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Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Night: 12-9-17 Jets at Lightning

Lightning play really well and eventually get the payoff.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the win. He had long stretches of inactivity so it was hard to stay sharp, but I'm sure he's thanking his stars his guys bailed him out after that soft third goal.

First Period
1:21 WPG Copp (4), (Lowry, Tanev)
18:57 TB Gourde (9), (Point, Johnson)(PP)

Second Period
16:39 TB Sergachev (7), (Johnson, Palat)
18:02 Connor (10), (Morrissey, Wheeler)

Third Period
7:02 WPH Ehlers (13), (Trouba, Laine)
8:51 TB Kucherov (20), (Dotchin, Stamkos)

Overtime
0:36 TB Point (12), (Stralman)

Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev were the game's first and third stars.

I think both teams treated this one like a measuring stick, and if that's what it was then I'd say the Lightning have to feel pretty good about it. That's not just because of the result, but because this was a game where the Lightning were able to nullify Winnipeg's size and speed and really controlled the balance of the play. The Lightning held Winnipeg to just 11 shots through 40 minutes and just 20 shots on the entire evening. That's a pretty astonishing stat given Winnipeg's firepower and lends credence to the view that Amalie Arena has become one of the real fortresses in the NHL this season. Still, the Lightning had some adversity in this game falling behind on a bad early shift, giving up a goal late in the Second Period on a pretty wicked deflection, and then giving up the lead in the Third Period on a pretty soft goal. And, again, this team showed its resiliency.

What a novel concept winning an offensive zone faceoff to manufacture Kucherov's tying goal in the Third Period. Lather, rinse, repeat. Please.

Tampa Bay's win gives them 12 points in this 10-game segment, making it 3 for 3 successful segments on the year. The Lightning get one more game in this segment to try to build up their cache of bonus points from 8 points to a possible 10.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 11:36. It was a mixed bag. I thought he made some decent plays in the offensive zone but got caught flat footed once or twice defensively. He can fly, but I don't think he adjusted to Winnipeg's speed as quickly as his teammates did.

Yanni Gourde had the power play goal and was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot. He was also 50% on 10 draws. He played a really strong game. He's arguably the team's best forechecker and when he can get some shots on goal like he did tonight, I think he's such a valuable player.

Jake Dotchin had a helper and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 18:05. Coming off the injury you might've expected them to bring him into the lineup slowly, but 18 minutes is a fairly big number. He makes a difference for the Lightning because when he can fill this much time he helps regulate Girardi and Stralman's ice time and gives them a chance to play roles they can help the team the most in.

Sergachev had a goal, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. He obviously scored a filthy turnaround goal. Just to go on a skate like that in the offensive zone and try that took some chutzpah for a rookie. But, on top of that, 19:23 of ice time is a really nice number. If he and Dotchin are giving this team 18+ quality minutes moving forward, it makes Yzerman's deadline shopping list a lot less pricey.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-7-17 Avalanche at Lightning

Lightning unceremoniously dispose of an inferior opponent.

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Peter Budaj allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the win. The second goal he allowed was as soft as you'll see through the five hole on a shooter coming in on the rush, but he closed the door the rest of the way.

First Period
1:21 COL Landeskog (10), (MacKinnon)
1:46 TB Stamkos (12), (Namestnikov, Johnson)
13:36 TB Kunitz (5), (Girardi, Paquette)
18:22 COL Johnson (3), (Andrighetto)

Second Period
8:09 TB Namestnikov (12), (Johnson, Stamkos)

Third Period
4:57 TB Killorn (3), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)(PP)
16:41 TB Point (11), (Gourde)(SH)(EN)

Steven Stamkos, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Budaj were the game's three stars.

Colorado's terrible, and although the Lightning allowed them to hang around with some odd man rushes and a soft goal in the First Period, they ultimately disposed of them without much drama. The shot totals were fairly even, but the possession was 2:1 Lightning and the chances were significantly in the Lightning's favor, too. Three point nights for Stamkos and Namestnikov, and the juggernaut keeps rolling.

With two games remaining in this ten game segment of the season, the Lightning have rebounded well and now just need 2 of a possible 4 points to clinch a successful segment. As poorly as they were doing to start the segment, that's fairly remarkable.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 3 shots in 13:19.

Yanni Gourde had a helper on the EN goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 2 blocked shots. He was also 63% on 8 draws.

Mikhail Sergachev was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 14:17.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-2-17 Sharks at Lightning

Lightning get a measure of redemption after the Boston debacle.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. I honestly thought Vasiy wasn't as sharp as he normally was tonight. He got the benefit of a few posts and didn't have the greatest rebound control, but 85-90% Vasilevskiy's still good enough to get you wins if you play well in front of him, and that was the case tonight.

First Period
16:58 SJ Goodrow (1), (O'Regan, Carpenter)

Second Period
0:27 TB Kucherov (18), (Palat, Point)

Third Period
1:39 TB Johnson (5), (Palat, Sergachev)(PP)
5:49 TB Johnson (6), (unassisted)
11:01 TB Conacher (2), (Killorn, Gourde)
13:37 SJ Braun (1), (O'Regan)
15:37 TB Kucherov (19), (unassisted)

Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Great response by the Lightning tonight after sleepwalking their way through too much of the game in Boston. They used their speed to overwhelm San Jose for all 60 minutes en route to posting a 43-27 shot advantage and a 5-2 win. San Jose's goaltender, Martin Jones, was far better than in his last outing against the Lightning and managed to hold the Sharks in the game for 40 minutes, but the Lightning just had too much possession and eventually wore out the slower Sharks, with odd man rushes being the outcome as their defense crumbled in the final frame.

Tyler Johnson potted two goals on a long shoot in from Ondrej Palat off the corner boards timed to let Johnson use his speed to get the loose puck in front of the net for a jam in goal and on a rebound off a Victor Hedman scramble. The common thread in the two goals: Johnson playing a simpler game that is tailored to his strengths. I think his struggles over the past couple of years stem partly from him trying to play a style of game that isn't him. When you play with guys like Palat and Kucherov for so long, I think it's easy to get caught up and think you're some kind of dangling, creative playmaker with amazing handles. That's not Johnson. Johnson's gifts are that he has blazing speed and a great shot. That's two pretty boffo gifts if you're going to pick two out of the hockey hat, and that's why it's been frustrating to see Johnson pass out of shot opportunities or try to make an extra stickhandling move or toe drag for much of this season. When he plays a north-south, shoot-first style of game, he's a good NHL scoring line player. His speed scares the hell out of defenders and creates space for his linemates and his shot is heavy and hard to control. So, if he keeps playing the style he played tonight, the results will follow.

The underrated part of tonight's game was the disgustingly good passes by Palat on Johnson and Kucherov's first goals. Have mercy.

I'll be the guy to put some negative sauce out there: Braun's goal came off one of many faceoff losses. The Lightning only lost the faceoff battle tonight by a modest 49-51 margin, but the team is 28th out of 31 teams in faceoffs. It's not as big a deal right now, but it will be come playoff time. I still would contend to you the Lightning lost the Stanley Cup three years ago to Chicago largely because the Blackhawks were able to generate cheap possession and nullify the Lightning's athleticism advantage by winning a ton of offensive zone faceoffs. The fact that this hasn't been solved, along with the team's quixotic quest to find RHD seemingly since the day Dan Boyle dropped a skate on his wrist, might be the two most frustrating parts of being a Lightning fan over this last decade to decade and a half. This is a problem that the organization needs to remedy if the team is serious about winning a championship. I can't put it any more bluntly.

The Lightning's win tonight put them at 6 points after 6 games of this 10-game segment of the season. They still need 6 of a possible 8 points the rest of the way to clinch a successful segment and avoid dipping into their insurance points. Tough, but it looks a lot more do-able after tonight's effort.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:36. It was a quiet night for him, but a quiet night with 14+ minutes is a good thing. It shows he was steady and earning more shifts.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 1 blocked shot. He was also 57% on 7 draws. Still wish he'd get more shots for himself.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. I'd have to go back and look at his game logs, but I feel like that was a season high in ice time for Sergachev, and it came in a fairly quiet game for him. Again, that's a good thing. It means he was steady and earning those shifts, just like Koekkoek. Remember, it's really important for at least 2 of these 3 young prospect defensemen (Dotchin being the third) to develop into an ~18 minute a night player by the end of the regular season, thereby helping to regulate the minutes of older vets like Coburn and Girardi at more manageable levels. Tonight, on paper, was a welcome step toward that.

OK... I went back and checked, and indeed it's Sergachev's season high in ice time. It's only the second time so far he topped the 18 minute mark. Good on him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-28-17 Lightning at Sabres

Release the kittens!

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Andrei Vasilevskiy had about as pedestrian a 34 save shutout as you can imagine. Buffalo was largely kept to the perimeter and had very few legit scoring chances all game. Vasiy surely deserved that defensive performance in front of him after having to play Superman against the Caps last time out.

First Period
16:29 TB Sergachev (6), (Johnson, Palat)(PP)

Second Period
12:08 TB Girardi (1), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

Kind of a boring game. Both teams played a fairly well structured defensive game so there weren't a ton of chances and certainly a paucity of odd man rushes, too. The Lightning did have the big possession advantage in the First Period that they turned into a power play and the eventual game winner. They also manufactured the insurance goal on a long shot through a tough screen by Stamkos in front. Both goals, really, were nothing flashy. Meat and potatoes shots through traffic that glanced off Buffalo defenders and in.

With all that said, it's a win the Lightning really needed to have. They now have 4 points through 4 games of this 10-game segment of the season, meaning they still need to collect 8 in the last 6 games to have a successful segment. Yes, the team has a ton of insurance points already banked if need be, but you don't want to dip into those. You want to stay on that .600 or better track the rest of the way. Steady does it.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 shots and 2 hits in 9:42. Looked nice and active again in the First Period. Got nailed to the bench the rest of the way for some reason.

Yanni Gourde had 2 shots and 2 hits in 19:53.

Sergachev had a goal and 1 shot in 12:38.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-25-17 Lightning at Penguins

Lightning fall to schedule, refs, and Pens. Maybe not in that order.

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Petr Budaj allowed 5 goals on 34 shots for the loss. Maybe you can quibble about the 5th goal, but I can't get too mad at the guy when he's facing breakaways and 5-on-3 power plays all night. That said, the past two games illustrate the gap between Budaj and Vasilevskiy pretty vividly.

First Period
14:36 PIT Rust (3), (Jarry)(SH)
18:03 PIT Kessel (10), (Crosby, Hornqvist)(PP)
19:26 PIT Crosby (8), (Kessel, Schultz)(PP)

Second Period
2:22 PIT Kessel (11), (Sheahan)
6:52 TB Palat (7), (Sergachev, Gourde)(PP)

Third Period
4:41 PIT Crosby (9), (Kessel, Schultz)(PP)
13:54 TB Conacher (1), (Killorn, Johnson)

Glass half empty: the Lightning have suddenly lost 3 of their last 4 games and lose back-to-back games in regulation for the first time in this campaign. Offensive chances that were being potted efficiently in the first 20 games of the season are suddenly not going in and the Lightning defense, with Dotchin out at the pairings scrambled, hasn't been good enough to compensate.

Glass half full: this might've been considered a schedule loss from the word "jump". Back-to-back playing against Washington and Pittsburgh, two of the league's best teams, with Budaj slated to go in net? Tough spot. The Lightning actually played better than the score indicates and dominated most of the First Period until they overplayed their hand on the backside of a four minute minor leading to Rust's shorthanded goal. Pittsburgh then got the benefit of... look, everybody knows the Pens get some ridiculously soft calls in their favor and the Pens got gifted a couple of extended 5-on-3 power plays tonight. I'm not going to tell you the Lightning deserved to win this one, although they led in scoring chances for much of the night. What I will tell you is the zebras may have robbed the Lightning of a chance to compete and at least have a chance to steal a road point or two.

Slater Koekkoek had 3 shots in 16:19. I thought he played a pretty strong game supporting the play in the offensive zone and he got some nice IT in garbage time.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:28. Wish he'd get himself more shots.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:17. Like Koekkoek, he was strong in the offensive zone supporting the play and on the power play he plunked his hard wrister off Palat and into the back of the net for an apple.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-24-17 Lightning at Capitals

Burn the tape.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 37 shots for the victory. The players in front of him did a bang up job of wasting an amazing effort that held them in the game and gave them a chance to steal at least a point tonight.

First Period
1:22 TB Namestnikov (10), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
18:38 WSH Ovechkin (15), (Wilson, Backstrom)

Second Period
14:36 WSH Smith-Pelly (3), (Beagle, Orlov)

Third Period
17:52 WSH Beagle (3), (Niskanen)(EN)

Vasilevskiy was the game's second star.

That was 40 minutes of getting outpossessed and outplayed by Washington followed by 20 minutes of frustration as they came close to paying off Vasiy's heroics, but just couldn't find the equalizer. There's plenty of blame to go around tonight, but honestly I'll say this might've been Victor Hedman's worst game in years. His Norris Trophy campaign committee will want to hunt down all copies of tonight's tilt and have them burned.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit in 6:52. Blink and you'd miss him.

Yanni Gourde had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 17:20.

Mikhail Sergachev had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:41.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-18-17 Islanders at Lightning

Lightning rally gives false hope after flat start.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the rare loss. I think he might want the second goal back, which appeared to go through him, but in fairness to him the defense was pretty rancid tonight.

First Period
0:51 NYI Ladd (4), (Tavares, Ho-Sang)
10:25 NYI Lee (10), (Tavares, Bailey)

Second Period
7:09 NYI Nelson (6), (Chimera, Pelech)

Third Period
1:05 NYI Lee (11), (Bailey, Barzal)(PP)
3:13 TB Gourde (5), (Point, Koekkoek)
3:26 TB Palat (5), (Point, Vasilevskiy)
16:24 TB Gourde (6), (Palat, Girardi)
19:38 NYI Tavares (14), (Cizikas, Bailey)(EN)

Yanni Gourde was the game's second star.

The Lightning were flat and looked unprepared for the game and the Islanders jumped on them and got the goal on the opening shift. The Lightning responded by opening up too much to try to get goals and ended up surrendering too many odd man rushes and found themselves behind the eight ball. They eventually got down 3 goals after 40 minutes, and as I've said many a time, it feels like 99 times out of 100 that's a death sentence for the team trailing in pro hockey. You may get within one, but you eventually lose and it happened again tonight.

The Lightning finish the second 10-game segment of the season 8 points ahead of playoff pace. Good news is, ending on a loss, I don't think anyone's got to warn the Lightning to get complacent. Segment three starts tomorrow with a record of 0-0-0. Twelve in ten: do it again.

Slater Koekkoek had a helper and was +2 with 1 hit in 9:01.

Gourde had a pair of goals and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:23.

Jake Dotchin was -3 with 2 shots in 12:18. Not going to sugar coat it: he stunk tonight. Getting beat like a dog out of the corner by Nelson on the third goal ultimately was the kill shot goal for the Islanders. He didn't cloak himself in glory with his play in this one.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:37. Had a lot of scoring chances in this game and was dynamic offensively.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-9-17 Lightning at Kings

Lightning opens gates of hell in the First Period in Los Angeles. No Kings spared.

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Much maligned Petr Budaj allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the win. He made a critical save on Koptar early on in the game on a bang bang play that led to Kucherov's breakaway goal. That's making the situational save you need for the W.

First Period
9:27 TB Kucherov (16), (Stamkos, Koekkoek)
10:01 TB Killorn (2), (Girardi, Johnson)
10:35 TB Hedman (2), (Gourde, Palat)
11:29 TB Stamkos (8), (Killorn, Kucherov)(PP)

Second Period
17:31 LA Toffoli (8), (Kopitar, Muzzin)

Third Period
8:39 LA Fantenberg (1), (Brown, Laich)
12:59 TB Namestnikov (8), (Hedman, Kucherov)

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars.

Petr Budaj makes a big situational save, Kucherov scores on a breakaway at the other end, and the Lightning just erupt all over the Kings in a game that was over after less than a dozen minutes. The first 37 or so minutes tonight were just one long replay of the Second Period dominance the Lightning displayed against San Jose last night. Honestly, were it not for Quick, the Kings would've easily let up 8 or 9 goals tonight as the Lightning had something like 23 scoring chances through the first two periods. Quick almost gave the Kings a chance, but a well played replay challenge by Cooper and the Gang at the end of the Second Period helped the team maintain a 3 goal advantage through 40 minutes and it was off to garbage time for the second night in a row. And, to all a good night.

Things that'll make your mind explode: Namestnikov's on a pace for about 39 goals. Not a typo.

Tonight's victory means the Lightning are within an eyelash of clinching their second successful 10-game segment of the year. After collecting a stylish 17 points in 10 games to start the year, they have 11 points in this second segment with 3 more games to play. So, with 1 more point they'll have nabbed the 12 in 10, and anything after that is just more insurance points in the bank. It's a beautiful thing.

Slater Koekkoek had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 6:22.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and he was 60% on 5 draws. As always, the Stamkos line provides the bulk of the firepower, but the Palat/Point/Gourde line sets the pace for the Lightning.

Gabriel Dumont had 3 shots and 2 hits and was 63% on 8 draws in 9:56 as he jumped in to replace an injured Ryan Callahan in the lineup.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 16:45.

Mikhail Sergachev had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:01.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-8-17 Lightning at Sharks

Lightning speed slays Sharks.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory. He conceded an unlucky goal on the first shift of the game on a puck that deflected off Callahan's stick. After that, he made two or three ridiculous saves in the First Period to allow the team to find their equilibrium, after which the rest of his night was thankfully light work.

First Period
0:25 SJ Donskoi (5), (Thornton, Pavelski)
7:17 TB Dotchin (1), (Point, Gourde)

Second Period
0:44 TB Kucherov (15), (Namestnikov, Stamkos)
9:21 TB Koekkoek (3), (Gourde, Stralman)
12:00 TB Namestnikov (6), (Stamkos, Kucherov)

Third Period
6:14 TB Namestnikov (7), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)

Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Vasilevskiy were the game's three stars.

San Jose had no answer for the quickness of the Tampa Bay Lightning. None. The Lightning not only can outskate San Jose man for man, but they moved the puck so quickly and crisply, especially in the Second Period, the Sharks had no prayer. No prayer. The Lightning won pretty much every 50/50 puck and then just carved up the slower Sharks defense. Cooper will have some coachable things if he wants them because the Lightning had some bad habits creep in during garbage time in the Third Period, but other than that this was a clinic, on balance.

Slater Koekkoek had a goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 9:14. His goal was a short side softie allowed by Martin Jones, who looked awful tonight en route to being lifted after two periods.

Yanni Gourde had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 4 blocked shots in 17:46. He was also 17% on 6 draws. The Stamkos and Kucherov line get all the plaudits, but I thought the line with Gourde and Point along with Palat were almost as good tonight and were crucial to helping the Lightning get their footing back after falling behind after the first shift tonight.

Jake Dotchin had his first NHL goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:01. He got it the way you'd want it: blew a slapshot through the goaltender for his first in the bigs.

Mikhail Sergachev was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:26.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-28-17 Ducks at Lightning

Reality check.

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Peter Budaj allowed 4 goals on 21 shots for the loss. It's a different team when Vasiy's in net. It just needs to be said and understood.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
10:13 ANH Rakell (4), (Montour, Getzlaf)(PP)
16:55 ANH Montour (4), (Getzlaf)(PP)
17:52 TB Kunitz (2), (Brown, Callahan)
19:59 ANH Lindholm (1), (Wagner, Rasmussen)

Third Period
8:59 ANH Rakell (5), (Getzlaf, Perry)

Part of tonight is just a reality check/correction. Part of tonight is not minding details like allowing a critical goal very late in a period. Part of tonight is a team being allowed by the refs to slow the Lightning down with a lot of clutching and grabbing. Either way, it's a quick wake up call for the Lightning, who now have eight games to try to collect another ten points in this ten game segment of the year.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot in 6:36.

Yanni Gourde was -1 with 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:39. Gourde was also 60% on 5 draws. His line was the best Lightning line on the night, particularly Brayden Point, and had the refs called the game a little tighter they surely would've generated a handful of power plays.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 1 shot and 3 blocked shots in 16:43.

Mikhail Sergachev was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:16.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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