Tampa Bay Lightning
Tonight's victory brought to you by Crisco.
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. After some rough sledding early in the season, he's put together quality starts in his last 2 contests and he just evened up his season record at 3-3-1.
6:35 TB Kucherov (10), (Stralman, Nabokov)(PP)
12:03 CAR Faulk (5), (Nash, Sekera)
19:29 TB Kucherov (11), (Killorn, Carle)
Nabokov and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and second stars. Kucherov's two goals were of the extremely greasy variety: one a tap in of a dump in pass that took an odd hop in front of an unattended cage, and the second a pass that dribbled in off the foot of a Carolina defender. Nabokov, for his part, only surrendered one greasy goal off a weak point shot that deflected in off of Victor Hedman. It was one of those kinds of nights.
The Lightning still aren't playing their best hockey. It's not for a lack of effort, but they're just not sharp right now and they actually got outshot by the Canes tonight. Still, the win tonight put them at 13 points for the 10 game segment and they're now sitting on a total of 5 insurance points heading into the 4th 10-game segment of the campaign. There's worst places to be, certainly.
Cedric Paquette had 2 shots and 2 hits and was 60% on draws in 14:18. He had a very active First Period with a couple of quality chances set up by Drouin.
Jonathan Drouin was scoreless in 11:51.
Lightning in a mini-funk.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 35 shots for the loss. Unlike the Columbus game, I didn't feel any of the goals he allowed were soft. I can't say the same for the play of the defense in front of him.
0:40 WSH Ovechkin (13), (Wilson, Carlson)
13:49 TB Boyle (6), (Hedman, Brown)
14:23 WSH Niskanen (2), (Backstrom, Johansson)(PP)
0:47 TB Stamkos (17), (Callahan, Hedman)
4:36 WSH Laich (3), (Ward)
10:52 WSH Brouwer (7), (Johansson, Kuznetsov)
19:56 TB Filppula (5), (Johnson, Hedman)
19:59 WSH Ovechkin (14), (Backstrom)(EN)
Victor Hedman was the game's third star.
I don't want to sit here and say the sky is falling. The Lightning did outshoot Washington 36-35 and were it not for A.) Holtby, B.) A greasy goal off an unfortunate bounce of a centering pass that ended up in Stralman's skates, and C.) An inept Lightning PP in the Second Period, this game could've had a dramatically different outcome. The issue right now is the Lightning having an uneven effort level shift-to-shift, lack of sharpness in passing and positioning shift-to-shift, and a power play that looks devoid of an identity and a clue right now. The first two things can sort themselves out with a few good practices. That last thing? There's a young man who wears 27 who was serving popcorn tonight who's absolutely lethal as a playmaker in open ice on the PP. Just saying. It's time.
This one hurts. On paper, you'd have expected to get about 3 points out of these last couple of games, which would've allowed the Lightning to build a nice stash of insurance points and fortify their position in the division and in the conference. It's a heck of a time for a little losing streak, and now they'll have to rally and get at least a point out of the Carolina game just to make sure they get 12 points out of this 10-game segment of the season. It's a big-time wasted opportunity with harder parts of the schedule still to come.
Cedric Paquette had 4 penalty minutes, 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:56. The extra roughing minor he took in the First Period led to Niskanen's momentum crushing PP goal, but I kind of didn't mind Paquette giving the business to the larger Wilson, who was trying to pick on a rookie. I have a hard time criticizing a young man for defending himself.
Flat Lightning get Bobrovsky'ed.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the loss. The 2 softies he gave up in the first period became the margin of victory, as softies often do.
2:37 CBJ Jenner (4), (Calvert)
12:48 CBJ Savard (5), (Johnson, Atkinson)(PP)
4:51 CBJ Skille (4), (Chaput, Hartnell)
18:47 TB Palat (8), (Kucherov, Drouin)
I'm not going to go so far as to say the Lightning were completely terrible, effort-wise. They outshot Columbus 34-20 and got their fair share of scoring chances on the forecheck. The team's been very out of sync passing the puck the last 3 or so games, though, which is indicative of a lack of focus, and that bit them tonight like it did in the shootout loss against Buffalo. It's a coachable moment for Cooper and an opportunity to get his players' eyes back on the prize.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:19.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper on the Lightning's lone goal and 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:31.
Vasilevskiy makes his bid for the starter's job.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 34 shots he faced for the win and his first career AHL shutout. He's won 5 out of his last 6 starts and 3 of his last 4 starts have been high quality outings. It certainly feels like he's turned the corner and with Gudlevskis struggling, it's time to ride or die for a little while with Vasya.
SYR Samson, (1) (Namestnikov, Kunyk), 17:08
SYR Namestnikov, (2) (Witkowski), 19:47 (EN)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Ben Bishop stopped all 13 (not a typo) shots he faced for his first shutout of the season. He had to stop maybe 3-4 quality opportunities, but could've put his feet up half the night otherwise. We resurrect the University of Maine Justice logo tonight, nonetheless.
2:33 TB Gudas (2), (Johnson)
4:28 TB Stamkos (16), (Callahan, Killorn)
5:39 TB Morrow (2), (Drouin, Sustr)
13:40 TB Garrison (3), (Stamkos, Sustr)
18:55 TB Connolly (5), (Filppula, Stamkos)(PP)
In the end, that's exactly the response you would want to see coming out of the 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo. Mind you, the team was annoyingly lethargic in the First Period and really did not play well at all. But, from the Second Period on, their absolute dominance of Buffalo was only really interrupted by some sour grapes Third Period thuggery by the Sabres once the game was clearly into garbage time. The really scary thing is it could've been worse if the Lightning had capitalized on all the Sabres penalties in this game, but they only managed to draw blood on Connolly's late 2-man advantage goal.
The victory gives the Lightning a 3rd insurance point in the bank with 3 games remaining in this segment. They had 4 coming into the segment, so they've got an excellent chance to really improve their position before moving on into the fourth 10-game segment of the season, after which we may find they have so many points the bomb sights may need to start to be readjusted.
Cedric Paquette had a fight, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 15:10. He got in a scrap with Zemgus Girgensons and handled himself well, getting in a couple of really good shots right off the top of the fight. It's not every day you get to beat up the bogus leader in NHL All-Star voting.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 in 12:34. They tried him on a line with Boyle and Morrow tonight, and he had a wee bit of chemistry with the well-seasoned veteran Morrow, including setting up Morrow's second goal of the season. I'd still really like to see the Drouin/Filppula/Brown line I suggested a little while back, though, just in case Cooper decides he's going to start taking requests like a wedding singer.