Tampa Bay Lightning
On a night of farcical officiating, Espo's Rule holds true.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He made a couple of really key saves on the PK that allowed the Lightning to keep the game even and eventually pull away with the win.
13:32 TB Filppula (9), (Stamkos, Callahan)
0:11 TB Killorn (10), (Hedman, Filppula)
4:16 TB Boyle (9), (Connolly, Morrow)
8:09 VAN Corrado (1), (Burrows, Higgins)
17:34 TB Killorn (11), (Paquette, Hedman)(EN)
Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and Jason Garrison were the game's three stars. I'm shocked to see that neither Paul Devorski or Dan O'Halloran got tapped for the honor, because they clearly are the ones people buy tickets and show up to see (or so they appeared to think so, tonight).
The last 40 minutes of that game were an abomination, officiating-wise, from start to finish. I think the refs got paid by the call tonight, because they made a slew of ticky tack bookings that ultimately chopped the game up and made it less enjoyable. When you sprinkle in an icing call on the Boyle goal that probably shouldn't have been waved off and a couple of bad calls resulting in Canucks 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities, neither side can feel good about their treatment by the zebras tonight. Everybody has a hard night on the job, but those two periods were just B-A-D for the zebras.
Ultimately, though, Espo's Rule held up. Espo's Rule, simply stated, is that the team that fails to convert a 5-on-3 nearly always loses. Vancouver had a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities in this game and thanks to Bishop's goaltending on the first and some Radim Vrbata lumberjack-ery on the second, the Lightning got the kills and won the game. It's a good thing, too, because they did zippo with the power play opportunities they had, making this a much closer game than it should've been given the possession advantage the team mostly enjoyed.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and 2 penalty minutes to go with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 14:12. He was also 56% on draws and continues to be entrusted by Cooper when it comes to key shifts late in games.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 10:22.
Luke Witkowski had 2 blocked shots in 14:29 in his NHL debut. He wasn't terribly noticeable, which is a good thing for a rookie defenseman. If you did focus in on him, though, he did a good job of moving the puck quickly and not putting himself in bad positions where he'd have to make plays under duress. Smart man.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:39. He ended up having to be fitted for a full shield after taking a high stick.
All in all, between Witkowski, Nesterov, and Sustr, I thought this younger D-corps did well in their first sans-Carle, sans-Gudas test run. They held Vancouver to 1 goal and under 30 SOG's, and you can't complain to much about that result.
Misdemeanor theft in Tampa Bay.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 40 shots and stopped 2 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Put simply, he outdueled Varlamov to win this game for the Lightning.
1:58 TB Callahan (15), (Killorn, Stralman)(PP)
0:51 COL O'Reilly (8), (MacKinnon, Hejda)
4:08 TB Stralman (3), (Filppula)
19:53 COL MacKinnon (9), (Landeskog, Johnson)
TB- Kucherov, Callahan
Bishop and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and third stars.
Really, this was a game the Lightning probably didn't deserve to get points out of. Varlamov's second goal allowed was extremely soft, giving the Lightning a 1 goal lead that Bishop very nearly made stand up with some outstanding play. But, let's not delude ourselves. The Lightning looked pretty shabby the last 40 minutes of this game as the Avs upped their intensity level and the Lightning failed to match it. I think it's indicative of one of the major flaws that needs to be corrected before playoff time (even larger than the alleged "softness" flaw). The Lightning are built for speed and using that speed to create puck possession and protect their puck moving blueliners. When faster teams like the Oilers and Avs over the past couple of games get against the Lightning and are able to win races to 50/50 pucks, the Lightning are not good positionally without the puck in terms of gap control and separating the other team from the puck. They're not built for it and they're kind of clueless how to handle it, and it's just something that they'll need to continue to work on and get better with as they gain experience. Fortunately, as they do, they've got an elite caliber netminder in Ben Bishop at their backs.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:23. He was also 40% on draws. He was on the ice for MacKinnon's 6-on-5 greasy goal at the very end of regulation, but beyond that he was strong on the forecheck and the PK. Another plus night for #13.
Jonathan Drouin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:17. There was one shift where he undressed 3 of the 5 Avs on the ice and nearly set up a score. One of these days the coaching staff is going to find just the right combination/role to utilize the special talent this guy brings to the table.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:59. He took a puck to the face in the First Period that required stitches, but he gutted it out and had another good game contributing in all three zones.
Lightning put to bed an annoying stat.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. He made the big saves when necessary to give the team a chance to execute the comeback.
13:52 EDM Pouliot (9), (Nugent-Hopkins)(SH)
7:10 TB Stamkos (26), (Carle, Garrison)
19:02 EDM Pouliot (10), (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins)(PP)
1:33 TB Palat (10), (Kucherov, Johnson)
11:59 TB Palat (11), (Johnson, Nesterov)
The Lightning were flat as a pancake the first 40 minutes of play, but recovered in the final frame in time to win their first game this season after trailing at the Second Intermission. That's a stat I've been tired of seeing all year, and I'm happy to see it given a dirt nap courtesy of the victory tonight.
Through 46 games the Lightning have 60 points, meaning they're at the minimum number of points you want to be on pace for the playoffs with 4 more games in this segment to play with. So, again, how many insurance points will they back out of a possible 8 in those 4 games coming up?
Cedric Paquette had 2 shots and 3 hits in 17:12. That's a rookie who plays like a man, and as active as he's been the past couple of weeks, I keep expecting him to start popping in a goal here or there soon. He's due.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 15:49. He's assertive offensively and even when he makes mistakes defensively, he seems able to make hustle plays to mitigate the damage. He's quickly running Barberio out of the organization, in my opinion, because he looks like he might be the better long term bet of two very similar players, stylistically.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 11:10. That wasn't his most artful performance in terms of defensive plays and decision-making with the puck, in my opinion.
Lightning dare to put up a fight.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss.
9:23 TB Stamkos (24), (Palat, Kucherov)
16:42 BOS Marchand (12), (Soderberg, Krug)
10:55 TB Stamkos (25), (Palat, Nesterov)
15:24 BOS Pastrnak (3), (Lucic, Miller)
19:06 BOS Lucic (9), (Krejci, Seidenberg)
1:30 BOS Pastrnak (4), (Krug, Krejci)
14:18 TB Callahan (14), (Killorn, Barberio)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
This was an almost impossible mission for the Lightning tonight. They went into this game against a fresh Bruins team having played the night before in Philly. They were down their All-Star center (Johnson) and their best defenseman (Hedman). And Boston has been a place where the Lightning historically just don't play well. And, even when they do, something weird does them in (as it did tonight).
With all that going against them tonight, and with the Bruins on a 3 game winning streak, the Lightning lost a 1 goal game where the difference was a fluky goal. And, until late in the Second Period where the Lightning started to lose steam and that fluky goal happened, it's a game where the Lightning had the better of the play. Come the Third Period, with the Lightning skating with dead legs, Boston started to take the possession edge of the game and built up the 2 goal lead. At that point it would've been easy for the Lightning to pack it in, but then something happened that might make Lightning fans a little proud of the team.
Responding to seeing one of his teammates get boarded, Cedric Paquette had the audacity to shove mighty Zdeno Chara. Chara, naturally, sucker punched Paquette underneath the chin in the throat area dropping Cedric to the ice. It's an act which made Boston's NESN crew, led by the uber-classy Jack Edwards, pump up Chara's tires for being some kind of invincible warrior for bravely sucker punching a rookie. Yes, quite the feat of valor. I can see why they immediately ordered Chara's new medal. And, when said sucker-puncher was subsequently given a double minor for roughing, Edwards immediately started crying about the referees and generally carrying on about a rookie, Paquette, having the audacity to stand chest to chest with Chara. I mean, if you shove Zdeno Chara in the chest he has every right to sucker punch you in the chin and throat area, right. I mean, that's a totally symmetrical response, right? Wait, what? The refs said it wasn't!?
The game rolled on and there was another physical confrontation between J.T. Brown and David Krejci where Brown initiated dropping the gloves, upon which Edwards immediately excoriated Brown for thuggish behavior beyond the pale. You see, when Zdeno Chara sucker punches a guy in the throat, that makes Chara a world class gladiator worthy of being your son's role model ("Don't poke the bear! Grrrowl!"), but when another team's player drops the gloves first, partially in retaliation in a game that was getting a little physical/chippy, that makes them a thug. Hypocrisy, thy name is Jack Edwards! In any event, these two incidents gave the Lightning a jolt of adrenaline that helped them close the game to 1 goal and really make it interesting at the end. They picked up their hitting in the process and generally came together as a team in that moment, which is an emotionally galvanizing/team building instance in time that might've been lacking to this point of the season.
Note that in the process of that comeback bid, Edwards again showed what a colossal hypocrite and generally classless person he is by excoriating Paquette for throwing a completely clean and monstrously heavy open ice check in the neutral zone on a Bruins player. Citing that Paquette was somehow "standing over McQuaid" (he wasn't) Edwards began to attack Paquette as an unaccomplished player unworthy of the great honor of breathing the same air as a mighty Bruins player. Here's the thing, though:
You know what rookie Cedric Paquette accomplished tonight, Jack Edwards? He got your bummy rear end to talk about him for nearly an entire period of hockey and he got your best defenseman to chase him around for the entire final shift of a game where the Bruins were trying to protect a 1-goal lead. He furthermore so crawled under your team's skin that Brad Marchand was running his mouth about retribution in games later this season. In other words, he played his role to a tee. That'll keep him in the NHL because that's part of what makes for a valuable lower-line role player. Thanks for playing along, smart guy.
In the end, Jack Edwards, your mighty Bruins team only managed to beat a tired Lightning team on the tail end of a back-to-back with no Tyler Johnson and no Victor Hedman by a goal that Anton Stralman kicked into the back of his own net on a fluke play. Wow. Quite the accomplishment. Would you like your Stanley Cup celebratory champagne for that victory now, or maybe wait a couple of hours? I mean, surely Bettman will call off the season and hand you the silver chalice. At least, that's how you and the rest of the NESN crew acted at the end of the game.
The clown princes of the NHL sit in the press box in Boston, Massachusetts. This much I know for sure.
Paquette had 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 9:57, and made the entire city of Boston hate him. He's alright in my books. He took Boston's top defenseman off the ice for 4 minutes to give the Lightning a power play and defended a teammate on the first play, buried a Boston player with a great open ice hit on the second incident, and had Boston's best defenseman chasing him around the entire last shift of a 1-goal game when he should've been 100% focused on protecting a 1-goal lead. Now there's talk the Bruins may be chasing Cedric around the remaining 3 matchups this season? Gee, if I didn't know any better, I'd say he's playing the acerbic 4th liner role to perfection. That's how a guy like Paquette stays employed and stays paid in this league, last I checked.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:34. He had a really nice look on the PP in the First Period I was shocked he didn't finished and looked more engaged in that period than at any time in the Philly game.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper, his first NHL point, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:53. Kind of a mixed bag. He looked dynamic offensively at times, particularly in the First Period, but was a little more iffy in the defensive end with some of his decisions. Fortunately some of his mistakes he helped cover for with hustle. All in all, probably a game you'd say was more positive than negative, for sure.
So ends Evgeny Nabokov's NHL career?
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 13 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 3 on 12 shots the rest of the way. The fact Cooper didn't put Nabokov back in for the Third Period seems a bit telling, like perhaps this is the end of the road. Nabokov appeared to earn the start after playing reasonably well in his last outing, but he once again proved the Lightning just can't rely on him for even a mediocre start in back-to-back situations. Were it me, I'd highly consider calling up Kristers Gudlevskis to assume day-to-day practice duties as a waiver-exempt placeholder and then swap him with Andrei Vasilevskiy for planned starts, such as in upcoming back-to-backs. It could be a sad ending for Nabokov, who is probably one of the 4 or 5 best Russian goaltenders ever. The bottom dropped out quickly for him, though, a la Dwayne Roloson several years back.
6:12 PHI VandeVelde (3), (Schenn, Giroux)
10:26 TB Stamkos (23), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
16:15 PHI Umberger (7), (Read, Coburn)
1:45 PHI Voracek (17), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
2:36 PHI Bellemare (4), (VandeVelde, Del Zotto)
7:02 PHI Streit (5), (Schenn, Simmonds)(PP)
8:37 PHI Schenn (10), (Streit, Voracek)(PP)
15:01 PHI Raffl (11), (Laughton, Simmonds)
15:23 TB Boyle (8), (Paquette, Stralman)
1:20 TB Callahan (13), (Drouin, Filppula)(PP)
Adding injury to insult, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson left the game with lower body injuries, the former of which meant that Brian Boyle ended up having to take shifts on defense. Johnson's injury, which looked like a potential twisted knee, is particularly troubling. So, in addition to whatever happens (if anything) with the goaltending situation, you could see Vladislav Namestnikov called up to fill for Johnson and on defense, I'll guess Luke Witkowski would get the call and the coaching staff might try to slide one of their lefties playing the right side over to the left side.
This was a case where the Lightning got caught peeking ahead to Boston, didn't come out with their best effort, saw some soft goaltending, and allowed it to snowball out of control. Now they'll go into a place they seemingly never win with a depleted lineup after Bishop had to nearly play 2 periods of hockey in the back-to-back situation. So, a minor lapse of mental focus may snowball beyond a single hockey game, which is a lesson Cooper should stress to his team.
Cedric Paquette had a helper with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:32, as he got to fill some of Johnson's minutes. He was also 40% on draws. To his credit, he was still throwing checks and playing hard in garbage time on the Third Period, which isn't unexpected given his well-respected effort level.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 with 1 hit in 15:56. Zero shot attempts. None. The kid sneezes out assists, which is amazing for a guy who rarely even attempts to shoot the puck, and tells you how big a point producer he could be if he actually did.
Lightning blow out Sabres 2-1.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory. His stop on Grigorenko on a 2-on-1 in the Second Period allowed the Lightning to turn the momentum after the Sabres' lone goal into a tidal wave that eventually overcame Neuvirth's exceptional effort at the other end of the rink.
3:51 TB Filppula (8), (Callahan, Paquette)
0:50 BUF McCormick (1), (Kaleta)(SH)
14:42 TB Stamkos (22), (Drouin, Killorn)
The Lightning outshot the Sabres 47-21 in the contest, and the final 39 minutes of this game were about as lopsided a game as you'll ever see in your life. The Lightning lived in the Sabres zone, throwing wave after wave of chances at the Buffalo net in a scene reminiscent of the old Lightning/Panthers games you used to see in the early '00's. Eventually, though, Neuvirth's nine lives ran out and the Lightning got the "W" that they richly deserved.
And remember, folks, Bobby "The Chief" Taylor says, "Ice is like great whiskey, it has to be aged and cured." Stick that in your flask.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:25. He started Filppula's goal with some good board work and had a rugged night where he gave and took with the Sabres throughout the night. His most high-profile moment, though, was a SH breakaway in the Third Period with the game tied 1-1 that Neuvirth got a piece of and steered off the outside of the goalpost and out.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 assist, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 15:06. I though his line was a revelation tonight, and it's fitting Killorn/Stamkos/Drouin got the game winner. They could've had a half dozen goals tonight if Neuvirth had been the slightest bit human. It will be interesting to see if the momentum that group gained tonight carries forward against better opposition.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 14:34. My goodness he had such a good game helping the Lightning press the attack... right up until that clunker of a shift with the game tied 1-1 in the Third Period where he made a blind turnover that led to zone time for Buffalo and Nesterov eventually taking the tripping call. He should thank Bishop and the PK'ers for picking him up there. That little oops aside, though, if Nesterov's night translates against better opposition, the Lightning may have found a significant silver lining in Radko Gudas' knee injury.
Tasty, tasty revenge.
Ben Bishop again smacked Carey Price around, allowing just 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory. Funny how Montreal can't buy a win against Tampa Bay unless Anders (stinking) Lindback is between the pipes.
15:07 MTL Weise (5), (Plekanec, Gonchar)
3:17 TB Brown (2), (Drouin, Boyle)
10:42 TB Johnson (16), (Kucherov, Palat)(PP)
18:16 TB Connolly (8), (Filppula, Paquette)
19:38 TB Johnson (17), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)
5:01 MTL Pacioretty (17), (Gallagher, Gonchar)
Man, I wish the Lightning could just alternate between playing Montreal and the Rangers every game. This team, when it has extra motivation, just goes to another level. I said it when the playoff run ended last season: All Montreal did was make a very powerful enemy of the Lightning, and that my suspicion is the Lightning will spend the next 5 seasons torturing the Canadiens for how that series went. Two games into the season series this year, the Lightning are 2-0-0 and have outscored Montreal in the series 11-3. My goodness, Tampa Bay even pulled their shambolic power play out of the dumpster with a 2-for-5 performance based partly on a new strategic wrinkle -- putting Stamkos out on a unit with the triplets. It looked like money tonight. The Canadiens' broadcasters are trying to stoke this as a budding rivalry between Tampa Bay and Montreal. My early take is that Montreal looks more like speed bump to Tampa Bay than a rival, regardless of how close things are in the standings. Without Lindback spotting them 1-2 free goals a game, Montreal's at a huge disadvantage playing against the Lightning head-to-head.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 16:29. He got his assist hedmanning the puck on a 3-on-1 that Connolly converted, and otherwise was just a bowling ball on skates all night. He was trying to hit everything that moved out there.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:28. He might've had the key shift of the night hitting a crossbar on one rush and then creating a chance on the next rush that saw Brown pot his rebound for the Lightning's opening goal. Once they got one on Price, the floodgates opened in the Second Period and the rest is history.
Every win streak starts at one.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 20 shots. He was beaten by the first shot he faced, but settled down, making some underrated saves in the second period. He coasted in the third when the Lightning controlled the majority of play. He's not his pre-injury self yet, but he's getting closer.
0:32 OTT Turris (9), (MacArthur, Ceci)
3:48 TB Hedman (5), (Drouin, Carle)
7:30 OTT Stone (9), (Turris, Karlsson)
16:08 TB Johnson (14), (Kucherov, Stralman)
16:55 TB Stamkos (21), (Killorn, Hedman)
7:58 Johnson (15), (Kucherov, Palat)
Johnson and Kucherov were the game's first and second stars, respectively.
Like in Pittsburgh, the Lightning started slow again, but the game turned out more like the recent Leafs game than Pens when they controlled the second and third periods.
The Lightning were horrific on the power play to start the game, unable to get into Ottawa’s zone without looking like a pee-wee team. It wasn’t until Johnson finished off a slick cross-ice pass from Kucherov late in the second period that they finally broke through on the man advantage. They finished a paltry 1/9, though that’s better than an 0-fer. Ottawa has experienced similar futility lately on the power play; they haven’t scored with the man advantage since December 19. They were 0/3 on Sunday.
Shortly after Johnson’s goal, Stamkos scored a highlight-reel, high-effort marker to hopefully get the monkey off his back. A big difference for him tonight was the presence of Alex Killorn on his line in place of Jonathan Drouin, which opened up some additional space. If this doesn’t get Stamkos going, Jon Cooper may think about putting Callahan back on Stamkos’ line as an investment of sorts in the Lightning’s top asset.
The difference in this game was the Lightning’s pressure in the second and third periods. The Sens played Boston on Saturday and the Lightning had been sitting in Ottawa since the Penguins game on Friday night. By the end of the third period the Lightning were getting extended zone time and Ottawa wasn’t showing much desire to keep playing.
With the win, the Lightning begin their fifth 10-game segment of the season with 2 points. To review, the goal is 12 points per segment, and they already have 4 extra points in the bank from previous segments.
The key now for the Lightning is to turn a single win into a streak. There’s no better place to start than Montreal on Tuesday night in a battle for the top spot in the Atlantic. Both teams have 54 points, with the Habs having two games in hand. This is where the 2004 Lightning took off on their way to the East's No. 1 seed.
Cedric Paquette was even with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:18. He played a lot with Callahan and Filppula and didn’t look out of place. He’s not thriving like he did when he was first called up, but he’s settling into his checking role nicely.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 assist and was +2 with 3 shots in 12:59. He created a rebound that led to Hedman’s goal and was a Lehner toe save away from scoring on his own in the third period. Though getting fourth-line duty with grinders Morrow and Boyle, Drouin is able to produce better because he’s not up against the opposition’s best shut-down lines and pairs. It’s part of the long learning process. You can't say Cooper didn't give him a chance up top.
Nikita Nesterov was even with 2 PIM, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 13:06. He took a tripping penalty in the first period, but nearly scored after exiting the box and pinching in deep. He was sheltered for a lot of the game, though he continues to show impressive poise and aggressiveness for a rookie. Slotting in over Barberio was an interesting choice by Cooper, though it could be because Nesterov has experience playing the right side and Barberio is much better on the left than right. Both are lefties. Radko Gudas is out for the road trip so I’m curious to see if Nesterov or Barberio get the nod in the important Montreal game. I can’t say enough about how big of a difference there is in Nesterov’s play and on-ice demeanor between last year at this time and now. Kudos to him and the Syracuse staff.
Box score from NHL.com.
Disengage safety. Point at foot. Pull trigger. Repeat.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 10 shots before being pulled for Evgeny Nabokov who allowed 2 on 18 shots the rest of the way for the dreaded back door loss. If there was a silver lining out of this game, it might have been that Nabby looked like an NHL goaltender in relief tonight.
1:56 PIT Kunitz (12), (Letang, Crosby)(PP)
6:50 PIT Ebbett (1), (Malkin, Despres)
13:39 PIT Malkin (17), (Ebbett, Rust)
15:11 TB Boyle (7), (Palat, Carle)
12:48 TB Hedman (4), (Johnson, Palat)
17:07 PIT Ehrhoff (3), (Bennett, Crosby)
11:18 TB Killorn (9), (Stralman, Hedman)
11:52 PIT Downie (6), (Crosby, Spaling)
19:55 PIT Downie (7), (Letang, Crosby)(EN)
I have some complaints with some shady things that happened in this game, but ultimately the Lightning shot themselves in the foot in this game. Stralman allowed his pocket to be picked on the very first shift of the game that led to a minor penalty and a power play goal, and the team instantly fell behind the eight ball. Stamkos made a turnover at the Lightning blueline on the third goal to put the team down 3-0 in the First Period, which is a crusher you try to avoid, and then two Lightning defenders get beat behind the net on a 50/50 puck by Crosby leading to Downie's insurance goal less than a minute after Killorn drew it to 4-3.
Now, the shady stuff still needs to be mentioned. On the second Penguins goal, Malkin hits the post and the Pittsburgh arena folks decide to blow the goal horn and fire up a strobe light on Bishop's crease as Ebbett comes in to score on the ensuing chance. Later, on the Ehrhoff goal to help Pittsburgh re-establish a 2 goal lead after Hedman pulled it to 3-2, you had a situation where a Pens stick was actually stuck in Stralman's visor before the rush that led to the goal and the ref actually came over to help Stralman and didn't make a call. Lunacy. Both of those plays were minor league/bush league quality stuff, and then we later got to witness Crosby rear naked choke out Connolly on a goal mouth scrum and get away with nothing called, just to add insult to injury. None of the above incidents are why the Lightning lost, but they're troubling examples of why you feel like the Lightning have to be THAT MUCH BETTER against a league darling like the Pens to realistically have a chance to win. It's shameful, really.
The same things keep happening night after night that end up being the difference between winning and losing and I don't see them improving consistently. The brain fart turnovers by veteran players just can't continue to happen. Details matter against quality teams like Pittsburgh. The power play (0-for-3 tonight) continues to come up dry at key points of the game and the guys who are supposed to be the team's best skaters (Stamkos and Callahan) continue to struggle to find the scoresheet consistently. When you sprinkle in that the team still is trying to figure out how Drouin fits into the puzzle, it's a maddening mystery soup right now. If these things start to get corrected, it's easy to see this team becoming a juggernaut. If they don't, it's just as easy to see how this thing could start to go pear-shaped.
With the loss, the Lightning finish the 4th 10-game segment of the season with 11 points, 1 point shy of the 12 point minimum target. They entered with 5 insurance points, fortunately, so they still have 4 insurance points heading into segment 5. The team's at a bit of a crossroads right now, though, and this is why Jon Cooper gets paid the big bucks.
Cedric Paquette was -2 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:39. He was on the ice for the Stamkos turnover goal and that abomination Ehrhoff goal, so I can't be too mad. Still, I keep wondering if and when a shakeup gets made if Paquette may end up having to go down to make way for Namestnikov.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:54. He, also, was on the ice for the Stamkos turnover goal. I really wish the coaching staff would figure out a role for Drouin and a set of linemates and stick with it. The kid's skill level is off the charts. He makes stick handling moves with the pace and violence of a boxer's punches, and his playmaking abilities are very evident. There's just no continuity with how he's being used, though, and he's the kind of player where I think linemates need to get used to him because of what a high-level setup guy he is.
Lightning open a Third Period can of beat down.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 11 shots (not a typo) for the victory. He made a handful of key saves while the game was tight and the only goal he did allow was a point shot that deflected off of Hedman's stick and took a crazy bounce in on net.
7:48 TB Carle (4), (Palat)
12:33 BUF Ennis (9), (Zadorov, Moulson)(PP)
19:02 TB Palat (9), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
5:20 TB Connolly (7), (Stralman, Palat)
8:40 TB Kucherov (16), (Johnson, Stralman)
18:05 TB Kucherov (17), (Palat, Johnson)
The Lightning, for about 30 minutes, didn't look like they wanted to be in Buffalo (well, yeah). In the Third Period, they outshot Buffalo 14-1 and absolutely dismantled the young Sabres. It was a clinic put on by the triplets line to put 2014 to bed the right way.
Now, here's the interesting part: the Lightning now have 11 points in this 10-game segment of the season with 1 more game to play. Despite all their struggles this month, they may still hit 12 points over this 10-game stretch, and at a minimum, they'll have 4 insurance points heading into the second half of the campaign. Nice.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot in 14:08.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 in 15:02 in his NHL debut. He made a key play breaking up a 2-on-1 that nearly resulted in a goal at the other end when Stamkos hit a crossbar. In all, he wasn't noticeable, but that's a positive for a rookie d-man.