Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Ben Thomas to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Thomas, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, began the 2015-16 season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He recorded three assists in 14 games with Calgary prior to being traded to the Vancouver Giants, also of the WHL, on October 27. Thomas skated in 60 games with the Giants, registering eight goals and 25 points with 40 penalty minutes. He led all Vancouver defensemen for goals and ranked second for assists and points.
The Calgary native has appeared in 213 career WHL games with the Hitmen and Giants, recording 22 goals and 90 points. He also played for Team Canada at the 2014 Under-18 World Championships, tallying one assist in seven games en route to earning the Bronze Medal.
Thomas was drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round, 119th overall, of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Bishop outlasts Domingue in goaltending duel to set franchise SO record.
Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout, handing down U of Maine Justice for a franchise record 15th time in a Lightning uniform. Arizona didn't have a ton of A chances, and he had some long stretches of inactivity, but he stood on his head in the Third Period and on two 5-on-3's in the Second Period to get his team with win tonight.
19:03 TB Palat(13), (Hedman, Killorn)
19:10 TB Kucherov(27), (Stamkos)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue was the third star. True, his soft goal allowed to Palat ended up being the difference in the game, but he can stay in the Western Conference, thank you very much. He's looked like Tony Esposito reincarnate the two times the Lightning have had to play him this season.
All-in-all, the Lightning put forth the effort they needed to tonight at even strength and especially on the penalty kill where they were masterful against an extremely good Arizona power play. Espo's Rule about not scoring on 5-on-3's held up. The Coyotes squandered a pair of them and, sure enough, they lost. In the half empty portion of the glass, the Lightning absolutely wet the bed on a 4 minute power play in the Third Period that begged to deliver the put away goal, but only delivered disappointment instead.
The Lightning pulled to within 2 points of the Atlantic Division lead, but more importantly, they cut their target number to 9 points. 9 points in the next 8 games and they should be in solid shape to make the playoffs comfortably. Get that and I'll be happy. Anything above that is gourmet gravy.
Jonathan Marchessault had 6 shots and 1 hit in 15:23 and was even pretty good when pressed into service on 3 faceoffs, going 67%. Tonight was a night where he played his game. Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. If he keeps doing that, good things will happen. He needs 3 more games to reach graduation from prospect status on the website. I doubt Cooper can sit him next time out with the way he played tonight.
Third Period collapse in Big D.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss.
12:15 TB Kucherov(26), (Killorn, Sustr)
14:08 DAL Spezza(29), (Nichushkin)
3:15 TB Stamkos(32), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
5:42 DAL Benn(35), (Eakin)
17:19 TB Stamkos(33), (Killorn, Hedman)
9:42 DAL Johns(1), (Eakin, Benn)
11:50 DAL Benn(36), (Eakin, Seguin)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
That Third Period just wasn't good enough. The Lightning played a good (not perfect) first 40 minutes. Sans a few mistakes like that gross turnover by Stamkos on Dallas' second goal, they could've had a multi-goal lead after the Second Period. As it was, they played the road game well weathering Dallas' early storm and staying ahead or even most of the first two periods. But, getting outshot 17-4 in the Third Period just isn't going to get it done. Dallas pushed and the Lightning had no answer, and I don't get why. I really don't. It wasn't complacency, but perhaps they're guilty of trying to sit on a lead, if anything.
Back-to-back losses may make winning the Atlantic Division an impossibility and puts the Lightning in a position where they need to right the ship quickly here or put themselves at risk for the playoffs. With 9 games to go in this 10 game set of the year, they still have a magic number to get of 11 points. What they don't want is to scuttle through those 9 games and only collect, say, 8 points, and find themselves in the high-pressure position of needing points in the last 2 games of the year just to get into the postseason. That would be bad, so the team needs to tighten up quickly. I'd much rather see them sew up a spot and be able to give Ben Bishop a little rest the last couple of games of the regular season before the postseason marathon begins.
Lightning take 40 minutes off... face the consequences.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for a fairly hard luck loss. He made several high-difficulty saves, but got precious little in the way of goal support.
13:34 TOR Carrick(1), (Holland, Greening)
6:33 TB Boyle(11), (Stralman)
9:07 TOR Smith(1), (Grabner, Michalek)
18:27 TOR Hyman(3), (Smith, Marincin)(EN)
19:47 TOR Parenteau(17), (unassisted)(EN)
This team is so bad, particularly on offense, when they try to get by just going through the motions. I thought they were flat the first 40 minutes tonight and tried to come back and win the game in one period, and that just can't cut it at the NHL level. 11 shots, total, through two periods is just awful. The only thing you'll win is a dog show with numbers like that.
Tampa Bay will now enter the final 10 game segment of the season needing at least 11 points to reach the season target at the end of 80 games. It's certainly do-able, but the team needs more consistent urgency and focus than it has shown the past week or two to close the deal.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 penalty minutes and 4 hits in 11:40. One shot attempt. One. I applaud the young man for having some abrasiveness to his game despite his small size, but that's not his game. If I had Jonathan Marchessault's shot, I'd start shooting from the team hotel and I wouldn't stop until they had to wrap my wrists in ice. Just saying. With 12 games left in the Lightning's season, Marchessault needs 4 more appearances to graduate from prospect status on the site.
Lightning stare down adversity... and smack it in the mouth.
Ben Bishop stopped all 37 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Columbus' fans decided to make Bishop a target after he was interfered with on a goal that was waved off early in the game, and the Blue Jackets ran Ben several times, including a pretty wicked leg sweep by Foligno. All the sweeter for Bishop, who handed down some U of Maine Justice by blanking his would-be tormenters.
5:29 TB Stamkos(30), (Kucherov)
8:45 TB Namestnikov(12), (Johnson)
10:54 TB Stamkos(31), (Palat)(SH)
14:39 TB Palat(12), (Stamkos)(SH)
The Lightning entered this game pretty well needing a win, having dropped their last 3 with 2 of those being distinctive clunkers against Philly. That's why Bishop was in net today, when if all things were even I think this is a start Cooper might've slid Vasilevskiy's way. Columbus has learned to play a little tighter defensively under Tortorella and they're an extremely physical (goonish) team. They push the envelope of the rules. And, further complicating things, the Lightning ended up playing over half the game with 9 forwards after Valtteri Filppula and Nikita Kucherov had to leave the game with injury (the latter taking a sucker punch in a post whistle scrum from Prout that should be suspension-worthy, in my opinion, if the league gives a damn about protecting its stars).
Tired and sore, the Lightning answered the bell. They manufactured the goals they needed to get the 2-0 lead, they played tight enough defense, and they eventually broke it open on a couple of masterful shorthanded goals by Stamkos and Palat. Today wasn't a game that the Lightning would've circled on the calendar heading into it, but the way they handled adversity in a chippy game makes this a far more important victory than it may have looked on paper.
A little comment on Columbus before I move on: that team is an embarrassment. Let me reiterate: that team is an embarrassment. God bless Tortorella for getting them to play hard, but the fine line between playing hard and playing dirty got obliterated this afternoon. You had Foligno low-bridging a goaltender and body-slamming Namestnikov. You had Prout sucker-punching a Russian goal scorer in a post-whistle scrum that may have concussed Kucherov. You had Bourque slashing Tyler Johnson across the hands with the game well out of hand. You had Calvert slashing another Lightning player right at the final buzzer. That says nothing about all the other stick infractions, clutching and grabbing, and sucker punches and slashes the Blue Jackets got away with as the game wore on. They started to look like a glorified Central Hockey League team as things wore on, and the NHL out to seriously be ashamed there's a product like that anywhere on the league's ice. I wish John Tortorella all the best in taking a book of matches and a gallon or two of lighter fluid to that roster in the offseason in the pursuit of building a team that isn't an appalling laughing stock for anyone who cares about seeing the game played the right way.
With Valtteri Filppula hurt, I wouldn't be shocked to see a Tanner Richard recall, as he was held out of Syracuse's lineup today.
With 1 game left to play in Segment Seven of the season, the Lightning have cleared the minimum 12 points they needed from the 10-game set by 1 point. That means the next contest against Toronto on Tuesday will be an opportunity to pick up 2 more insurance points and drive the magic number they need in Segment Eight of the season to comfortably make the playoffs down even further from 11, which is where it currently stands.
Lightning should be held in contempt for failure to appear.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss. I have a hard time complaining about a goaltender who has gotten a whopping 1 goal of support in the last 120 minutes (and 10 seconds!) of hockey.
8:57 PHI Gagner(7), (unassisted)(PP)
3:34 PHI Read(11), (MacDonald, Couturier)(PP)
7:56 PHI Schenn(23), (Simmonds, Manning)
17:18 TB Boyle(10), (Stralman, Killorn)
The Lightning just never showed up tonight. Having failed to get the payoff for such a spirited effort against Boston, they just never mentally bought into playing tonight, or at least it appeared that way, and they just were lifeless. When they're second to pucks they're a bad, bad team.
Sidebar: I have a feeling Cooper could put all 12 Lightning forwards on the power play and they'd still struggle. We'll see how that experiment goes, though. 0-for-1 is certainly a small sample size to draw conclusions from.
The scary thing is the Lightning appear to the naked eye to be playing the same brand of hockey they were in their disastrous first half of the season. In other words, disinterest mixed with mistakes and the distinct absence of goal scoring. That needs to change in a hurry if the Lightning want to win the division and if they want to make sure they don't put themselves back in a little jeopardy of missing the playoff cut.
One bad shift costs the Lightning a signature win.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the OT loss. He was excellent in the game, and it was a difficult game to be excellent in because it had long stretches of inactivity after which Bishop would have to make a Grade A save on a high quality chance. He deserved better than the finish.
0:10 BOS Marchand(34), (Bergeron, Krug)
Bishop was the game's second star.
Considering the setup to this game, with the clunker in Philly last night and Stralman missing the game, this was a strong, strong effort by the Lightning. They got everything but the result, which robs them of a richly deserved signature moment. This felt like a playoff game. "Playoff atmosphere" is an overused cliche in the regular season, but it would've actually been applied correctly tonight. Unfortunately, the Lightning just couldn't get anything past Gustavsson and one flat shift by the 4-man unit to start OT cost them, big time.
With 3 games left to play in this 10-game segment of the season, Tampa Bay needs just 1 more point to stay on minimum playoff pace. They also retain a lead in the Atlantic Division title chase based on the ROW tiebreaker and their game in hand on Boston.
There are just 15 games left to go in the regular season, and they'll be gone in the blink of an eye.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot in 11:05. Rookie defender in a 0-0 game all the way through regulation? He simply wasn't getting the ice time tonight under those circumstances.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot in 12:02. He had 5 other attempts on goal, though, that were either missed or blocked. So he was active in limited IT.
All good things...
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 39 shots for the loss. It was an unfortunate result for Andrei, because he was the only reason the Lightning had any chance at all tonight. He played really well.
4:07 TB Palat(11), (Koekkoek, Johnson)
16:51 PHI Gostisbehere(13), (Raffl, Couturier)
7:21 PHI Gostsbehere(14), (Giroux, Streit)(PP)
13:57 PHI B. Schenn(22), (Giroux, Simmonds)
14:53 TB Namestnikov(11), (Johnson, Kucherov)
19:33 PHI Simmonds(24), (B. Schenn)(EN)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
So ends the Lightning's franchise record 9-game winning streak. The Lightning got the goal early in the First Period and then played the role of spectator the rest of the night. They were flat, lifeless, and unfocused. They were second to loose pucks all night long, they were weak on their sticks, and their decision-making, positioning, and passing were remarkably poor. That's one of the worst games the Lightning have played in years, and would be easier to shrug off if, A.) They hadn't played poorly in their last game a stolen a win, and B.) They didn't have a good Boston team on a back-to-back tomorrow night. Just as concerning, as quickly and unexpectedly as Callahan and Killorn started playing well on Stamkos' line, that trio has gone back into the witness protection program again. Look, I love "The Triplets," but the Lightning will go as far as the vets like Stamkos and Callahan can take them, because they will have to give the Lightning the scoring balance they need to compete in the playoffs.
Get well soon Brayden Coburn and Andrej Sustr.
Slater Koekkoek had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:27.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:12. If you blinked, you probably missed him tonight. He's 7 games from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Lightning survive the trap game in a quick pit stop at home.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the OT win. He'll want the first one back that went in off his blocker. The other two were not his fault when you talk about a puck that went in off Stralman's face and a tap in for an unmarked Skinner. Bottom line: he stood on his head in OT when he needed to in order to give the Lightning a chance to get the win.
16:43 TB Palat(9), (Johnson)
13:24 CAR Rask(15), (DiGiuseppe, Skinner)
15:41 TB Palat(10), (Kucherov)
3:09 CAR Staal(17), (Lindholm, Rask)(PP)
10:18 CAR Skinner(23), (DiGiuseppe, Murphy)
13:42 TB Johnson(12), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)
4:17 TB Killorn(13), (Filppula)
When you win nine in a row, they're not all going to be masterpieces. Tonight was definitely an example. The Lightning got pretty loose defensively about midway through the game and it took a few great individual plays by the likes of Palat, Kucherov, and Killorn to ultimately manufacture a win. I'm not going to get too upset about it, though. There's a reason why it's taken over twenty years for a Lightning team to finally win nine in a row: it's really hard to play really well night in and night out consistently weeks and weeks and weeks at a time.
Halfway through this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning are a perfect 5-0-0, meaning they need just 2 points out of the next 5 games to stay on playoff pace. They should do that easily, so now is the time to stockpile points to allow the team to have the luxury of resting some guys around game 80, 81, and 82 of the season. In the Atlantic, the Lightning hold serve with the Panthers playing late at Arizona. At a minimum, the Lightning will maintain their tie atop the division with the tiebreaker due to their (sizable!) ROW advantage.
Lightning overcome temporary brain deadness to run win streak to 8.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 34 shots for the victory. He was extremely solid, and he had to be to help the Lightning weather the important moments in this game.
4:14 TB Paquette(5), (Brown, Hedman)
18:33 TB Palat(8), (Johnson)
5:24 OTT Methot(3), (Smith)
18:14 TB Kucherov(25), (unassisted)
19:46 TB Stamkos(29), (Stralman)(EN)
Bishop and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and second stars.
The Lightning made that harder than they needed to, and it's not a tape they'll be looking at for aesthetic reasons. They built the 2-0 lead through 40 minutes by playing solid, opportunistic road hockey. They really were pushing hard for the put away goal early in the Third Period, and they started getting sloppy on their breakouts, which led to about 10-15 minutes of nail biting. You simply cannot have the unforced turnovers at your own blueline, and the Lightning were just playing braindead hockey for that span of the game. Fortunately Bishop was solid and fortunately Pageau made an even worse unforced turnover to Kucherov in the OTT slot to get the put away goal and avoid the photo finish.
At the time of this posting, Colorado holds a 3-2 lead over the Panthers. If that holds up, the Lightning will again be in a tie atop the Atlantic Division. Either way, the Lightning already have 8 of the minimum 12 points they need out of this 10 game segment of the season with 6 games left in it. That means they're in excellent shape to squirrel away a lot of points heading into the very last segment of the regular season.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:11. Tonight was his 41st game of the season, meaning he is now graduated from prospect status on the website. He put in a pretty good performance at both ends of the rink to celebrate the occasion, too.