Lightning sweep up the trash.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the win. He was very off positionally tonight, including a wickedly bad short side softie, but goal support is a beautiful thing.
1:44 FLA Fleischmann (7), (Kulikov, Bjugstad)(PP)
5:38 TB Salo (3), (Filppula)
5:50 FLA Howden (1), (Hayes, Pirri)
8:18 TB Kostka (3), (Purcell)
12:04 TB Callahan (12), (Palat, Filppula)
18:53 TB Johnson (21), (Stamkos)
10:47 TB Stamkos (15), (Filppula, Hedman)(PP)
18:55 FLA Upshall (12), (Bjugstad, Boyes)
19:33 FLA Pirri (8), (Petrovic, Campbell)
This win wasn't the elixir. Florida is terrible and you still saw some concerning signs including bad penalty killing, subpar goaltending from Bishop, and late game lapses while the team was trying to close out a win. So, if you're a glass-half-empty person, there's plenty to complain about. On the other hand, Callahan got his first Lightning goal, Stamkos got his first points since coming back from the broken leg, and the Lightning finally got a W, if you're a glass-half-full person. I'd say the game was a building block, and if they work on correcting the problematic things they will be ok moving forward. The effort has been very good the past few games and they finally got the positive feedback tonight.
10 hits for Radko Gudas in his return from injury. Double digits. Clearly, the trainer's table puts him in a foul mood. Everyone else on the team only had 8 hits combined.
Mike Kostka had a goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:44. Is he perfect defensively? No. But he's given the Lightning the offensive dynamism in the tradeoff you want from an offensive defenseman. So much so, in fact, that he's temporarily supplanted Barberio on the depth chart.
Nikita Kucherov was -2 in 10:09 as he graduates from prospect status on the website with a whimper. With the other new lines Cooper put together playing pretty well, the one casualty was the 4th line with Brown and Kucherov, which saw the ice very little.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 21 shots for the loss. I didn't consider any of the 3 goals weak ones, but again, you want your goaltender to help you keep contact in a close game like that and Lindback doesn't.
15:56 BUF Myers (9), (unassisted)
9:25 BUF Foligno (7), (Hodgson, Myers)
13:44 BUF Hodgson (16), (Foligno)
17:31 TB Johnson (19), (Hedman)
Tonight's result was not for a lack of effort, shots, or chances. They outshot Buffalo 44-21, which is amazing considering how low the Lightning's shot totals were on the last roadtrip. They came out with a lot of adrenaline flowing and put a ton of pressure on the Sabres. It led to them getting a little loose defensively and some stupid turnovers like the thing Mark Barberio did on Buffalo's first goal, but for the most part I can't be mad at what I saw. They dominated the faceoff circles. They dominated possession. In his return and wearing the "C" for the first time, Steven Stamkos had at least 3 chances he'd probably have potted were it not for needing to shake off a little rust. In the end, though, Jhonas Enroth stood on his head at a very inopportune time with the Lightning's playoff chances starting to head south.
Mike Kostka had 7 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:57. Yes, it's the Sabres, but you have to be encouraged at how well he filled in with Gudas out of the lineup and how active he was offensively.
Richard Panik had 1 hit in 13:12. The stats don't tell the tale. He was a lot stronger and more confident on the puck than he was before his demotion to Syracuse. He's now 1 game away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 13:52. He failed to convert 2 breakaways and you can see how distraught he was at the bench. He's probably never faced a scoring slump like this in his life. He also is 1 game away from graduation from prospect status on the site.
Tomorrow's a big day.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. Hard to be upset with Ben when the team in front of him allows the Blues to stickhandle at will through the slot.
7:08 TB Killorn (15), (Purcell)
14:49 TB Johnson (18), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
3:32 STL Berglund (11), (Schwartz, Tarasenko)
17:04 STL Oshie (15), (Steen, Pietrangelo)(SH)
3:47 STL Steen (29), (Backes, Oshie)
19:21 STL Tarasenko (19), (Backes, Schwartz)(EN)
I'm not even going to look at the standings right now, because it's irrelevant if the Lightning don't fix what they're doing right now. On the one hand, they had 2-0 leads in 3 of the 4 games of this road trip and had a 1 goal lead going into the Third Period of the other. So, they manufactured situations on the road where they should have been able to get a fair number of points. That said, the defensive zone coverage looks like a dumpster fire and that contributes to the Lightning's pretty poor possession performance on this road trip. That manifested itself in the form of just 17 shots tonight. You can't win that way.
Tomorrow's a huge day. It's trade deadline day, obviously, and the gigantic hole in the Lightning's defense has never been more obvious. Radko Gudas' play has tailed off the past couple of months and with Gudas hurt tonight, the situation got even worse. I'm of the opinion it's management malpractice if Steve Yzerman doesn't at least get an established bottom pair NHL defenseman tomorrow who can fill in on the second pair on nights like tonight when one of the top-4 are out hurt. Ideally, he'd get a legit top-4 who can also give the Lightning's shaky PK a backbone.
Also, Steve Yzerman has another doctor's visit with a view toward being cleared for Thursday night. The PP tonight actually looked decent until they absolutely wet the bed on Oshie's SH goal. But, in general it's been poor, and Stamkos should go a long way to fix that. As he settles back in, hopefully he'll also give the Lightning the not-so-secret weapon of being able to get a great individual effort goal at opportune times. They could've used that tonight after falling behind 3-2.
Nikita Kucherov had 1 shot in 10:45. Honestly, that might've been the least noticeable he's been in a game all season. He is now just 2 games from graduation from prospect status on the site.
Lightning leave another 2 points out on the road.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss. No way to sugar coat it: he let the team down tonight. The GWG by Erik Johnson is a softie that simply cannot happen at that juncture of the game. Ever. Certainly it's outside of the norm for Ben this season, but that's frustrating.
16:49 TB Pyatt (2), (Purcell, Salo)
17:19 COL Barrie (8), (Stastny, MacKinnon)
19:01 COL O'Reilly (23), (Parenteau, Duchene)
6:40 TB Thompson (7), (Kostka, Carle)
17:37 TB Thompson (8), (Kostka)
5:12 COL Holden (5), (O'Reilly, Duchene)(PP)
16:05 COL Johnson (8), (unassisted)
19:06 COL Holden (6), (Talbot)(EN)
19:53 COL Stastny (19), (MacKinnon, Landeskog)(EN)
That's upsetting. That's 3-4 points, between this game and the Nashville game, that the Lightning could've easily had that they squandered. Take a look at the standings and you'll see that's the difference between the current 5 point lead on the last team out of the playoffs and an 8-9 point cushion. That's a big, big difference. Self-inflicted sloppiness and bad goaltending dealt the fatal wounds tonight. I didn't think they had a great chance coming into this game with Filppula not returning, but they put themselves in position to win and they should've gotten not less than a point out of this one. That hurts.
Mike Kostka had 2 assists and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 12:11. Win if you can. Survive if Mike Kostka lets you.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with 3 shot and 1 hit and he was 55% on draws in 8:40. I'm shocked to see he only had 8:40 of ice time, as that was a very active 8:40 of ice time with multiple scoring opportunities and some very active work in the offensive zone. He's really settled in now, although that might be all for nothing because with Filppula and Stamkos coming back this week, it's no secret Vladdy's probably going back down.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:35. He had the tying goal on his stick on the PP down 4-3 off a glorious setup from Marty and he shot it wide. He's missing these critical chances by fractions of inches in key times, and I'm starting to worry about his psyche, because his confidence level as a sniper is being seriously tested right now.
Lightning manufacture a huge win in Dallas.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 41 shots for the victory. He might want the Fidler goal back, but there's little doubt he was THE reason the Lightning won this afternoon.
1:25 TB St Louis (28), (Brewer, Palat)
12:09 TB Thompson (6), (Hedman, Killorn)
14:31 TB St Louis (29), (Palat)
15:50 DAL Roussel (10), (Connauton, Fiddler)
18:11 DAL Fiddler (4), (Roussel, Garbutt)
7:12 TB Salo (2), (Hedman, Killorn)
Bishop and Martin St. Louis were the game's first and third stars.
As the game wore on, the contours of the contest took on a hauntingly similar look to the Nashville game. I thought the Lightning did a pretty good job of trying to press for the goal to get to 3-0 and weren't that bad through the first 5-6 minutes of the Second Period, but everything went sideways after that. Once Roussel got the greasy goal to make it 3-1, Dallas just took over the game and only some good individual efforts by the likes of St. Louis, Palat, and Salo really allowed the Lightning to get 2 points (on top of Bishop raising the deflector shields). If you're looking for another silver lining, though, it's that the PK stood up and didn't disintegrate this afternoon the way it did against the Predators. Mind you, they weren't perfect and Bishop had to erase some big errors, but they didn't allow Dallas nearly the zone time and chances they gave the Preds.
If you look at the standings, you'll see why this was such a big win. They get back on par with Montreal for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and reopen a 6 point gap on Washington for the last team out in the Eastern Conference. At 73 points after 60 games they're 1 point ahead of the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. They didn't hit the target of 12 points for the last 10 game segment and had to burn off 2 of the 3 insurance points they had stored up, but at least they didn't fall off schedule for the first time this year. Now, they have to keep manufacturing wins somehow until Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos can get settled back into the lineup and, in particular, until Stammer can get the rust knocked off.
Mike Kostka had 2 hits and 5 blocked shots in 8:42. He, unfortunately, had the Roussel goal go in off of his skate, but he wasn't awful. He makes a better option than Cote or Taormina and probably Aulie, too.
J.T. Brown as -1 with 2 shots in 14:35. He did some really good work on the forecheck with the Lightning clinging to their lead. Today was his 41st game of the season, so he has graduated from prospect status on the site.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot and was 50% on draws in 9:08. I think you saw a marked step forward in Namesy's comfort level today, and he had some dangerous rushes with his speed in the First and Second Periods. I don't know that I trust him yet defensively, but he at least looked more like an NHLer today than he did against Nashville.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 12:15. The SunSports team was praising his defense in this game, but I thought this was a subpar game for Kucherov in that respect. He really had problems moving the puck out of the Lightning zone within the last 10 feet before the blueline. That's something that will make coaches want to strangle you.
Music City choke.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. None of the three goals were terrible, but you'd have liked to have seen him squeeze off that third one in tight to preserve at least a point (not that the team in front of him deserved it).
5:26 TB St Louis (26), (Palat)
9:13 TB St Louis (27), (Kucherov, Purcell)(PP)
12:05 NSH Cullen (6), (Ellis, Smith)(PP)
13:16 NSH Josi (9), (Weber)(PP)
13:56 NSH Hornqvist (11), (Fisher, Weber)(PP)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
That was infuriating. I thought the team came out flat as a pancake but lucked out with a goal off the rush in transition and then a softie on the PP. Staked with the 2 goal lead and with Nashville looking like they were in shock, the Lightning had all the momentum and opportunities to end the game early, especially on a PP to start the Second Period.
They sleepwalked through the final 40 minutes of that game. That compete-level was garbage. They should give back 2/3 of their paychecks tonight. Yes. They were bad and they should feel bad, and their special teams are an absolute thermonuclear dumpster fire right now. That PK, if you can call it that, is the worst PK I've ever seen the Lightning put on the ice, and there have been some awful Lightning teams that have come and gone.
The Lightning now will fall short of their 12 point target for this 10 game segment of the season, and if they fail to get a point out of the finale of the segment they will fall behind the pace they need to be on to comfortably make the playoffs. And, honestly, if they're going to allow themselves to be outworked like that and if their special teams are going to be that craptacular, there's no point in showing up for the postseason tournament. Yes, a healthy Filppula and Stamkos will make a considerable difference, so I'm not ready to load the team in a cannon and shoot them to the moon quite yet. But the work ethic was not there tonight, and that's not good enough.
16 shots on goal against a goaltender, Carter Hutton, that couldn't stop a beach ball? The Lightning should feel deep shame. Deep, deep shame.
Mark Barberio had 3 blocked shots in 16:50. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status on the website. Sad this was such a clunker to get over the finish line on.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:49. He'll graduate from prospect status in his next game this season.
Vladislav Namestnikov had an ill-timed minor penalty and was 20% on draws in 8:10.
Nikita Kucherov had a helper and 1 shot in 11:22. He rang a post in the Third Period with the Lightning down 3-2, and that was all she wrote for the team after that. Kucherov needs 5 more games this season to graduate from prospect status.
Lightning manufactures a huge win when the absolutely had to have one.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory. As with the victory against Montreal, if this doesn't get you fired up about Ben Bishop nothing will. The guy's hurt, and Cedrick Desjardins was telling everyone who would listen he was going to start tonight. Bishop showed physical bravery and mental toughness outlasting Howard and the Wings in a game the Lightning had to have. They couldn't lose this game. Their backs were against the wall and, depleted or not, they had to win this game. Bishop willed them over the finish line to the Olympics break. Simply inspiring.
17:18 DET Alfredsson (14), (Datsyuk)
1:44 TB Palat (13), (St Louis, Hedman)(PP)
11:19 DET Jurco (3), (Sheahan, DeKeyser)
17:14 TB Pyatt (1), (Salo, Brown)
16:49 TB Killorn (14), (Purcell, Pyatt)
18:57 TB Palat (14), (Johnson, Salo)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.
Was that the Lightning's best game of the season tonight. No. Absolutely not. There were several stretches in this contest where they were owned, territorially, by the Wings. But, the effort was there. They scratched, they clawed, they held on by their fingernails, and they got the break they needed on the Pyatt goal to have a tie game going into the Third Period before they manufactured Killorn's greasy goal.
It's huge. I can't tell you how different this feels being at 71 points in 3rd in the East, 8 points up on 9th place going into the break as opposed to 69 points and being in a Wild Card spot by just 6 points. The win tonight gives the Lightning 8 points 8 games going into this segment of the season. They still would have to win both remaining games in this segment to hit that magical 12 points you'd like them to have, but they had 3 insurance points going into this segment, so they just need 1 more point in the next 2 games to be where they want to be heading into the stretch run of the season. That's a stretch run where, once the 3 weeks of the Olympics break is up, they should get back a healthy Anders Lindback, a healthy Valtteri Filppula (who had a fractured ankle and not a hurt hip, as I speculated after the Leafs game), and knock-on-wood a healthy Steven Stamkos, to say nothing of Bishop getting an opportunity to heal (his back must be incredibly sore from carrying this team). So, they'll be rested and healed and have a ton of home games to play, especially in March. Catching Boston for the Atlantic Division title may be extremely difficult now after this last little slump, but pinning down the 3 seed and sailing into the playoffs in solid shape is now entirely do-able.
Young team. Flagging health. Flagging confidence. They had to have the win. Great win. Big win. Huge win.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:13. I wasn't thrilled with his game tonight. When the possession tilts against the Lightning, Barberio becomes a liability and not a plus. But, you know, he's one of those guys who fought and clawed his way through the game. So, there's that.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots in 14:57. Sooner or later shots are going to start going in for J.T., and then watch out. Teams have no answer for his speed and work ethic. None. And, he showed his skill a bit tonight undressing Brian Lashoff to create a First Period breakaway. He just can't seem to find the finish.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 hit and was 50% on 6 draws in 11:55. It seemed to me like he needed to make a quick adjustment to the size/strength at this level in the NHL in the First Period, but once that sunk in he looked fairly comfortable, even landing a huge hit on Brendan Smith in the Third Period. Namesy's not quite there in terms of his play without the puck, especially on the defensive end, but you could clearly see he's going to be an NHLer in the cup of coffee he got tonight helping the team get a huge win.
Nikita Kucherov had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:06. He did just about everything, along with Brown, but score tonight including drawing a penalty shot where he was stopped on a deke to his backhand. Like Brown, when they start going in for Kucherov he's going to go nuts.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 22 shots before leaving the game after the Second Period with the old "upper body injury." Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 13 shots the rest of the way for the backdoor loss. Tough spot for Cedrick to come into, and it cost the Lightning, because there was a goaltending duel in progress at the time.
7:57 TOR Raymond (15), (Kulemin, Rielly)
2:19 TOR McClement (3), (Clarkson, Lupul)
8:10 TOR van Riemsdyk (23), (Gunnarsson, Kessel)
10:28 TB Palat (12), (St Louis, Johnson)
17:08 TOR Bozak (12), (Kessel)(EN)
Ondrej Palat was the game's third star.
Let's recap the past 36 hours. Steven Stamkos' return was postponed another 2-3 weeks because his broken leg hasn't completely finished healing. Ben Bishop is down again with an "upper body injury" which may or may not keep him out of Saturday's game against Detroit. Valtteri Filppula also looked to reinjure his hip after getting the old Russian leg sweep from a Leaf tonight (no call), and he may also be out for Saturday.
Standings-wise, the Lightning are 7 games into segment 6 of the season having only collected 6 points in those 7 games. A loss Saturday would mean the Lightning can't hit their minimum segment target of 12 points again, and puts them in serious jeopardy of not having the minimum 72 points the Lightning really need to have after Game 60 to comfortably be on pace for the playoffs. That's bad. Very bad. This isn't a battle-tested veteran club. You don't necessarily want to see them scrambling for points in March and April against teams that are. Staying on pace is critical.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot in 14:21.
J.P. Cote had 3 shots in 9:05.
J.T. Brown had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 12:57. He keeps generating chances with his speed and grit, particularly in tight, but just can't seem to find a finish.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:34. He had a handful of glorious chances in the First Period before tailing off as the game went on. He also has 2 of his shots blocked and 4 that missed the net, as he may be cutting it too fine right now trying to adjust to NHL goaltending.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the loss. Truly, he was the only reason the Lightning were even in the game. The team in front of him should be upset with themselves for squandering a quality start by the big netminder.
16:04 MIN Niederreiter (10), (Spurgeon, Zucker)(PP)
0:34 MIN Heatley (11), (Spurgeon)
13:53 TB Filppula (20), (St Louis, Gudas)
Just a listless, sloppy effort by the Lightning. They nearly were able to steal a point with Tyler Johnson hitting a post late with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, but it would've been an undeserved point. They didn't appear to have their legs tonight at all and they're passing was fairly atrocious too. They compounded that issue by giving Kuemper way too much respect cutting a lot of chances too fine and missing the net altogether on prime opportunities. They treated the guy like Carey Price rather than getting the puck on him and seeing if they could create some greasy goals.
The Lightning really, really need to have a good little homestand before the Olympics Break. They really risk putting themselves in a bad spot if they keep sleepwalking on their way to vacation.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 hit in 16:25.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:16. He was the one Lightning forward who looked ready to go from the word jump tonight playing in front of the hometown. Looked like he was shot out of a cannon at times.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 1 shot in 13:12. He created some good looks for himself and his linemates, but nothing that made the scoresheet, unfortunately.
Lightning pass a big gut check moment in Montreal.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. I don't know about you, but one of my takeaways from today's game is that I'm more fired up about Ben Bishop than ever before. He beat one of the best 2-3 goaltenders in the league across the rink in Price. He did it after getting kneed in the back of the head in the last game and, frankly, he probably wouldn't have played today if Lindback had been available because of it. He responded physically when Brandon Prust speared him during a TV timeout in the Second Period. And, he managed to tune out a hostile Montreal crowd that was all over him after the Prust incident. And, the Lightning really, really needed to have this win to stop the 2 game skid they were on at a key moment of this season. If anyone had any questions about Bishop's physical or mental toughness, this game went a lot toward answering those. It's just one regular season game, but it tells me that when/if the Lightning reach the postseason it's an environment where Ben Bishop may very well thrive.
5:58 TB Thompson (4), (Hedman, Brown)(SH)
7:25 MTL Brière (9), (Gionta)
4:36 TB Thompson (5), (Hedman, Killorn)
The Lightning clearly understood the importance of this game and they came to the rink with renewed purpose. J.P. Cote and Radko Gudas helped set a physical tone early and the Lightning kept working hard for 60+ minutes to secure the 2 points and make sure a small losing streak didn't snowball into one of those disastrous 6 game losing streaks that can really wreck your season at this time of year. They dominated the game from a possession standpoint, they had more and better chances, and they stuck to the program even with Price playing extremely well for Montreal.
The victory in the game gives the Lightning 6 points halfway through this 10-game segment of the season, which is exactly where they want to be. They widened their gap on Montreal to 5 points with the Canadiens being the first Wild Card team and they widened their gap on 9th place, for the moment, to 11 points. Losing this game would've made the situation much more bleak on all of the above fronts. Now the Lightning will look to close out this road trip strong against Minnesota and then I strongly expect Stamkos-palooza to happen Thursday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which would hopefully give Steven 2 games to get re-acclimated before he heads off to the Olympics.
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 15:50. He had a pretty good game. He was assertive offensively and no big mistakes defensively. I'd be happy with a lot more nights like the game he had today. He's now just 4 games from graduation from prospect status on the website.
J.P. Cote had 5 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 6:24. Like I said, his hit on Gallagher on the opening shift of the game set the tone, and he kept it going with a decent effort in his fight against Prust. He didn't play a ton of minutes, but they were leadership minutes.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:41. He was the recipient of his helper after PK Subban tipped a centering feed from Nate Thompson into his own net, shorthanded. You make your own luck.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 15:02. He played center between Killorn and Purcell with Valtteri Filppula out of the lineup injured. He looked fantastic in the role in the First Period, setting up a slew of dangerous chances, but his play seemed to tail off a bit as the game wore on and Habs seemed to watch Kucherov a little closer.