Tampa Bay Lightning

Content regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

NHL Game Night: 2-16-16 Sharks at Lightning

If the goat horns fit, make him wear them.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss. Partial breakaways and completely uncovered guys in the slot. Not his fault.

First Period
17:51 TB Callahan(6), (Killorn, Sustr)

Second Period
1:43 SJ Ward(16), (Vlasic, Nieto)
6:34 SJ Pavelski(26), (Thornton, Hertl)
8:46 TB Paquette(3), (Brown)

Third Period
1:17 SJ Nieto(8), (Marleau, Ward)
18:17 SJ Karlsson(7), (Thornton)

Ryan Callahan was the game's third star. He did, after all, score his second goal in the last 42 or 43 games, so it was a big deal. Between Matt Carle's -3 in 11:07 of ice time and Val Filppula's rally-stifling late game penalty, it was truly a banner night for the Dead Money Trio. $17.9 million in combined salary for that trio this season, and most of it is money that's absolutely being stolen from the organization.

Matt Carle is not an NHL defenseman anymore, and no team in the league is going to take him in a trade. It's time for Yzerman to suck it up and either send him to Syracuse or send him home. It's Carle's choice, but he can't be in the lineup anymore. He's killing the team. Killing them. He was -3 tonight, and he earned that -3 by playing a pretty significant hand in all 3 goals against. The most important of the three was an ill-advised whiff of a pinch on the eventual GWG. Bottom line, it's time for the Lightning to cut their losses and to use the ice time they've been wasting on Carle to give Slater Koekkoek NHL seasoning for the future.

Tonight's loss puts the Lightning back in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. After getting 18 points in the last 10-game segment of the season, the team had finally worked its way back onto a solid playoff pace. Now, unless they go on a 4 game winning streak, they'll be behind the 8-ball by the end of this 10-game segment of the season and in the unenviable position of having to make up ground when the calendar rolls over into March. That's exactly where a team doesn't want to be.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot in 7:58. He generated two good scoring chances in his limited ice time and his skating is just too good an asset to hold out of the lineup for someone like Matt Carle.

Jonathan Marchessault had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:34. He played inspired high-energy hockey in limited ice time. But, he also took an offensive zone penalty, so I expect him to be flogged by Cooper and press-boxed for another 9 games.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 hit in 15:39. It was a quiet night where he didn't make any Carle-esque mistakes at the offensive blueline.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-14-16 Blues at Lightning

Toronto throws love St. Louis' way on controversial Valentine's Day goal review.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the loss. The GWG came on a Berglund goal where Bishop made the initial stop and Berglund pushed his heel out to kick the puck into the net. Originally waved off by the official on the ice, Toronto reversed the call to give the Blues what turned out to be the margin of victory. Yeah.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
0:36 STL Fabbri(13), (Stastny)

Third Period
17:41 STL Berglund(4), (unassisted)
19:08 TB Kucherov(23), (Johnson, Hedman)

Bishop was the game's second star.

I'm torn about this game. I don't think the Lightning played as well as their 38-21 shot advantage might suggest, but I suspect a lot of that had to do with the fact St. Louis was tackling the Lightning's skill players at every opportunity in true Hitchcock fashion. The Blues looked completely unprepared for the Lightning's speed and puck handling ability in the First Period, but Tampa Bay failed to get on the board when they had the decisive advantage in possession and the Blues started to turn things by playing more of a grinding, clutch and grab style in the Second Period. Joel Edmundson, in particular, had a couple of NFL caliber tackles trying to handle the Lightning on the rush. It's just a shame St. Louis doesn't have an NFL team anymore... but I digress.

Ultimately the Lightning needed to get one of three things done tonight, and they didn't: 1.) Get a power play goal. 2.) Get a goal off an offensive zone faceoff. 3.) Fight through the gauntlet of clutching and grabbing to pot a second chance on the initial shot. That was the formula they struggled with in their opening round series against Detroit in the playoffs last season. I saw something similar tonight.

An aside: Why the hell is Matt Carle in the lineup instead of Slater Koekkoek?

Another aside: The Lightning passed on Robby Fabbri to select thrice-in-a-row scratched (in Syracuse) Anthony DeAngelo. Things that haunt me when I'm both awake and asleep.

The loss puts the Lightning in a precarious position in the standings. Just when it looked like things were getting safe, a 2-3-0 start to this 10-game segment of the season means the Lightning have to get 8 of 10 remaining points to stay on pace. Not good, and you don't want to be fishing for make-up points once the calendar rolls over into March.

Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:08. His bad pinch to start the Second Period resulted in the 2-on-0 that became Fabbri's goal. This comes just a few games after he hammered an ill advised shot into a shot blocker that also became a goal. You have to be sure at the other team's blueline when you're the last line of defense. D-Man 101.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-12-16 Predators at Lightning

Lightning snatch hope from the jaws of despair.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the OT victory. I suspect he wants the opening goal by Fisher back, but it's hard to fault him for the turnstile quality defense in front of him in the Third Period.

First Period
9:40 NSH Fisher(8), (Arvidsson, Ekholm)

Second Period
8:22 TB Brown(7), (Filppula, Sustr)
10:07 TB Kucherov(22), (Nesterov, Bishop)

Third Period
4:01 NSH Neal(20), (Josi, Jackman)
7:46 NSH Forsberg(18), (Ribeiro, Josi)
19:33 TB Stamkos(22), (Hedman, Kucherov)(PP)

Overtime
1:04 TB Johnson(8), (Hedman, Stamkos)

Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars.

It's remarkable the difference between the Lightning road power play and the home power play of late, and you won't get a bigger power play goal than the tying marker by Steven Stamkos late in regulation. It may have saved the Lightning from digging another hole late in the season. More on that later.

Matt Carle was -2 and had a nice view of the James Neal breakaway to tie the game in the Third Period. Bottom line: the guy's not an NHL player anymore. His skating, which was his calling card when he came into the league, is shot and his hands/dexterity seem to be deteriorating too. In my opinion, this call up of Slater Koekkoek for the injured Jason Garrison isn't just a call up. If he plays well, I have a feeling it will be the call up. It was clear the coaching staff had lost faith in Carle prior to the Garrison injure, as he pretty much became a regular scratch. Last year, in the Stanley Cup Final, they learned a pretty serious lesson about defensive depth, as Carle's pairing with Sustr seemed to drag the team under, routinely. Because of that, and Brayden Coburn's impending free agency, I always suspected Koekkoek would be up in the second half of the season. Now, I wouldn't be shocked if he outright takes Carle's roster spot and sends the veteran home or to Syracuse once Garrison returns in 3-5 weeks. I expect Koekkoek in next time out, and I expect to see flashes of his Hedman-lite play.

The Lightning's win was critical, because it gives them a chance to stay on pace for this 10-game segment of the year at the halfway point of 5 games. They couldn't afford a 3-game losing streak at this time of the season with another quality opponent coming up next.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with a helper, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:57. Nesterov's now 9 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-9-16 Lightning at Canadiens

Lightning back at a crossroads after horrible road trip.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss. It's a bad stat line, but it doesn't tell the whole story. The defensive effort in front of Bishop tonight was putrid.

First Period
5:56 MTL Gallagher (14), (Plekanec)

Second Period
0:40 TB Filppula (7), (Hedman)
6:40 MTL Plekanec (11), (Gallagher, Barberio)
19:52 MTL Smith-Pelly (5), (Subban, Eller)

Third Period
6:17 MTL Plekanec (12), (Galchenyuk, Emelin)
9:03 TB Hedman (5), (Filppula, Callahan)

The effort was better tonight, and with some luck the Lightning might've gotten some points out of the game. They did generate a ton of shots and chances and they did hit three posts. So, this wasn't a total disaster. But, honestly, they got plenty of chances in Ottawa, too. That's not the issue. The issue is you're not seeing the intense focus in all three zones and the attention to detail you saw in the big 11-game stretch the Lightning had. Tonight you had a goal where Nesterov made a poor decision to try to shoot through a guy that led to an odd-man rush and a goal. You saw a faceoff loss eventually lead to a goal. You saw Alex Killorn fall down in defensive coverage and a goal. And then you saw another odd man rush with the trailer getting the goal. It's self-inflicted wounds. It's not applying the same back pressure from the forwards. It's about losing faceoffs. It's about losing your check in the defensive zone. In short, it's about getting preoccupied with offense and the grim reality that when you don't mind the details on defense you have the puck less and you end up scoring less goals anyway. That's what happened tonight, to a degree.

Time to get a little regroup, and head this 2 game losing streak off at the pass. As heavy a lift as it took for the Lightning to get themselves back into the playoff picture, they can't afford to relax and lose focus and blow it so quickly.

Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 2 hits in 10:45. It's just really hard for him to contribute as a fourth liner with spot power play duty. He doesn't get into the flow any and that makes it hard to produce offense.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 1 blocked shot in 16:30. His lone shot attempt was the one that was blocked leading to Montreal's opening goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-8-16 Lightning at Senators

Costly clunker in Canada's capital.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He wasn't at fault for the L, but his softie in the Second Period essentially ended the game by allowing Ottawa to build the 3 goal lead.

First Period
5:23 OTT Smith (11), (Stone)
16:51 OTT Prince (3), (unassisted)
17:25 TB Brown (6), (Coburn, Callahan)

Second Period
4:41 OTT Stone (15), (Pageau, Zibanejad)(PP)
10:46 OTT Stone (16), (Ceci, Pageau)

Third Period
15:22 OTT Pageau (13), (unassisted)

The Lightning came out flat tonight and never, ever got their legs underneath them. They were consistently beaten to loose pucks and they turned over the puck far too much. They deserved to be run out of the rink tonight, and they eventually were. When you fail to respect the game and your opponent, this is the end result. The bigger problem, though, is Jason Garrison missed the last two periods of the game with a lower body injury. Short of Ben Bishop getting injured, an injury to one of the team's top-four defensemen is one of the losses the team simply doesn't have the depth to cope with. It's pretty clear that the team doesn't have faith in Matt Carle anymore and they shouldn't have faith in Sustr and Nesterov moving up in minutes from the niches they're in, either. At a certain point, I really hope they start getting Slater Koekkoek more NHL experience for just this type of problem. I'd hate this to happen in the playoffs and Slater still be completely wet behind the ears.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 18:25. He did have 4 shot attempts, but honestly, if you weren't named "J.T. Brown" you want to burn the tape tonight if you were in a Lightning jersey.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-5-16 Penguins at Lightning

Lightning weather flat start to double-up Pens.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. He made a handful of difficult saves in the First Period to keep the Lightning in the game, and once they had the lead he made the situational saves necessary to make sure they got the win.

First Period
4:53 PIT Hornqvist (11), (Kunitz, Pouliot)
11:50 TB Stralman (7), (Johnson, Killorn)
18:34 TB Killorn (9), (Johnson, Kucherov)

Second Period
6:04 TB Palat (5), (Stamkos)(SH)
8:04 PIT Crosby (21), (Kunitz, Hornqvist)
9:15 TB Johnson (7), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
0:55 PIT Cullen (6), (Kessel)
15:55 TB Palat (6), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)
17:56 TB Stralman (8), (Callahan)

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Steven Stamkos were the game's three stars.

The Lightning came out in this game not matching Pittsburgh's intensity and were very lucky to get away with it. Make no mistake about it. The Pens needed this game more than the Lightning and they came out and played the First Period that way. They got the early 1-0 lead and could've racked up a big lead were it not for Ben Bishop. He made a handful of key saves that allowed the Lightning to hang around until the Pens defense made a coverage mistake on Stralman's first goal that allowed them to get their legs under them and tilt the game in their favor. The Lightning controlled the bulk of the play from there, but just couldn't seem to expand their leads out to the final 3-goal margin until they got the late EN goal by Stralman.

The way they tilted the game was the most impressive thing about the win. They got balanced scoring with 3 goals from Johnson's group, 2 goals from Stamkos', and then the EN goal. At no point last season did the Lightning have 2 balanced scoring lines. If they can establish that in the final ~30 games of the regular season, they'll be frightful to play against. And, of course, special teams was the huge difference tonight. Stamkos did outstanding work on his PK shift in the Second Period helping to repel multiple efforts by the Pens before eventually springing Palat for his sweet SH breakaway goal. That goal and Tyler Johnson's PP goal were obviously the margin tonight.

It's a good way to start this 10-game set of the season, and they're on to Ottawa.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 4 hits in 16:50. He had one shift where he pinched deep into the corner of the Pens zone to win a puck race and absolutely dominated Sidney Crosby once he was onto it. I admit, I was surprised he was that stout on the puck and that he was able to have those kind of handles against Crosby.

Hey, look, I found the box score and extended statistics on the new NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-3-16 Red Wings at Lightning

Back on schedule.

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Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory. He didn't face a ton of great chances, but what he did do was handle the puck very well to help himself out and he was out on his angle well all night.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
1:23 TB Brown (5), (Coburn)
5:06 DET Nyquist (14), (Tatar, Quincey)
6:30 TB Johnson (6), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
3:23 TB Kucherov (21), (Palat)(PP)

Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Bishop were the game's three stars.

That was a remarkably workmanlike effort by the Lightning. Even in the First Period, where the Red Wings had a decent shot advantage, I didn't think the Lightning were on their heels or chasing the play. They seemed to be first on the puck a lot and their only problems were self-inflicted mistakes rather than the Wings asserting themselves. The Lightning ultimately took control of the game in the Second Period and built the margin they needed with two power play goals earned by the pressure they were putting on the Red Wings with their speed and possession. They got a little bit complacent for about a 5-6 minute span after a PK that followed the Kucherov goal, but all-in-all that was a pretty clinical effort against a Red Wings team that gave them all they could handle in the playoff last year.

As an aside, NBCSN can sell that line of Callahan/Filppula/Brown as "the best third line in hockey," all the want, but no one's buying. We're not blind. We can read a stat sheet, and the number of zeros behind Callahan and Filppula's salaries on the NHLPA's website, while we're at it. C'mon, guys.

The win puts the Lightning at 60 points through 50 games of the season, meaning that by virtue of their 9-1-0 record for this 10-game segment of the season they're back on track to make the playoffs comfortably. They fell behind the eight ball in the second 10-game segment of the year when they fell 5 points off the pace, and they eventually fell 6 points off after 40 games, but they're now back on track if you follow the goal of getting at least 12 points every 10 games. Now we'll see if the Lightning can stay ahead of the chains the rest of the way and into the postseason.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 16:57 of ice time. I give him credit for forcibly picking Nyquist up off of Bishop and making an example of him.

Box score from NHL.com (which has a new format that is AWFUL).

NHL Game Night: 1-27-16 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Let loose the kittens!

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Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout victory. He didn't have much work early, and was kicking some long rebounds out in the First and Second Period, but he got progressively stronger as the game wore on. He positively stood on his head in the Third Period to secure the 2 points for his team. He was much, much better positionally compared to his previous 2-3 outings.

First Period
4:38 TB Stamkos (21), (Stralman, Filppula)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Vasilevskiy and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.

The first 15 minutes of this game were an absolutely clinic by the Lightning as they outshot Toronto 16-1 and outscored them 1-0. They could've easily run the Leafs out of the barn from the word jump were it not for a really strong effort by Jonathan Bernier. Things degraded from there for the Lightning, who were less assertive shooting the puck in the Second Period and started looking timid and started short-arming passes in the Third Period because of the physical style Toronto was playing. They allowed Toronto to intimidate them a bit and they were back on their heels a lot of the final frame. Fortunately, Vasilevskiy only needed the one goal.

The Lightning have gotten 16 of a possible 18 points so far in this 10-game segment of the season with 1 more game left to go. A win will put the Lightning at even for the year in the old "12 in 10" model, which prescribes earning 12 points every 10 games to make the playoffs comfortably. Considering 9 games ago the Lightning looked like a longshot to make the postseason, it's a great spot to be in heading into the All-Star Break. The team just needs to hope that any momentum they've gained doesn't dissipate with the time off.

Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot in 13:35.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:09.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-23-16 Lightning at Panthers

Lightning winning streak snapped in front of "full house" in Sunrise.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped all 4 shots he faced in the Third Period.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
8:50 FLA Huberdeau (8), (Barkov, Ekblad)
12:36 FLA Bjugstad (9), (Huberdeau)(PP)
15:56 FLA Smith (15), (unassisted)
17:33 FLA Trocheck (13), (Shaw, Jokinen)

Third Period
5:39 TB Hedman (4), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
15:52 FLA Campbell (4), (Bjugstad, Jagr)(EN)
18:31 TB Brown (4), (Boyle)

The Lightning were probably due for a little stock correction, and unfortunately it came tonight in a pretty big divisional game. Obviously, things came off the rails in the Second Period, compounded by some good puck luck for the Panthers that ultimately doomed the whole endeavor. Burn the tape, I say. The big thing is to not allow your loss after a long winning streak to balloon into a losing streak the way Chicago did when they went down to Sunrise last night. Get the focus and jump back and move on.

So with that said, rather than lambaste the team, I'll take this opportunity to have a little fun with the Florida Panthers organization. You see, the Panthers announced a sell out tonight... but anyone with two eyeballs saw a half empty arena. Yes, with a Saturday night contest with the Panthers in first place facing off against the team in second in the Atlantic Division and a playoff atmosphere on the ice, Panther Nation, stayed home. Mind you, Panther Nation is a lot like the Lock Ness monster and the sasquatch, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised they were difficult to see through the forest of empty red seats. I remain amazed that market still has a franchise given that it's even more deserving of a relocation dirt nap than Atlanta was, at this stage, but I digress. The really amazing thing to me is that the Panthers broadcast team of "Goldie" and "Peanut Butter" Potvin decided to crow at length about the Panthers winning in front of this amazing "full house" in Sunrise. Baghdad Bob would've been proud.

Gentlemen, if I may...

When Kenny Rogers, as Brady Hawkes in The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues, had 3 aces and 2 kings, THAT was a full house.

When President Obama gave his State of the Union address before the entire Legislative Branch of the United States government and numerous other invited dignitaries and guests, THAT was a full House.

When Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos raised three adorable young girls (two out of the three, anyway) in a house in San Francisco that there's no way in hell they could plausibly afford, THAT was a TV show called Full House.

STOP LYING and self-aggrandizing about how you had a sell out and played your game in front of a bristling, bustling "full house." We all know better. That's just SO Panthers. You win back-to-back home games against last year's Cup finalists, which should be your crowning moment of glory (supplanting your near annual trip to the front row of tables at the June draft) and what do you do? Put on the clown shoes... again. I suppose at least this time you didn't reach for the opaque plexiglass. Silver linings.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 15:10. It seemed like Cooper was trying to get him out with the Filppula line in front of him as a security blanket defensively, but that line got run roughshod over them tonight and therefore Nesterov was spending too much of the night on the run in his own zone. He doesn't excel with a guy on his back in his own end. He did, at least, draw a penalty with a good individual effort of his own on a rush in the First Period, so there's that.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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

They're baaaaaaaaack, NHL!

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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.

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