Cernak, Erik

NHL Game Night: 12-18-18 Lightning at Canucks

Lightning prevail in late night fight.

TB-5
VAN-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 38 shots. And, although the final score looks comfortable, he was called on to make some key stops when the game narrowed to 3-2 in the Third Period to preserve the victory including a monumental breakaway opportunity.

First Period
8:40 TB Kucherov (15), (Point)
9:17 VAN Motte (5), (Stecher, Virtanen)
11:07 TB Paquette (8), (Martel, Erne)

Second Period
8:37 TB Erne (4), (Paquette, Girardi)

Third Period
5:46 VAN Tanev (2), (Roussel)
17:22 TB Stamkos (17), (Johnson, Hedman)
18:17 TB Palat (3), (Kucherov, Stralman)

Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and third stars.

Obviously this was a game that got out of control in the nastiness department. Canucks fans are going to point to Danick Martel's hit on Stecher as the flashpoint of the game, but the reality is Roussel started the snowball down the hill by running Kucherov after Nikita scored a goal. From there we had the ugliness of Stecher getting laid out on a hit by Martel and Martel getting jumped by two Canucks who held him while he was bloodied by a Gudbranson sucker punch. This was all sandwiched between a hockey game where the Lightning failed to put the Canucks away with multiple unsuccessful power play opportunities to establish a 3-goal advantage and quell any Vancouver uprising for good. They eventually got the win, but I'd have preferred they piled the dirt on Vancouver's grave much sooner.

Regarding the Martel hit, I'm going to stipulate ahead of time it was a borderline play. I haven't seen an angle of the hit from the front so I'm not sure if when Martel raised his arm and elbow he did or didn't catch Stecher's head on the follow-through. So, there may yet be discipline for Martel. With that said, the Vancouver reaction to the play was laughably overwrought. To hear them tell it, 5'9" Danick Martel is some kind of cross between Tom Wilson, Ronnie Lott, and John Wilkes Booth. The exaggeration of the play and the casting of Martel as a headhunting assassin who went straight in to try to decapitate Stecher is a work of pure fiction. First, the initial contact was shoulder to shoulder. Any claim Martel was deliberately trying to land a headshot with intent to injure simply doesn't jibe with reality. Indeed, if you review the tape, Martel makes the hit (which he also claimed he felt was a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit) he immediately starts digging at the puck in Stecher's skates to retrieve the puck. Not the act of a headhunting assassin admiring their handywork through the scope of the rifle. Just sayin'. Second, yes Martel hits Stecher a fraction of a second before the puck arrives at Stecher's feet. In slow motion. So, in reality it's a bang-bang play where, in real time, the puck arrived at pretty much the exact moment of the contact. In that regard, I think you can even make a really strong argument that the interference call that was given to Martel wasn't correct. So then, the third element is Martel's follow through, which I'll stipulate to you I haven't seen clearly shown one way or the other to have contacted Stecher's head or not. You put that all together, and I think you can make another strong argument that had Stecher not been concussed (and, sadly, players can get concussed on completely legal shoulder-to-shoulder hits, too) there wouldn't have been any minor penalty issued in the game at all, let alone something to soothe the Canucks' plaintiff cries for a five-minute major for a phantom, premeditated head shot. It's a shame Stecher got hurt. I don't wish that upon any player (not even Brad Marchand). But not every hit that leads to a concussion is automatically a premeditated head shot with intent to injure. Sometimes, as in this case, a hard hockey play can lead to a guy getting his bell rung. It's the nature of the beast. Just is. And if Stecher had popped right back up, we would've been talking about Martel issuing a hard hit in a chippy game and turned the page about a minute after it happened.

And if you're going to try to crucify Jon Cooper for fist-bumping his player for standing up for himself after having gotten sucker-punched for issuing a hard hit in a chippy game, then I think that's a little overwrought too. I can only assume the run on fainting couches at local Vancouver furniture shops was pretty epic this morning.

Danick Martel had a helper and was +2 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 6:57. Very impactful effort for a guy who was a surprise to dress after Callahan got nicked up. Beautiful spinning behind the back assist on Paquette's goal and, unless I see different evidence that what I've been shown, answered the bell with some physical play in a chippy game, which is no small thing for a 5'9" waterbug. I just hope the league office actually reviews the video evidence when looking at the matter and doesn't decide, "Here's a borderline NHL'er and we can really make an example out of him," without reviewing the facts fully.

Anthony Cirelli was 50% on 12 draws in 15:22.

Adam Erne had a goal and an assist and was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:55. Nice tip on his goal and the Canucks did not have the depth to keep up with Tampa Bay's fourth line all night.

Erik Cernak was -1 with 2 shots, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 19:03, spelling Coburn for a night.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-13-18 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Vasilevskiy returns and dominates.

TOR-1
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 49 shots for the victory, tying a Lightning single game record for saves. There were at least two saves in this game that were worthy save-of-the-year candidates for the league. He's the ultimate hole card for this team. Even if you can outplay the 18 guys in front of him, you've still got to deal with Vasiy. Good luck with that.

First Period
5:26 TOR Kapanen (12), (unassisted)
8:20 TB Cirelli (9), (Callahan)(SH)

Second Period
5:31 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Miller)(PP)
19:24 TB Killorn (7), (Cirelli, Miller)
19:58 TB Johnson (13), (Kucherov, Girardi)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Vasilevskiy, Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

Not the Lightning's best effort, primarily because they got into penalty trouble that accounted for 15 of the Leafs' shots tonight. That gave the Leafs the momentum, which compounded issues the Lightning were having with some sloppy puck management early on in the game. I don't feel the SOG's are completely indicative of the run of play, but it's certainly easy to say the Lightning can and probably will do better next time these two teams cross paths.

Tampa Bay pulls eight points clear of Toronto for the Atlantic Division lead with the win. Eight straight wins and nine of the last 10: If the Lightning can keep it rolling through this upcoming road trip, Tampa Bay could be in a pretty difficult to catch position at the midway point of the campaign.

Cirelli had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:38. He was also 46% on 24 draws. His shorthanded goal in the First Period was not only a thing of beauty on the breakaway, but it was a key moment that helped keep the Lightning in the game while they were facing a bit of an early onslaught.

Adam Erne had 1 shot and 3 hits in 7:37 subbing in for the nicked up Joseph.

Erik Cernak had 2 shots and 5 hits in 20:31 as well as 2 penalty minutes. The nasty way Cernak physically disposed of Kadri in the Third Period to create a 2-on-1 was a moment that I suspect dozens, if not hundreds, of other hockey players wish they could've done to Kadri themselves. Disposed of him like yesterday's garbage.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-10-18 Rangers at Lightning

Lightning wear out weary Rangers.

NYR-3
TB-6

Louis Domingue allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the win. Slip into some goal support and get comfortable.

First Period
12:19 NYR Hayes (6), (Strome, Namestnikov)
14:09 TB Stamkos (13), (Hedman, Miller)(PP)
15:07 NYR Hayes (7), (Vesey)

Second Period
6:19 TB Stamkos (14), (Hedman, Point)(PP)
12:42 TB McDonagh (3), (Point, Kucherov)

Third Period
10:17 TB Cirelli (7), (Cernak)
10:41 TB Stamkos (15), (Palat, Coburn)
17:34 NYR Fast (3), (Chytil)
19:21 TB Cirelli (8), (Killorn, Miller)(EN)

Steven Stamkos and Ryan McDonagh were the game's first and third stars. Stamkos with the hat trick and his 700th NHL point, as well as setting the Lightning record for hat tricks with nine of them.

I give the young Rangers some credit for hanging around as long as they did in this game. As mismatched as they are on paper, to lose a d-man and have to play short in the back was just a death sentence against this deep Lightning team. They were running on fumes in the Third Period when Cirelli finally unlocked the flood gates, and that was all she wrote.

Mathieu Joseph had 1 shot and 2 hits in 10:45.

Anthony Cirelli had 2 goals and was +2 with 5 shots and 1 hit in 16:16. He was also 50% on 10 draws. Great individual play to force the turnover and then deke Lundqvist on the key goal in the game. He's suddenly got eight goals on the campaign and he might start flirting with a 20 goal pace, too.

Erik Cernak had a helper and was +1 with 5 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 2 hits in 15:42. His IT went lower tonight due to the fight he won against Beleskey, and he seemed really assertive offensively tonight. He's really showing surprising ability on that end of the rink given he's never really been a big point producer in junior or the AHL. It helps when you play with McDonagh, which is a heck of a security blanket for a young player. Guy Boucher might've called that "psychological safety."

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-8-18 Avalanche at Lightning

No mercy.

COL-1
TB-7

Louis Domingue allowed 1 very soft goal on 30 shots for the victory. It didn't matter. This team in playing like a juggernaut.

First Period
3:05 TB Stamkos (11), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
13:15 TB Stamkos (12), (unassisted)
14:14 COL MacKinnon (20), (Landeskog, Rantanen)
16:26 TB Johnson (12), (Point, Girardi(

Second Period
2:00 TB Killorn (6), (Gourde, Stamkos)
7:59 TB Palat (1), (Stamkos, Sergachev)
10:01 TB Cirelli (6), (Coburn)

Third Period
3:29 TB Palat (2), (Johnson, Miller)(PP)

Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson were the game's three stars. My goodness, just when you thought the Lightning couldn't get any more potent, Ondrej Palat jumps up and scores his first couple of goals of the campaign. Imagine if Palat starts playing vintage Palat 200-foot hockey and contributing regularly.

This year feels different. I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to jinx it. Just... this year feels different.

Mathieu Joseph had 3 shots in 15:57. If he starts routinely getting ~15 minutes a night it'll be interesting to see if his production scales up accordingly.

Anthony Cirelli had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:46. He was also 57% on 7 draws.

Erik Cernak had 2 shots and 6 hits in 19:36.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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