse in the process. Any GM worth their salt will now view Drouin and his baggage (Walsh) with an even more jaundiced eye, harming his value and putting Yzerman in a difficult position. Drouin's trade value may be depressed in the short term by this stunt, perhaps making the prudent course for the Lightning to stand pat and force Drouin to report back to Syracuse, which would also send the correct message in terms of organizational discipline. But, do the Lightning really want a player who has put self interest above the good of his team and organization in such a public display in the locker room in Syracuse, even if Drouin could be forced to show up?

Rock, meet hard place.

Fortunately, there is some short term pressure relief in Tampa Bay due to the team's current rise in the standings. Given the team looks resurgent without Drouin, there is less urgency to leverage the player as an asset to help the club up top. So perhaps an extended hiatus for Drouin might not be the worst thing in the world at this moment. In the end, Drouin and Walsh's tantrums aside, the Lightning still hold all the cards in this situation, and they can certainly wait this situation out as long as they please.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

KHL Game Day: 1-20-16

Novgorod 1 vs. Yaroslavl 2 (SO)
Carter Ashton, Novgorod, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 41 GP, 11-9-20, +3, 61 PIM

Carter Ashton was scoreless in 18:48 of ice time in Novgorod's 2-1 SO loss to Yaroslavl. Ex-Kings forward Andrei Loktionov had the Shootout winner for Yaroslavl.

Juniors Game Night: 1-19-16

Western Hockey League

Moose Jaw Warriors 1 @ Edmonton Oil Kings 3

C Brayden Point, MJ: Did not play
Season totals: 22 GP, 20-29-49, +13, 17 PIM
2014-15 totals: 60 GP, 38-49-87, +6, 46 PIM

Point was not in the lineup Tuesday in Edmonton as he was suspended one game for a clipping major.

Vancouver Giants 1 @ Tri-City Americans 5

D Ben Thomas, VAN: 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIM
Season totals: 49 GP, 4-14-18, -19, 28 PIM
With Vancouver: 35 GP, 4-11-15, -9, 18 PIM
With Calgary: 14 GP, 0-3-3, -10, 10 PIM
2014-15 totals: 60 GP, 7-24-31, +16, 28 PIM

Thomas has one assist in his last eight games. Vancouver dropped a decision to Portland on Monday. Thomas was -1 in that game.

NHL Game Night: 1-19-16 Oilers at Lightning

Lightning win 80's throwback night at Amalie.

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TB-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the victory. Two short side goals and a whole lot of rebounds handed out. This was a rough outing for Vasilevskiy, and the silver lining is the team managed to find a way to pull it out for him anyway. That hasn't happened much for Lightning goaltenders this season, so the role reversal was a nice change of pace.

First Period
3:57 TB Nesterov (3), (Killorn, Sustr)
5:25 EDM Kassian (1), (Pakarinen)
16:57 TB Kucherov (19), (Johnson, Killorn)
19:26 EDM Letestu (7), (Nurse)(SH)

Second Period
6:09 TB Palat (4), (Namestnikov, Stamkos)
17:12 TB Namestnikov (10), (Palat, Stamkos)

Third Period
2:10 EDM Draisaitl (11), (Hall, Kassian)
4:29 EDM Pakarinen (4), (unassisted)
7:42 TB Boyle (9), (Coburn, Brown)(SH)
19:33 TB Killorn (8), (Kucherov)(EN)

Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

So, now that they've re-found their goal scoring groove, the Lightning got away with a night of pond hockey against Edmonton. That won't please Jon Cooper. Too many turnovers. Too many odd man rushes. Too many plays that weren't situationally smart, especially early in the Third Period. And, it was all compounded by some subpar goaltending. Maybe it's fitting that Edmonton was the opponent in a game that took a definite 1980's feel in the style department. I'm not inclined to freak out about it, because the Lightning haven't played many games this wide open all year, but they do need to get back to a responsible mindset with a beast like Chicago coming to town... because 6 is a fluke, 7 is a streak.

The good news: the Palat/Namestnikov/Stamkos line is the truth, and Kucherov is starting to pull Johnson and Killorn along with him to build a second, potent scoring line. The Lightning never had a second scoring line last season despite leading the league in goals. If they can piece two together down the stretch and into a presumptive playoff run, they'll be that much more dangerous in the postseason. And, if they ever find anything approaching consistency on the power play, well, that's the stuff of dreams and legends, isn't it?

Advancing to 6-0-0 in this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning now have 4 games to pay down/off their 6 point season deficit and get on firm pace to make the playoffs. There's still a lot of work to do, but even going .500 the next 4 games would put the Lightning in considerably better shape than they were after the stinker they laid in Calgary just a couple of weeks ago. Also, with the win, the Lightning have pulled to within 3 points of idle Florida for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with another head-to-head matchup between the two clubs coming up in 4 days.

"But Pete, don't you tell us to ignore the standings and keep an eye on the segment goals?" Yes, yes I do. But, I'm willing to forego that discipline on this one occasion because I really hate the Panthers with the intense burning heat of about 1,000 exploding suns and it would bring me infinite joy to pass them like a road cone on the way to the playoffs while they're still in the haze of the false euphoria of their precious little turn-of-the-year winning streak.

Bring forth the Governor's Cup and I shall use it as a chalice to hold the bitter tears of Panther fan(s), to be garnished by their broken dreams (and a lime)!

Nikita Nesterov had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 17:08. Nesterov certainly looked like he was in his element playing in a game this wide open. He really appeared to savor it.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Game Day: 1-19-16

St. Petersburg 4 vs. Novokuznetsk 0
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Season totals (St. Petersburg): 25 GP, 11-16-27, +6, 2 PIM
Season totals (Khanty-Mansiysk): 23 GP, 7-7-14, +6, 4 PIM
Season totals: 48 GP, 18-23-41, +12, 6 PIM

Nikita Gusev had a power play helper on ex-Panthers pick Evgeny Dadonov's goal in SKA's 4-0 blanking of Novokuznetsk. Dadonov also had a pair of helpers in the win. Ex-Islanders second rounder Mikko Koskinen stopped all 20 shots he faced for the shutout.

AHL Game Day: 1-18-16 Crunch at Americans

Crunch Brolldoze to a MLK Day win.

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RCH-1

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
SYR Erne, (7) (Gudlevskis), 1:23

Third Period
SYR Broll, (2) (Ikonen), 2:45
RCH Bailey, (6) (Ellis, Austin), 4:09

Gudlevskis and David Broll were the game's first and second stars.

Syracuse is 5-3-2 in their last 10, which closely corresponds to the beginning of Drouinsanity.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

KHL Game Day: 1-18-16

Ekaterinburg 6 vs. Magnitogorsk 3
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, No Decision, 2/3, 3.79 GAA, .667 sv%
Season totals: 44 GP, 20-13-8, 2 SO, 2.17 GAA, .923 sv%

Caps first rounder Ilya Samsonov allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss as Magnitka fell hard, 6-3 to Ekaterinburg. 33 year old Czech national Petr Koukal had 2 goals and 3 points for Ekaterinburg in the win.

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