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Content regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

Bolts Ink Brett Howden to Entry-Level Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Brett Howden to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Howden, 6-foot-3, 191 pounds, has played in 21 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League this season, recording 16 goals and 32 points along with four power-play goals. He ranks fourth on the Warriors for goals and fifth for points despite missing time due to injury. Howden’s current 1.52 points per game average would be a career high.

A native of Oakbank, Manitoba, Howden has skated in 162 career WHL games, all with Moose Jaw, with 63 goals and 143 points. He has also amassed 104 penalty minutes and 20 power-play goals. Howden played in 10 WHL playoff games last season and notched four goals and 15 points. He was named the Warriors’ Rookie of the Year for the 2014-15 season.

Howden was selected by Tampa Bay in the first round, 27th overall, of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

NHL Game Night: 12-23-16 Lightning at Capitals

Schedule and injuries victimize the Lightning.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss before being lifted for Kristers Gudlevskis, who stopped all 3 shots he saw in garbage time. I wasn't in love with the 1st and 4th goals Vasilevskiy gave up, not that this atrocity was his fault.

First Period
0:55 WSH Carlson (2), (Alzner, Wilson)
15:42 WSH Carlson (3), (Johansson, Backstrom)

Second Period
10:48 WSH Ovechkin (15), (Orlov)

Third Period
8:33 WSH Johansson (13), (Backstrom)

No chance. The Lightning got to Washington at 2:30 am last night after their game against St. Louis already hobbled with multiple injuries. You had guys like Bournival who have played something like 6 of the last 8 days along with the travel. Stralman looked like he was completely running on fumes. This was a schedule loss, plain and simple, and it was made worse by fatigue leading to multiple injuries. Drouin and Coburn went out. Hedman went out and came back in. The Lightning would've been better off not getting of the plane and declaring this a no contest. This schedule in the first three months of the year has been as vicious as I think I've seen in the league for a Lightning team. They've been grinded down into the ground and they just collapsed under the weight of it tonight.

Unfortunately, halfway through this fourth ten game segment of the season, the Lightning need 7 of a possible 10 remaining points in the segment just to tread water and not dig their hole deeper in their playoff pursuit. Fortunately, the Lightning do have a glut of home games and hopefully a glut of guys returning from injury to try to make some hey with over the course of those five games.

Brayden Point was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 19:35.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:34.

Tanner Richard was -1 with 2 hits and he was 38% on 13 draws in 16:07.

You get a minus. And, you get a minus. And, YOU get a minus!

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-22-16 Blues at Lightning

The Bournival Ultimatum: Beat St. Louis.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the victory. The good ones respond to giving up a couple in the opening frame by shutting the door the rest of the way. That's exactly what Vasilevskiy did tonight.

First Period
14:11 STL Perron (9), (unassisted)
14:43 STL Megan (1), (Reaves, Edmundson)

Second Period
9:48 TB Boyle (8), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
17:27 TB Bournival (1), (Garrison, Brown)

Third Period
5:25 TB Killorn (11), (Stralman, Hedman)
18:20 TB Drouin (9), (Filppula, Stralman)
19:29 TB Drouin (10), (Hedman, Filppula)(EN)

Alex Killorn, Brian Boyle, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars.

Just when you think the team is ready to collapse under the weight of the bloated, overfed injury bug that has feasted on the roster all year, the Lightning show the pride of an elite franchise and rise from the ashes. The Lightning went tonight without Paquette and Namestnikov, which led to the quick recall of Michael Bournival and playing Nikita Nesterov at forward (by the way, let's not be quick to dismiss the whole "Nesterov to forward" idea). The Lightning came out and played a sloppy First Period falling behind 2-0. Vultures were circling. Anton Stralman was threatening to politely go postal in the intermission interview. And then, the Lightning resolved to tighten up their game, and the final 40 minutes became a Lightning clinic. Bournival, fresh off the airplane, tied the game on a tip late in the Second Period setting the stage for a Third Period that was punctuated by Jonathan Drouin literally breaking a goaltender on a deke. Not figuratively. In basketball, they talk about a guard figuratively breaking a defender's ankles with a cross over. So sudden and nasty was Drouin's deke left to right on the Lightning's fourth goal that he literally broke Jake Allen. I don't think I've ever seen that in a game. Mercy. Merci.

Brayden Point had 2 shots and 1 hit in 18:46 and was 29% on 7 draws. He had a turnover in the First Period that ended up in the back of the Lightning net, which is a rare mistake this year for a player who has shown maturity beyond his years.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:24.

Tanner Richard was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:37. He was also 83% on his 6 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-20-16 Red Wings at Lightning

Lightning dominate Wings even as injuries continue to mount.

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Ben Bishop stopped all 4 shots he faced before leaving in the First Period with an apparent groin or other kind of soft tissue injury. I'm not a doctor, but I'll play one on the internet: the eye test indicates that's likely a week-to-week injury rather than a day-to-day injury, but we'll see and hold out hope. Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal (with under 11 seconds left to go) on 23 shots for the rare back door win. Hmmmmm.

First Period
7:02 TB Boyle (7), (Stralman, Drouin)

Second Period
7:41 TB Drouin (8), (Killorn, Johnson)(PP)
17:04 TB Point (3), (Johnson, Hedman)
19:27 TB Namestnikov (4), (Killorn, Point)

Third Period
19:49 DET Mantha (5), (Jensen, Zetterberg)

Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point, and Brian Boyle were the game's three stars. Drouin and Point were very dangerous all game and Drouin is starting to be the star his skill set always said he was going to be. If he ever figures out the nuances of situational hockey on top of this, he's going to be a Hall of Famer.

Point had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 2 shots in 19:32. He could've had a second goal easily on a shot where he hit the goalpost flush.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit in 11:23.

Tanner Richard had 1 shot, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot and was 27% on 11 draws in 12:23 in his NHL debut. He wasn't glaringly good or bad, which is neither particularly good or bad for a first game. He'll need to get used to going against the best faceoff men in the world at this level and I think the speed of the skaters up top will be a challenge for him to adjust to.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-17-16 Lightning at Oilers

Lightning close out a .500 road trip.

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots before allowing 2 of 3 to convert in the Shootout for the penalty shot session loss. What's the difference between this game and the game against Vancouver? One less bit of bad luck, but more importantly better situational goaltending and no softies. Bishop made sure the Lightning kept contact in the First and Second Periods. It's a shame his PK couldn't help him get it over the finish line in regulation. He played well.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
3:58 EDM Lucic (9), (Draisaitl, Sekera)(PP)
18:59 TB Drouin (7), (Hedman, Point)(PP)

Third Period
2:35 TB Johnson (9), (Conacher, Nesterov)
7:03 EDM Draisaitl (14), (Letestu, Sekera)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Drouin
EDM- Letestu, McDavid

Victor Hedman was the game's second star. He played 28:26 tonight on the tail of a back-to-back and was good from the first shift to the last.

Coming into this game, after looking underwhelming against the Canucks and losing Paquette from the lineup, the expectations were low for the night. In pregame, the HNIC crew didn't mince words about Tampa's chances, or lack thereof. The Lightning weathered kind of a tough First Period just continued to get stronger at 5v5 as the game wore on. By the Third Period, despite being the more road weary team, they were fairly dominant in possession and managed to build the 2-1 lead. It's tough that they couldn't close it out in regulation and tough Namestnikov had a chance in OT that came within an eyelash of securing the second point, but there was a lot to like tonight. Under the gun with roster issues and fatigue issues, the Lightning trusted their structure and played well within it. When guys like Palat and Kucherov return, there's reasons for optimism even though there's no moral victories with the standings situation what it is at the moment.

Brayden Point had a helper, 2 PIMs, and 1 shot in 23:33. He was also 30% on 10 draws. Tonight was one of the 2-3 best games he's had all season, faceoffs aside, and his ice time reflected it.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 7:23. He got on the wrong side of a 50/50 play and took the penalty that allowed Edmonton to tie the game at 2-2. Later in the game he made a decent breakout play under duress in a key shift late in the Third Period. Mixed bag.

Joel Vermin had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:42. He crushed Sekera on a hit that was a thing of beauty.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-16-16 Lightning at Canucks

Self-inflicted gunshot wound claims Lightning's collective foot.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss. One of those goals was an egregious soft goal that, as soft goals often are, became the margin in this game, sans the meaningless empty netter at the end of the contest. After seemingly pulling even with Ben Bishop about a month ago, Vasilevskiy has slid back a little bit as his game has sagged a little behind the Lightning's dubious defensive efforts.

First Period
6:31 TB Hedman (6), (Filppula, Boyle)

Second Period
1:37 VAN Sutter (8), (Granlund, Eriksson)
13:25 VAN Sbisa (1), (Burrows, Baertschi)

Third Period
3:53 TB Conacher (1), (Drouin, Hedman)(PP)
7:46 VAN Horvat (9), (Eriksson, Granlund)(PP)
19:13 VAN Burrows (6), (Horvat)(EN)

Victor Hedman was, rightfully, the game's second star. He's really elevated his play so far on this road trip.

There are plenty of excuses that could be made for this defeat. Horvat's game winner was a bit of a freak goal on a horribly unlucky bounce that nobody could really be faulted with. The Lightning are also now playing without Stamkos, Kucherov, and Palat. Etc. Etc. Ultimately, though, excuses are irrelevant in the cold calculus of the standings. Against a lower rung team like Vancouver, the Lightning simply have to find ways to manufacture points or they're going to slide so far behind schedule that their playoff hopes cannot recover.

Brayden Point was -3 with 2 shots and 2 hits and he was 50% on 10 draws in 15:36.

Slater Koekkoek was -2 with 1 hit in 14:25. Lost a board battle cleanly to allow Vancouver's first goal.

Joel Vermin had 1 blocked shot in 9:07.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-14-16 Lightning at Flames

Lightning close clunker of a season segment with a critical win.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the victory. That's not a sexy stat line and it wasn't a flawless night from Bishop in terms of positioning and rebound control, but he had 2-3 really crucial situational saves that helped the team earn the win. At this juncture, those are way more important in the grand scheme of things.

First Period
3:06 CGY Brouwer (7), (Monahan, Brodie)(PP)
10:04 TB Boyle (5), (Hedman, Johnson)(PP)
13:42 TB Boyle (6), (Filppula, Hedman)

Second Period
4:40 TB Coburn (1), (Killorn, Namestnikov)
18:47 TB Sustr (1), (Filppula, Hedman)

Third Period
0:37 TB Killorn (9), (unassisted)(SH)
3:59 CGY Brodie (2), (Gaudreau, Brouwer)(PP)
4:20 CGY Ferland (5), (Stajan, Bouma)
19:15 TB Killorn (10), (Filppula)(EN)

Brian Boyle and Victor Hedman were the game's first and second stars.

The Lightning desperately needed this game, and even with Nikita Kucherov out of the lineup they handled Calgary in fairly convincing fashion. The penalty kill is still not fully well having allowed 2 more power play markers in this contest, and Bishop wasn't textbook in net, but overall a lot of players started to get well in this game and the team carried the balance of 5 on 5 play by a reasonable margin. In particular, the most hopeful sign to me was a rebound performance by Victor Hedman in all three zones. Assists in triplicate stand out on the scoresheet, but some key situational defensive plays were equally as important. Hedman hasn't been making those plays consistently during this slump and has been handing out some bad turnovers. That was cleaned up in this game and it's no coincidence the team plays a lot better when Victor's playing his A game.

With the third 10-game segment of the season in the books, the Lightning sit at 32 points, which is 4 points off the pace you'd like them to be at for the season (technically, 3 points back of Boston for the closest playoff spot in the actual standings with 1 game in hand). They had just 7 of the preferred 12 points in this last segment after being a point ahead of pace through 20 games. Being 4 points behind isn't great, but it's manageable provided the Lightning start to put together successful 10-game segments from here on out. Last season they went on a long winning streak to cancel out a mid-season deficit, but you can't always count on those kind of tears to get you out of trouble. A more reasonable strategy is to aim at seeing if they can get 13-14 points out of this next 10-game stretch and start to whittle that number down until they get back on pace after another 20-30 games. Bottom line: if they had lost this game it might've been time to get panicky. The win tonight puts them in a position to weather the storm if they keep tightening up their game without too much undue hardship.

Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot and was a gaudy 78% on 9 draws in 15:40.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 3 shots and 3 blocked shots in 13:38.

Joel Vermin had 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 13:52.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-10-16 Penguins at Lightning

Despite valiant effort, the hole gets deeper for Tampa Bay.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the loss. A lot of bang-bang plays from prime scoring areas a big gunners. Can't blame Vasilevskiy for those.

First Period
12:03 PIT Crosby (19), (Dumoulin, Letang)
17:57 TB Drouin (5), (Stralman, Kucherov)(PP)

Second Period
3:38 TB Filppula (6), (Nesterov)
10:19 TB Drouin (6), (Garrison, Namestnikov)
17:25 PIT Malkin (11), (Kessel, Letang)(PP)

Third Period
5:08 PIT Crosby (20), (Kessel, Letang)(PP)
8:36 PIT Malkin (12), (Daley, Kessel)(PP)

Jonathan Drouin as the game's second star after leaving the game for stitches with a cut on his cheek in the First Period and coming back to score two goals. His performance is something to build on moving forward.

Tampa Bay got outshot 37-23, so I cannot sit here with a straight face and tell you the Lightning were the better team in the run of play tonight. But, 5 on 5, I do think they competed hard and defended fairly well, and it hurts that this is the result they got. Pittsburgh got the benefit of their usual officiating advantage and they rode it to the win on the power play, and even still Val Filppula had a wide open cage on a chance he shot back into Murray that should've allowed Tampa Bay to get at least a point out of the night. The problem is there are no moral victories at this point, and after the Lightning close out this 10-game segment of the season they will be at least 4 points behind a comfortable playoff pace. Those are hard points to be chasing down the rest of the season.

Brayden Point was 64% on draws in 15:33. Impressive work.

Luke Witkowski was +1 with 3 hits in 7:46.

Joel Vermin was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:57.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-8-16 Canucks at Lightning

Shaky Lightning crumble under adversity.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before being lifted for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 10 shots the rest of the way. Bishop had shown signs of returning to his Vezina candidate form last week, but tonight was a tragic disaster. He was nowhere near square to the puck on Vancouver's first goal and he scored an own goal pushing a puck he was attempting to cover into his own net on a shot off the end boards on Vancouver's second tally. Bishop, in previous years, has been rock solid in First Periods and generally reliable when it comes to making timely saves. Not at all the case this year. Nope. And, this team is simply too fragile to be getting poor goaltending right now.

First Period
3:50 VAN Skille (1), (Gudbranson)
9:03 VAN Gudbranson (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
6:01 VAN Megna (2), (Biega, Tryamkin)
11:46 TB Drouin (4), (Filppula, Witkowski)
19:59 VAN Megna (3), (Sedin, Granlund)

Third Period
13:58 VAN Skille (2), (Gaunce)

After a seemingly marathon stretch where the Lightning barely had more than a day off in between games the weary Lightning finally had 3 days off before this one against a Vancouver team that was not exactly feasting in the standings. The team came out the first handful of shifts in the game and were dominant and looked absolutely the better team, until Jack Skille got matched up 1-on-1 on Nikita Kucherov backing up for a pinching defenseman. Skille turns the corner with a power move and beats Bishop, who was not square to the puck on the shot, and the Lightning momentum was cooked. The ball of yarn starts to unravel. Minutes later Bishop pushes an innocuous shot off the end boards into his own cage to put the Lightning down 2-0, and here we go again. The Lightning are a difficult muddle of self-inflicted mistakes and awful bounces right now, wrapped in a flimsy tattered sheath of inconsistent goaltending. I wanted to say the Lightning had lost their process in this game once adversity hit, but that's not entirely the case. They had 41 shots on goal and outchanced Vancouver. But the mental mistakes that creeped in with turnovers around the opposing blueline and in the neutral zone leading to odd man rushes and the piss poor coverage by backchecking players against the rush revealed that the Lightning have not fully returned to the structure that helped make them an elite club over the last 2+ seasons. The kill shot in this game, which was an awful turnover in the neutral zone to allow a 2-on-1 goal with less than 2 seconds left in the Second Period to put the game out of reach, was the postcard example of a lot of what's wrong outside of the Lightning crease these days.

Where do we go from here? The Lightning will be in a hole at the end of this 10 game segment, when it comes to playoff pacing. Even if they win out over the last 2 games, they'll be at least 2 points in the hole, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions are coming to town. I don't relish seeing what the results of this measuring stick game will be, quite frankly. What needs to change? A goaltender needs to start making some timely saves and help this team find its backbone and its confidence and hope that helps the team play better structure in its own end and manage the puck better coming out of their own end.

Brayden Point was +1 with 5 shots in 15:32. Instincts are good. Skill level is good. Shot isn't NHL caliber yet. His release is plenty quick, but he doesn't have the steam to score on NHL goaltenders consistently. Give him a summer or two to work on it and he'll start putting away 20-30 a season easy, I think.

Luke Witkowski had a helper and 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:45. Congratulations to Witkowski on earning his first NHL point.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:49.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 12-4-16 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning grind out a road point before a much needed rest.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the OT loss. It wasn't a great goal to allow, but he made several fantastic stops in regulation just to make OT possible.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
1:26 CAR DiGiuseppe (1), (Stalberg)

Bishop was the game's third star.

The Lightning emptied the tank tonight knowing they have a rare 3 day break coming up before their next game on Thursday night. This is a tired, banged up team that is in the middle of a November/December schedule that is relentless in its pacing. 3 of 4 points on this weekend set may mean the Lightning can't finish with 12 points in this 10 game segment of the year, but they're still alive to stay on playoff pace in the final 3 games of the segment if they can harness the rest they're getting this week to gather themselves and string together some more wins.

Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 15:52.

Luke Witkowski had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:55.

Slater Koekkoek had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:46.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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