Vinik may not have known this, but when he bought the Lightning he got ownership of the Carolina Hurricanes, too.
Ben Bishop stopped 48 of 51 shots for the victory. Whereas yesterday Ben wasn't a difference maker, tonight he was the first, second, and third stars for the Lightning. He made the big saves and a little luck and opportunism did the rest.
6:09 TB Barberio (1), (Killorn, Palat)(PP)
7:32 TB Palat (10), (St Louis, Johnson)
15:07 TB Kucherov (8), (Pyatt, Malone)
0:24 TB Purcell (10), (Gudas, Carle)
1:46 CAR Semin (9), (E. Staal)(PP)
05:40 CAR E. Staal (11), (unassisted)
8:12 TB Barberio (2), (Brewer, Palat)
6:14 CAR Hainsey (4), (Liles, Tlusty)
Mark Barberio and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
It was pretty clear in this one that the Lightning had zero left in the tank after the emotional game yesterday. They were already running on fumes having recently completed a string of games that had them traveling to the far corners of North America and back. Fortunately for the Lightning they got an excellent goaltending performance, Carolina didn't, and they got quite a lot of luck sprinkled in, too. A broken stick aided in the Lightning's first goal, the third and fifth goals had elements of fortuitous bounces in them, and the Lightning's fourth goal came off a misplay by Carolina's backup, Khudobin, after the Lightning chased the starter Peters (sorry, Tripp Tracy, you'll have to keep the Peters for Vezina balloon drop under wraps this time).
It's funny how some teams just have other team's numbers. For years the Lightning owned the Atlanta Thrashers just as for years the Ottawa Senators had the Lightning's. Recently, the Lightning have owned the Carolina Hurricanes, including a regular season concluding victory that knocked the Hurricanes out of playoff contention in one of those years. It's just one of those things. The Lightning have to really try to lose to Carolina, and as much as they did so tonight, they couldn't help but get 2 points. I'll take it, and the end result is that at the 50 game mark of the season the Lightning managed to collect 11 of the minimum 12 points they wanted out of segment 5 of the season. That means they retain 3 insurance points going into segment 6, which should see the return of Steven Stamkos around game 6 or 7 of the segment. So, they're very close to have surviving an injury that many thought would cripple the young club, which is a tribute to the players and coaching staff. Even more impressive, the victory today moves the Lightning into a tie again with Boston for the Atlantic Division lead, though the B's retain 2 games in hand. If they can stay even with Boston until A.) Stammer gets back in the lineup, and B.) Stammer gets the rust off, they've got a chance to go banner hunting. That's something to think about in March though. For now? They need to focus on getting at least 12 points out of the next 10 games.
Barberio had 2 goals and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 17:11. Stepping up into the PP spot vacated by the injured Victor Hedman, Barberio showed good awareness to spot that a Carolina defender had left to go to the bench after breaking their stick, leading him to jump up for a tap-in for his first NHL goal. He later benefited from some luck as a centering feed ricocheted to him in the high slot where he unleashed a low slapper that ramped up a Carolina defender's stick into the top corner for his second NHL goal. Congratulations to the young man. Yesterday, I think he had his best defensive game in the NHL and tonight he had his best offensive showing in the NHL. You hope it portends a big stretch run of the season.
J.P. Cote was -1 in 7:45. He got his pocket picked trying to move the puck at center ice, which led to Eric Staal's goal off a 2-on-1 that developed from it. Not good.
J.T. Brown had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:05. With the Lightning trying to weather the storm in the second half of the game, Brown's line with Kucherov and Thompson was the only line that seemed to really have their legs and they strung together some key forechecking shifts, including one after Carolina's third goal where they did everything but light the lamp.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:08. His goal came on another bit of luck with a deflected centering feed that bounded to him in the slot all alone for the quick release finish. If you're wondering, 8 goals in 27 games projects to 24 goals over 82. Not a bad rookie campaign, I should think.
Lightning waste what could've been a special day.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 32 shots for the loss. I thought he might want the last goal back, although it was apparently slightly deflected. Still, it was a long lazy point shot that he saw all the way in, and it highlighted the weakness in Bishop's game. That's why it's so imperative for the Lightning to block point shots for their netminder: he struggles on shots from distance. It was a rare game where I thought Bishop pulled a Lindback: he wasn't the reason they lost but he wasn't good enough to be a reason they won, either.
9:46 SJ Nieto (4), (Marleau, Wingels)
11:56 TB St Louis (22), (Johnson, Purcell)(PP)
12:52 SJ Marleau (21), (Nieto, Wingels)
15:44 TB St Louis (23), (Cote, Bishop)
19:30 TB St Louis (24), (Brown, Barberio)
2:07 TB St Louis (25), (Purcell, Johnson)(PP)
12:48 SJ Pavelski (23), (Kennedy, Demers)
13:09 SJ Pavelski (24), (Boyle, Marleau)(PP)
19:00 SJ Pavelski (25), (Irwin, Thornton)
Martin St. Louis was the game's first star. I think the Lightning, like their fans, got caught up in the moment with Marty matching Chris Kontos' record for goals in a game. Hopefully they gained a valuable lesson from it: San Jose didn't panic falling behind and simplified their game. They kept playing hard, used face-offs to leverage some more possession, and got pucks to the net. And, once they got the lead with 1 minute to go in the Third Period, they completely changed up their style to protect it. The Lightning got, maybe, 3 chances the rest of the way including a glorious opportunity by Martin St. Louis walking out of the corner that he shot wide. When he missed that chance, I had a sick feeling that was going to be the game. I wasn't wrong.
If you're looking for moral victories, the Lightning certainly showed how much they've improved since they got blown out in San Jose on that disastrous West Coast swing after the Stamkos injury. There is no column in the standings for moral victories, though, and today's loss guaranteed the team won't get 12 points out of this 5th 10 game segment of the season. They're fortunate they had 4 insurance points stored up, so they're still in good shape with 1 more game to go until segment #6, but mark my words: this is the most important 10-12 game stretch of the regular season coming up for the Lightning. They have another 7 or so games until Stamkos is likely to return and another 4-5 games of adjustment once he does. If they continue to leave points on the ice like they've done over the last 4-5 games, they will make things a lot harder for themselves in March and April. Now is the time to focus and nail down points, more than ever.
Mark Barberio had an assist and was +1 with 1 hot and 1 blocked shot in 17:04. Bookmark it: that was Barberio's best game in a Lightning jersey. He did well getting the puck up and out of his zone quickly and there were moments he seemed to be everywhere in the offensive half of the ice, including assisting on Marty's third goal. It's no coincidence his ice time shot up to over 17 minutes today. It was deserved.
J.P. Cote had an assist, 7 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 6:47. He assisted on Marty's second goal on a bank pass/clear hard up the boards to spring a breakaway and he fought Andrew Desjardins after Desjardins boarded Alex Killorn in the Third Period. So, I'd call it a productive 6:47.
J.T. Brown had an assist and 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:28. Dirty secret: I'm kind of certain that Marty's 3rd goal should've gone to J.T.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 1 hit in 11:22. He had a good shift in the Second Period with the Lightning pressing to gain a 3 goal lead, but as the game kept tightening up his ice time kept getting trimmed back. With Sustr being sent to Syracuse, Panik looks like he'll be the last mid-season graduation from prospect status on the site, and that could happen as early as Thursday against Ottawa.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 16:20. He has become one of Cooper's go-to's in tight games where he needs a goal, and deservedly so.
It was a postal convention at the Forum.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots but also allowed 1 of 2 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. He got a ton of help from his red iron friends, as did the Islanders' goaltender, Poulin, at the other end.
5:45 TB St Louis (21), (Filppula, Johnson)(PP)
18:22 NYI Vanek (17), (Nielsen, Tavares)(PP)
Bishop and Matt Carle were the game's second and third stars.
This was one of those games where neither team could get a bounce in an evenly played contest. Each team must've struck iron 4-5 times a piece, with the deciding misfortune being Filppula striking the post flush on the Lightning's first shootout attempt. Overall, the Lightning put together a better effort than they did in New York or Columbus in recent nights. They had, overall, about 45 minutes of pretty good hockey sandwiched around a plodding Second Period where it became clear the team was feeling the fatigue of their recent travel schedule. They're in the middle of a little marathon stretch of the schedule and they'll just need to keep grinding out points. There's not much else they can do.
Surprised Carle got the 3rd star over Hedman. Hedman had 6 shots on goal and was impressive pushing the offensive side of his game all night long.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:43. He oscillates between offensive zone promise and defensive zone turnovers, but throughout it all: magnificent hair.
J.P. Cote had 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 9:52. He showed some nice offensive instincts jumping up into the rush and dishing off to the RW circles to Filppula for a chance. Had his pass been a little flatter Valtteri probably would've potted it.
J.T. Brown had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 13:21 and rang a post like the Liberty Bell on a breakaway chance set up by line mate Kucherov early in the Second Period.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 2 hits in 10:54. As a spare forward, his ice time was disjointed but he had a pretty good shift in the Third Period guiding a puck deep out of danger, forechecking, and then back checking at the other end to break up an opportunity.
Nikita Kucherov was very dangerous tonight with 2 shots in 13:07. He had a good one-timer opportunity on the PP, sent in Brown on a breakaway, and set up Thompson for a nice opportunity where Nate failed to pull the trigger and didn't even manage a shot or pass.
Thank you, Al Trautwig.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 34 shots in his return to the Lightning crease for the victory. He had a little luck with posts and crossbars but looked really sharp and, just as important, the Rangers decided to attack his strength by going at him in tight. That's a fool's errand against Bishop.
11:55 NYR Richards (12), (Callahan, Hagelin)
1:10 TB Hedman (10), (St Louis, Purcell)(PP)
1:19 TB Kucherov (7), (Gudas, Brown)
Bishop and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars, officially. Unofficially, I'd like to thank MSG's Al Trautwig, who was my first star. The man actually uttered aloud that Lundqvist wanted the shutout in the First Intermission. Never has the s-word jinx been so strikingly illustrated. Paul Kennedy, pay attention to what happened tonight. Trautwig put the jinx on and the Lightning scored a pair of goals in the first 1:19 of the ensuing period (9 seconds apart) and the Rangers lost the game. The s-word jinx is real. It's really real.
Kidding aside (sort of), it was only a moderately better effort from the Lightning tonight versus the past couple of games. They came out with the proper level of emotion and desperation but that fizzled when the Rangers got their first goal and they carried the balance of the play throughout the night. The Lightning were very lucky to get 2 points tonight. But, you know, manufactured points still count in the standings, and with Boston going down to Toronto tonight the Lightning again hold a tie for the Atlantic Division lead at 60 points with the B's holding a game in hand. The Lightning have 3 games to go in this segment and 4 points to go to get to the target minimum of 12 points, so you can see how critical the victory was tonight.
Again, thank you Al Trauwig. What a rookie mistake from a guy who should absolutely know better.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 hit in 12:01. I was going to say something nice about him after the First Period. Then he allowed a breakaway in the Second Period and looked positionally lost the rest of the contest. Maybe next time.
J.P. Cote had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 12:33. The Rangers tried to test him with some soft dump ins to his corner to try to test his wheels and he did ok. Better than I thought he would, frankly.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 9:59. Cooper showed some love for his rookie putting J.T. out for the critical PK late in the Third Period.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:18. Again, I think he's smacked into the rookie wall at high speed and his diminishing ice time may be a reflection of that. He needs 3 more NHL games this season to earn graduation from prospect status on the website.
Richard Panik had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 12:21. Time to give some love to the improvised line of Malone/Pyatt/Panik tonight. They set the tone early on the forecheck and they stayed effective throughout the game. Panik created a decent chance at a possible insurance goal in the Third Period flattening Brad Richards and creating an ill advised turnover by the former Lightning center. That was good to see. He needs 4 more NHL games this season to earn graduation from prospect status on the website.
Nikita Kucherov had the game winning goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:18. He also had 5 shots that either missed the net or were blocked, so that's 7 shot attempts in a little over 9 minutes, which is a decent work rate on paper. More to the point: Kucherov scored for the first time on a regulation breakaway. I feel like we're supposed to sacrifice something or build a monument or perform some other great deed to commemorate the moment. I thought it might never come.
Half a game won't cut it.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. There was a theme on all three goals: long screened shots. The problem is I'm not sure Lindback can play any better than he did over the past couple of games, which is maybe slightly better than mediocre. Ben Bishop should be back tomorrow, and it's not a moment too soon.
3:46 CBJ Johansen (17), (Murray)
5:07 TB Killorn (12), (Carle, Gudas)(PP)
6:04 TB Hedman (9), (Johnson, St Louis)
3:09 CBJ Horton (2), (Johnson, Anisimov)(PP)
17:22 CBJ Wisniewski (4), (Johnson, Horton)(PP)
The Lightning left a point on the ice here in the game against Columbus and another in the game against Washington, and they've got to stop coughing up points late in games if they want to stay on track. With that said, they may not have deserved to get a point out of tonight's game with the way they played. 20 minutes of Lightning hockey won't do. They got jumped all over in the First Period and were very lucky to escape unscathed. They recovered and played their game in the Second Period looking excellent in terms of structure and how they were moving the puck up and out of the zone in transition. Third Period? Flat as a pancake at first and then way too loosey goosey defensively late. I don't know what's going on (I hope it's not players prematurely getting fat and happy with their spot in the standings) but 5 of the last 6 periods of hockey have been bad hockey and it's got to stop.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 2 ill-advised retaliation minors, and 3 hits in 18:40. He did manage to draw a retaliation penalty from Umberger in the Third Period, so he 50% made up for his lack of discipline. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status here on the website. Congratulations.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:02. He held up better against this style of opponent than I would have imagined.
J.P. Cote had 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:37. He seemed to be more active offensively tonight than in past games, to be sure.
J.T. Brown had 1 blocked shot in 11:10. He had one brisk rush in the First Period and not much else. It was an off night for his line.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with a phantom cross checking minor and 2 hits in 11:08. As I said about 2-3 weeks ago, he really looks like he's hit a rookie wall to me. There's no shame in it, but sometimes it takes an offseason of training to be able to get over that wall. That said, as it stands now, he's probably the next in line to graduate from prospect status on the site.
Nikita Kucherov had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:34. Again, it was an off night for his line and the rare night he didn't have at least one breakaway.