Tampa Bay whips New York at its own game.
Eastern Conference Finals
Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-2
Ben Bishop stopped all 26 shots he faced behind a masterful defensive effort to get the shutout. He was challenged pretty hard by the talking heads in the media after allowing 10 goals total in the previous two games of the series, and he smothered what few chances the Rangers developed tonight. He was especially strong in the First Period as the Lightning played a classic road strategy where they successfully weathered the home club's early charge. In the end, U of Maine Justice reigned supreme, and were I a superstitious man I might be advocating having Nesterov hit Bishop in the tender bits during warm-ups before every game from here on out if that's the performance you end up getting out of it.
13:29 TB Filppula (3), (Stamkos, Stralman)
18:22 TB Stamkos (7), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)
I am absolutely shocked at this result. Not so much that the Lightning won, mind you, but how they won was absolutely amazing. The Lightning essentially followed the Rangers' own recipe and baked up a sweet confection filled with defensive dominance. The Lightning typically do not play well without the puck. They are a possession team and they have looked lost for most of the past couple of years in games where the other team tilts the ice against them. Tonight, playing against an amped up Rangers team fresh off a 5-1 win on their home ice in MSG, they played a nearly flawless, defense-first road game where they comfortably absorbed the Rangers' pushes and eventually manufactured the goals they needed on a counter rush and late on the power play. At the heart of it all was a Herculean effort by the team's much-maligned penalty kill, which went 4-for-4 tonight and made the Rangers look positively non-threatening on their last 3 chances with the extra man. These are things I'm fairly certain the Lightning were not constructed for, and yet they executed that style with amazing efficiency. And, once they had that 2-goal lead, they put the lid on in the Third Period with a calmness they absolutely failed to muster in their Game Three victory that ended up getting pushed to Overtime.
So, I'll say this: If the Lightning continue to prove they can win games like this consistently when they don't have the lion's share of possession, I don't know how you can beat them in a 7-game series. They continue to shore up every major hole and weakness in their game little by little as these playoffs move along. Bad PK last year? Looked pretty good most of these playoffs. Non-existent power play all regular season? Now they're getting key goals at key times. Waiting on your franchise cornerstones (Stamkos and Hedman) to rise up and be the team's best players along with Bishop? Sure looked that way tonight. When you layer learning to play a strong defensive game without the puck and learning how to protect leads in tight games on top of that, they're on the verge of becoming positively terrifying to play against. And, imagine this: Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin, and Slater Koekkoek aren't even regular contributors to this team, yet. They'll be even more talented at this time next season. I won't throw the "dy" word out there quite yet, but you can see where this might be progressing. They haven't played their best hockey consistently yet, and yet they've still managed to put the veteran-laden President's Trophy winner on the ropes after disposing of the presumptive MVP netminder in the previous round and NHL royalty in the Red Wings in the opening series. It just shows how incredibly talented this team is.
Now, here's another test for the Lightning. Much like the Montreal series, you don't want this game to go to a Game Seven in their barn. You don't want to step foot in New York again until next season. Now: finish them. Put the offensive jump from Game Four together with the defensive play from Game Five and the finishing from Game Two and Game Three and put the Rangers away. Do so, and the team punches its ticket for the Stanley Cup Finals. To paraphrase Tyler Johnson, how cool is that?
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 hit in 8:02, with his ice time limited in a tight game on the road with the team not holding last change. I have to say, I'm pleased how he's tightened up his game in the defensive zone after looking a little loose in that department in the Montreal series. He could be a monster in another year or two once he gets a full regular season in to develop further at the NHL level.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 18 shots for the OT loss. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I can't really fault Ben on either goal.
5:20 TB Paquette (11), (Killorn, Drouin)
16:50 STL Tarasenko (26), (Stastny)
1:16 STL Schwartz (18), (Butler, Elliott)
That hurt bad. That hurt really bad. The Lightning absolutely dominated almost the entire game. They outshop St. Louis 31-17 in regulation, and the chances were about that lopsided. Elliot made about a half dozen sparkling saves for the Blues and the Lightning continued to sputter on the PP, going 0-for-3 on the game. They just could not get the insurance marker and allowed the Blues to tie it off a clean faceoff loss by Brian Boyle, and in OT the defense just got out of sorts trying to stop a 2-on-2 rush situation, and in the end they left 1 point they should've gotten on the rink.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 15:42. He also set up Cedric Paquette with a long stretch pass in the Third Period that nearly became the key insurance marker, but Elliot stood up to the task. Tonight's game marks Drouin's graduation from prospect status on the website.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 14:20. He plays like a guy who understands his athletic limitations and plays efficiently within his boundaries. He moves the puck quickly to make sure he doesn't put himself in bad spots. He'll give a guy a pop if its there, but he won't go running out of position to do it because he knows he doesn't necessarily have the recovery speed to get away with it. He's just played like a smart, lower pair stay-at-homer so far.
Bishop saves the day.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 35 shots for the victory. With the Lightning playing flat as a pancake in front of him, Bishop made a handful of key stops to give his club the time to pull away in the Third Period. Make no mistake, though, Bishop was the margin in this one and the game was closer than the scoreboard indicates.
19:36 TB Connolly (9), (Morrow, Garrison)
10:02 TB Paquette (10), (Drouin, Killorn)
11:43 TB Filppula (10), (unassisted)
16:34 CBJ Johansen (19), (Savard, Murray)
I can't help but be a little alarmed at how flat the Lightning have played recently going into games against lower-tier opponents like Carolina, Columbus, etc. There's some bad habits and a little bit of laziness/lack of focus (particularly on their continually awful PP) that crops up in these games that you don't see as much of against the big boys like Detroit. The mark of the really elite clubs is that they play their game regardless of who they're lining it up against, but that hasn't been the case lately for the Lightning. They'll need to get over that if they want to progress to the next level on their way to becoming a championship caliber team. Finding some sort of identity/concept on the PP would be a nice addition, too.
Cedric Paquette had a goal (GWG), 3 shots, and 1 hit in 13:53. He was also 67% on draws. That's 5 goals in the last 3 games. Tonight was Cedric's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from prospect status here on the website. We've been online (officially) since the '05-'06 season, and in 9.5 seasons of hockey I can't recall a prospect hitting their graduation threshold with this kind of flair. You can't help but feel wonderful for the young man who was an overage 4th rounder who got passed over completely in his first draft year and had to work so hard to improve his skating to make it to the league, where he's now flourishing.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:29. It's lost in the meteoric rise of Cedric Paquette, but Drouin's got 4 helpers and is +4 in the last 3 games, as well. He's got 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website, too, and he's showing signs of finally starting to settle into the league now.
Luke Witkowski was +2 with 1 shot in 12:33. Not noticable = very good for a rookie defenseman.
Ben Bishop rebounded from his subpar performance against Carolina to allow just 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He was very sharp after shaking off the All-Star Break hangover he had in the last outing.
2:03 TB Paquette (7), (Killorn, Garrison)
11:59 DET Helm (9), (Ericsson, Datsyuk)
19:23 TB Paquette (8), (Drouin, Killorn)
4:18 TB Stamkos (27), (Stralman, Drouin)(PP)
11:03 TB Paquette (9), (unassisted)(SH)
17:39 TB Barberio (1), (Sustr, Johnson)
News of the Tampa Bay Lightning's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. As has occurred several times so far this season, this team seems to have the ability to raise their level of play to match the challenge at hand. Tonight they faced a Red Wings team that has been playing really well and had taken a 1 point lead on the Lightning in the division after a really poor performance against cellar-dwelling Carolina coming out of the All-Star Break. Momentum-wise, this appeared to be a tough mountain for the Lightning to climb.
But, in the end, the Lightning absolutely dominated the Red Wings. After a shaky First Period in which Ben Bishop had to play well to let his team overcome some turnover and defensive zone coverage issues, the Lightning took control of all facets of the game. Shots on goal. Scoring chances. Special teams play. They rolled the Red Wings, and sent Detroit (and their fans) back to Michigan with tails firmly tucked between their legs.
Tonight's victory put the Lightning at the end of the 5th 10-game segment of the season at 66 points, 6 points ahead of the minimum they need to have to be comfortably on pace for the playoffs. They gained 2 additional insurance points in this segment and are slowly inching their way to a position where their focus can turn from clinching the playoffs to loftier aspirations. It starts with the next 10-game segment and our well-worn mantra: "12 in 10, do it again."
Cedric Paquette had his first career hat trick and was +3 with 5 shots and 2 hits. He was also 67% on 12 draws. As noted a few games back, he looked due, and his goal against the Hurricanes appears to have opened up the floodgates in dramatic fashion. The man we affectionately call Dump Truck has 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website. I kind of wish he had hit the 41 game threshold for the season tonight, because tonight's performance would've been quite the mic drop moment for a prospect.
Jonathan Drouin had a pair of helpers and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:49. He rebounded from an awful turnover early in the game that led to Bishop having to bail him out on the ensuing 2-on-0 chance given to the Wings. From there, though, he was dangerous offensively and his line with Paquette and Killorn put all kinds of pressure on the Wings all night long. Drouin's got 2 more games to go until graduation from prospect status on the site.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot in 14:58. He got caught in no-man's land on Detroit's first goal, failing to pick up Helm as he circled from behind the Lightning net, and he had some defensive zone coverage issues. He's taken a little half step back in the past couple of games, which coupled with the improved play of Barberio tells me perhaps more seasoning needs to be in the cards for Nesterov.
Hangover in Carolina.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss. This was one of the rare nights Bishop was clearly outplayed by his counterpart at the other end of the rink. His failure to make the Third Period save on Tlusty on a puck he should've gotten really put a fork in any Lightning hopes to pull it out tonight.
0:22 CAR E. Staal (16), (J. Staal)
6:05 CAR Gerbe (5), (Lindholm, Bellemore)
14:05 TB Paquette (6), (Drouin, Sustr)
8:27 CAR Faulk (9), (J. Staal)(PP)
14:06 TB Boyle (10), (unassisted)(SH)
7:53 CAR Tlusty (12), (Faulk, E. Staal)
Tonight was just a confluence of a number of things, and it's probably important not to overreact too much to the result, even though it's clearly a loss against an opponent the team should beat. First, and most obviously, the team had an All-Star Break hangover. It took them 8 minutes to get into the game, and the 2 goals they spotted the Hurricanes in that time period turned out to be the difference. That was aided by some bad puck luck against the team. Carolina's first two goals were of the very greasy variety. And then you had Bishop playing really subpar relative to his usual standards. You just have to expect those three things won't happen again with higher stakes against Detroit next time out.
Cedric Paquette had a goal and was +2 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 13:16. He was also 50% on draws. You could make an argument he was the Lightning's best player tonight, although that might be a low bar to clear. Paquette is now 2 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:19. He came out flying tonight, especially in the First Period. He had 5 attempted shots on goal, and he was rewarded with increased ice time. Drouin is now 3 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 15:56. I don't think he was as bad as the -2 indicates, but I also don't think he was influencing the game positively to the same degree he was leading into the break.
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 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.