Bad news in Pittsburgh.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 5 shots before leaving the game after the First Intermission with what was deemed a "lower body injury". Evgeny Nabokov allowed 3 goals on 21 shots the rest of the way for the loss.
19:09 PIT Sutter (7), (Scuderi)(SH)
19:33 TB Drouin (2), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
2:55 PIT Rust (1), (Ebbett)
19:26 PIT Downie (5), (Hornqvist, Malkin)(PP)
7:47 PIT Dumoulin (1), (Downie, Spaling)
16:56 TB Kucherov (12), (Filppula)
The Lightning came out flying in the First Period, and were betrayed by a mixture of bad luck and great goaltending by Fleury. The one goal Bishop allowed was a shot that was going wide that took a goofy bounce off the knob of his stick and bounded into his net. It was so goofy and unlucky, I wouldn't be surprised if Bishop hurt himself kicking something in the locker room about his buzzard's luck. It was that kind of night. You then had Nabby handing Pittsburgh a free goal on a puckhandling gaffe and then a fourth goal coming off a deflection off Hedman. Meanwhile, the Lightning couldn't buy another goal on Fleury until a breakaway goal from Kucherov late in garbage time. Just nothing is going right now, and you hope that Bishop being held out for precautionary reasons turns out to be over something minor like a stubbed toe rather than something being broken or torn.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot and 4 hits and was 60% on draws in 14:10.
Jonathan Drouin had a goal and 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 14:50. He was probably one of the three best players on the rink for the Lightning tonight, and that was reflected in his promotion to the Stamkos line in the Third Period. He could've easily had a 3 point night tonight if the Lightning were so cursed right at the moment.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
10:33 WSH Backstrom (6), (Wilson, Schmidt)
18:40 WSH Backstrom (7), (Ovechkin, Wilson)
2:17 WSH Backstrom (8), (Ovechkin)
15:36 TB Johnson (9), (Carle, Kucherov)
17:29 TB Carle (3), (Stamkos, Garrison)
19:21 WSH Fehr (6), (unassisted)(EN)
Frustrating. This was a game filled with self-inflicted wounds. I'm not going to dwell on the disallowed Stamkos goal in the First Period, because ultimately that's not what undid the Lightning in this game. They had a 5-on-3 for a full 2 minutes and only got a slow dribbler chance by Callahan that Holtby held out. Then Paquette loses a faceoff and loses his man. Little thing. Down 1-0. They have plenty of guys back in transition and they completely blow the coverage and Backstrom gets a rebound goal. Little thing. Down 2-0. They have a neutral zone turnover and the defense parts to let Backstrom get a prime chance in the slot. Little thing. Down 3-0. They even have 2 players collide at center with the extra attacker so Fehr can get the EN goal. Little things, and they surrender the 4th goal. It's not like the Caps have dominated these two games, but the Lightning have done everything in their power to make them look like world beaters. Other than the PK there was very little of value to take out of tonight, other than what little morale building you can get out of climbing to withing 1 goal late in a game where you were down 3-0 in the Third Period.
Moving back to basics: Cooper's got to get these guys to get 35 shots on goal a night. The shot totals have been anemic lately, and when shot totals are low you don't get a good diet of greasy goals. They need that, and they need a healthy Palat back. A functional PP would be a nice change of pace, too. Every season has a spot like this where the offense will just struggle to get goals. It seems like, more often than not, the Lightning's struggle seems to come in December. It happened in '03. It's happening now.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and he was 33% on draws. The first goal was on him. He lost the draw and then lost Backstrom, which allowed Backstrom to easily collect the blocked shot and roll to the slot to get the backhander. Not good.
Jonathan Drouin was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 10:55. He was on the ice for Paquette's faux-pas and the Fehr empty-netter, so the +/- is deceiving. He got more comfortable and looked more dangerous as the game rolled on.
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.
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.
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.
Taking out the trash.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory as the Lightning swept the season series against Benedict Arnold and the Rangers 3-0. He also had a helper in tonight's game on top of several sparkling saves that allowed the Lightning to keep contact before eventually pulling away in the Third Period.
6:32 TB Johnson (7), (Palat, Hedman)
12:14 NYR Hayes (3), (Hagelin, Stempniak)
16:02 TB Connolly (3), (Hedman, Bishop)
2:42 NYR Fast (2), (Brassard, Nash)
9:24 NYR St. Louis (10), (McDonagh, Stepan)(PP)
14:23 TB Carle (2), (Johnson, Filppula)
5:34 TB Connolly (4), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
6:58 TB Johnson (8), (Kucherov, Gudas)
19:33 TB Palat (6), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
That was satisfying. No, not because the Lightning played their best game. They didn't. Their passing wasn't sharp and allowed the Rangers to run up a big shot advantage. Along with a handful of terrible turnovers the Lightning really allowed themselves to be put on the ropes when they fell behind in the Second Period and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage. And then Matt stinking Carle scored to tie the game and the Rangers' world started caving in around them.
You see, after getting annihilated in the first two games of the season series, the Rangers decided this was their measuring stick. This was going to be their big moment to show they were ready to run with the big dogs! Ryan McDonagh, who by virtue of being captain of the Rangers evidently immediately became Brian Leetch reincarnate in New York last year, or something equally irrational, was going to return from injury to help the Rangers smite their new tormentors from the South!
BTW, Rangers and fans, for the record, Victor Hedman > Ryan McDonagh. But, I digress.
The Rangers' best punch they could throw, their heavyweight haymaker, was a Second Period where they walked into the locker room tied 3-3. And, at that point, I think everybody in that building knew how the Third Period would unfold. And brother, it did. Martin St. Louis finished the 3 game series with 2 goals and 2 points, 1 more point than Ben Bishop, and a pretty fantastic -6 rating. I can see why Slats threw in the 2 first rounders.
On the Lightning side of the ledger, it was no surprise the Kucherov line continues to dominate the opposition, but Brett Connolly was a revelation with 2 goals and another that got disallowed for being deflected in with a high stick. You're beginning to see the high-end, elite skill Brett was touted to possess when he was selected in the top-10 so many years ago. He's sugar in open ice, although he might still be another word that starts with "s" along the wall. Also of note, Victor Hedman sneezed 3 assists tonight without even trying. It's obscene how easily he's tallied points since about the midway point of last season.
With 25 games played, the Lightning sit at 36 points, meaning with 5 games remaining in segment 3 of the season they're already at the minimum point total they need to be at to comfortably be on pace to make the playoffs. Everything they get in the next 5 games just replenishes and, possibly, expands the bank of insurance points they had coming into this 10-game segment of the season.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 2 penalty minutes 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:33.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 10:19.
Lightning outlast Senators.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. He made several key stops, including a denial on a shorthanded 3-on-1 by Ottawa to keep the Lightning in contact before they pulled away in the Third Period.
18:13 OTT Legwand (3), (Karlsson, Turris)(PP)
5:13 TB Callahan (11), (Stamkos, Killorn)
1:16 TB Killorn (7), (Stralman, Callahan)
8:09 TB Morrow (1), (Paquette)
13:53 TB Kucherov (9), (Johnson, Garrison)(PP)
Just an efficient, professional, workmanlike effort by the Lightning to nullify a good goaltending effort by Robin Lehner. They leveraged the fact Ottawa was on the downside of a back-to-back and ultimately wore the Sens down with their depth, eventually getting goals from three different lines.
Of note: first, Victor Hedman returned and was a beasty, particularly in the defensive third. Second, Jon Cooper rolled out a couple of new lines, including a Drouin/Filppula/Connolly line that shows some promise. I wish Connolly was a little harder on the puck on the forecheck, but that line has a chance of doing something. I wonder what would happen, though, if Cooper elected to but speedster J.T. Brown on the right side of that line for puck retrieval and general mischief-making purposes. Hmmmmm.
Cedric Paquette had a nice helper on Morrow's first goal of the season and was +1 with 1 hit in 10:58.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot and 2 hits in 14:14. The ice time will continue to creep up as he continues to play a well-rounded game like he did tonight.
Young Lightning grow up a little.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. If you limit the odd man rushes the way the Lightning did tonight, Ben's pretty hard to beat.
3:11 MIN Parise (7), (Vanek)
13:42 TB Stamkos (14), (Stralman, Garrison)(PP)
18:07 TB Killorn (6), (Stralman, Callahan)
The Lightning avenged one of their worst losses of the season to the Wild earlier this year and showed a bit of growth against a type of team they've traditionally struggled with. Not only are the Wild a faster team in the Western Conference style, but they also play a close-to-the-vest style a la the New Jersey Devils, which has always been a challenge for the team. They came out hard, like they did in the previous contest, but maintained their effort level throughout the game including after a mistake led to the Wild taking a 1-0 lead. And, when they got a power play opportunity down 1-0, they capitalized with strong puck possession despite some very tight penalty killing by the Wild. This game was steel on steel and both teams played a strong game and all the credit in the world goes to the Lightning for coming out of it with the 2 points.
Now, here's the great thing: they accomplished this tonight without Hedman. They accomplished it with Drouin still playing less than 10 minutes and not yet making the impact his talents indicate he can. And, they did it with Stamkos still a touch below the level of play he showed before he broke his leg a year ago. If all those things happen, and they're already capable of winning a game against a good Western Conference team when it's steel on steel like it was tonight, what can they do when they're at full strength clicking to their full potential?
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 3 hits and 2 blocked shots in 13:05. He was out for the Lightning to try to answer the 6-on-4 situation to close out the contest.
Jonathan Drouin played 9:37.
Deck a little too stacked.
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 5 goals on 36 shots for the loss. He actually performed better than his last couple of starts, but the Clutterbuck shorthanded goal was from a less than prime angle and was the turning point of the game. Soft.
11:53 TB Killorn (4), (Garrison, Drouin)
0:39 NYI Clutterbuck (2), (unassisted)(SH)
12:23 NYI Grabovski (4), (Nielsen, Okposo)
13:26 NYI Strome (3), (de Haan)
0:36 NYI Visnovsky (2), (Nielsen, Tavares)(PP)
2:14 TB Palat (5), (Carle, Kucherov)
8:55 NYI Cizikas (2), (Okposo, Nelson)
This was just one of those nights. The Lightning weren't super flat, but certain players like Callahan who've been lights out lately were clearly not in their best form after the emotional tilt with the Rangers last night. You couple that with the fact the Islanders have basically been off for a week before this game and throw in a pinch of Nabby in net and two dashes of some puck luck for the Isles and this one got out of hand.
Fortunately, the Lightning didn't really desperately need points out of this game. They close the second 10 game segment of the season with 28 points, giving them 4 insurance points heading into segment three of the year. 12 in 10, do it again.
Cedric Paquette had 1 blocked shot and was 50% on draws in 2:40 and left the game with what appeared to be either a foot or ankle injury after blocking a shot. His absence was noticeable.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 in 10:28. He had one amazing pass on the power play to Kucherov that could've easily netted a goal, but Nikita was stunned in amazement that Drouin was even able to thread the puck through and didn't have the reflexes to get it on frame.
Vladislav Namestnikov was 33% on draws in 13:57. He had legs, but looking at the stat sheet reveals nothing was doing.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 16 shots for the victory, and the 1 he allowed was a deflection of a pass off his own defenseman, Garrison. He didn't have a lot of work, but he handled what came his way well.
6:50 TB Kucherov (7), (Johnson, Palat)
14:20 TB Callahan (7), (Stamkos, Filppula)(PP)
0:32 NYR St. Louis (7), (Brassard, Stepan)(PP)
14:08 TB Stamkos (12), (Filppula)
18:42 TB Killorn (3), (Johnson, Palat)
17:09 TB Callahan (8), (Stamkos)
That was an absolute squash of a game. It was a no contest. It was almost unfair to watch the decaying corpse of the Rangers squad picked apart piece by piece by the speed and youth of the Lightning. And the Lightning didn't let up in this one. They made a point tonight. They knew everyone in the league was looking to see how they'd handle their first game against Marty since the trade, and they crushed the Rangers. They broken their damned backs in that game.
Best of all, as of this posting, the Rangers would have a lottery pick and would have the 11th most ping pong balls. That's right, Sather paid Callahan and 2 1st round picks for the privilege of watching his team get pounded like that tonight. Enjoy, Slats.
The Lightning have now banked 4 insurance points with 1 game left to go in the second 10 game set of the season. Things are looking outstanding, thus far, with the Lightning holding the second most points in the NHL right now. They also lead the league in goals by a mile and their +22 goal differential is second only to Pittsburgh's +25.
Cedric Paquette had 3 shots, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot, and was 67% on draws in 16:25 of ice time. He was dangerous offensively and responsible defensively, and 16:25 of ice time is telling me the coaching staff likely doesn't want him going anywhere.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots and was 33% on draws in 13:51. He got the biggest compliment of all when Phil Esposito told him he plays a lot like Larionov. Impressive.