Kucherov, Nikita

NHL Game Day: 1-18-14 Sharks at Lightning

Lightning waste what could've been a special day.

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Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 32 shots for the loss. I thought he might want the last goal back, although it was apparently slightly deflected. Still, it was a long lazy point shot that he saw all the way in, and it highlighted the weakness in Bishop's game. That's why it's so imperative for the Lightning to block point shots for their netminder: he struggles on shots from distance. It was a rare game where I thought Bishop pulled a Lindback: he wasn't the reason they lost but he wasn't good enough to be a reason they won, either.

First Period
9:46 SJ Nieto (4), (Marleau, Wingels)
11:56 TB St Louis (22), (Johnson, Purcell)(PP)
12:52 SJ Marleau (21), (Nieto, Wingels)
15:44 TB St Louis (23), (Cote, Bishop)
19:30 TB St Louis (24), (Brown, Barberio)

Second Period
2:07 TB St Louis (25), (Purcell, Johnson)(PP)
12:48 SJ Pavelski (23), (Kennedy, Demers)
13:09 SJ Pavelski (24), (Boyle, Marleau)(PP)
19:00 SJ Pavelski (25), (Irwin, Thornton)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Martin St. Louis was the game's first star. I think the Lightning, like their fans, got caught up in the moment with Marty matching Chris Kontos' record for goals in a game. Hopefully they gained a valuable lesson from it: San Jose didn't panic falling behind and simplified their game. They kept playing hard, used face-offs to leverage some more possession, and got pucks to the net. And, once they got the lead with 1 minute to go in the Third Period, they completely changed up their style to protect it. The Lightning got, maybe, 3 chances the rest of the way including a glorious opportunity by Martin St. Louis walking out of the corner that he shot wide. When he missed that chance, I had a sick feeling that was going to be the game. I wasn't wrong.

If you're looking for moral victories, the Lightning certainly showed how much they've improved since they got blown out in San Jose on that disastrous West Coast swing after the Stamkos injury. There is no column in the standings for moral victories, though, and today's loss guaranteed the team won't get 12 points out of this 5th 10 game segment of the season. They're fortunate they had 4 insurance points stored up, so they're still in good shape with 1 more game to go until segment #6, but mark my words: this is the most important 10-12 game stretch of the regular season coming up for the Lightning. They have another 7 or so games until Stamkos is likely to return and another 4-5 games of adjustment once he does. If they continue to leave points on the ice like they've done over the last 4-5 games, they will make things a lot harder for themselves in March and April. Now is the time to focus and nail down points, more than ever.

Mark Barberio had an assist and was +1 with 1 hot and 1 blocked shot in 17:04. Bookmark it: that was Barberio's best game in a Lightning jersey. He did well getting the puck up and out of his zone quickly and there were moments he seemed to be everywhere in the offensive half of the ice, including assisting on Marty's third goal. It's no coincidence his ice time shot up to over 17 minutes today. It was deserved.

J.P. Cote had an assist, 7 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 6:47. He assisted on Marty's second goal on a bank pass/clear hard up the boards to spring a breakaway and he fought Andrew Desjardins after Desjardins boarded Alex Killorn in the Third Period. So, I'd call it a productive 6:47.

J.T. Brown had an assist and 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:28. Dirty secret: I'm kind of certain that Marty's 3rd goal should've gone to J.T.

Richard Panik had 2 shots and 1 hit in 11:22. He had a good shift in the Second Period with the Lightning pressing to gain a 3 goal lead, but as the game kept tightening up his ice time kept getting trimmed back. With Sustr being sent to Syracuse, Panik looks like he'll be the last mid-season graduation from prospect status on the site, and that could happen as early as Thursday against Ottawa.

Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 16:20. He has become one of Cooper's go-to's in tight games where he needs a goal, and deservedly so.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-16-14 Islanders at Lightning

It was a postal convention at the Forum.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots but also allowed 1 of 2 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. He got a ton of help from his red iron friends, as did the Islanders' goaltender, Poulin, at the other end.

First Period
5:45 TB St Louis (21), (Filppula, Johnson)(PP)

Second Period
18:22 NYI Vanek (17), (Nielsen, Tavares)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
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Bishop and Matt Carle were the game's second and third stars.

This was one of those games where neither team could get a bounce in an evenly played contest. Each team must've struck iron 4-5 times a piece, with the deciding misfortune being Filppula striking the post flush on the Lightning's first shootout attempt. Overall, the Lightning put together a better effort than they did in New York or Columbus in recent nights. They had, overall, about 45 minutes of pretty good hockey sandwiched around a plodding Second Period where it became clear the team was feeling the fatigue of their recent travel schedule. They're in the middle of a little marathon stretch of the schedule and they'll just need to keep grinding out points. There's not much else they can do.

Surprised Carle got the 3rd star over Hedman. Hedman had 6 shots on goal and was impressive pushing the offensive side of his game all night long.

Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:43. He oscillates between offensive zone promise and defensive zone turnovers, but throughout it all: magnificent hair.

J.P. Cote had 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 9:52. He showed some nice offensive instincts jumping up into the rush and dishing off to the RW circles to Filppula for a chance. Had his pass been a little flatter Valtteri probably would've potted it.

J.T. Brown had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 13:21 and rang a post like the Liberty Bell on a breakaway chance set up by line mate Kucherov early in the Second Period.

Richard Panik had 2 shots and 2 hits in 10:54. As a spare forward, his ice time was disjointed but he had a pretty good shift in the Third Period guiding a puck deep out of danger, forechecking, and then back checking at the other end to break up an opportunity.

Nikita Kucherov was very dangerous tonight with 2 shots in 13:07. He had a good one-timer opportunity on the PP, sent in Brown on a breakaway, and set up Thompson for a nice opportunity where Nate failed to pull the trigger and didn't even manage a shot or pass.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-14-14 Lightning at Rangers

Thank you, Al Trautwig.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 34 shots in his return to the Lightning crease for the victory. He had a little luck with posts and crossbars but looked really sharp and, just as important, the Rangers decided to attack his strength by going at him in tight. That's a fool's errand against Bishop.

First Period
11:55 NYR Richards (12), (Callahan, Hagelin)

Second Period
1:10 TB Hedman (10), (St Louis, Purcell)(PP)
1:19 TB Kucherov (7), (Gudas, Brown)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Bishop and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars, officially. Unofficially, I'd like to thank MSG's Al Trautwig, who was my first star. The man actually uttered aloud that Lundqvist wanted the shutout in the First Intermission. Never has the s-word jinx been so strikingly illustrated. Paul Kennedy, pay attention to what happened tonight. Trautwig put the jinx on and the Lightning scored a pair of goals in the first 1:19 of the ensuing period (9 seconds apart) and the Rangers lost the game. The s-word jinx is real. It's really real.

Kidding aside (sort of), it was only a moderately better effort from the Lightning tonight versus the past couple of games. They came out with the proper level of emotion and desperation but that fizzled when the Rangers got their first goal and they carried the balance of the play throughout the night. The Lightning were very lucky to get 2 points tonight. But, you know, manufactured points still count in the standings, and with Boston going down to Toronto tonight the Lightning again hold a tie for the Atlantic Division lead at 60 points with the B's holding a game in hand. The Lightning have 3 games to go in this segment and 4 points to go to get to the target minimum of 12 points, so you can see how critical the victory was tonight.

Again, thank you Al Trauwig. What a rookie mistake from a guy who should absolutely know better.

Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 hit in 12:01. I was going to say something nice about him after the First Period. Then he allowed a breakaway in the Second Period and looked positionally lost the rest of the contest. Maybe next time.

J.P. Cote had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 12:33. The Rangers tried to test him with some soft dump ins to his corner to try to test his wheels and he did ok. Better than I thought he would, frankly.

J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 9:59. Cooper showed some love for his rookie putting J.T. out for the critical PK late in the Third Period.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:18. Again, I think he's smacked into the rookie wall at high speed and his diminishing ice time may be a reflection of that. He needs 3 more NHL games this season to earn graduation from prospect status on the website.

Richard Panik had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 12:21. Time to give some love to the improvised line of Malone/Pyatt/Panik tonight. They set the tone early on the forecheck and they stayed effective throughout the game. Panik created a decent chance at a possible insurance goal in the Third Period flattening Brad Richards and creating an ill advised turnover by the former Lightning center. That was good to see. He needs 4 more NHL games this season to earn graduation from prospect status on the website.

Nikita Kucherov had the game winning goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:18. He also had 5 shots that either missed the net or were blocked, so that's 7 shot attempts in a little over 9 minutes, which is a decent work rate on paper. More to the point: Kucherov scored for the first time on a regulation breakaway. I feel like we're supposed to sacrifice something or build a monument or perform some other great deed to commemorate the moment. I thought it might never come.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-13-14 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Half a game won't cut it.

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Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. There was a theme on all three goals: long screened shots. The problem is I'm not sure Lindback can play any better than he did over the past couple of games, which is maybe slightly better than mediocre. Ben Bishop should be back tomorrow, and it's not a moment too soon.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
3:46 CBJ Johansen (17), (Murray)
5:07 TB Killorn (12), (Carle, Gudas)(PP)
6:04 TB Hedman (9), (Johnson, St Louis)

Third Period
3:09 CBJ Horton (2), (Johnson, Anisimov)(PP)
17:22 CBJ Wisniewski (4), (Johnson, Horton)(PP)

The Lightning left a point on the ice here in the game against Columbus and another in the game against Washington, and they've got to stop coughing up points late in games if they want to stay on track. With that said, they may not have deserved to get a point out of tonight's game with the way they played. 20 minutes of Lightning hockey won't do. They got jumped all over in the First Period and were very lucky to escape unscathed. They recovered and played their game in the Second Period looking excellent in terms of structure and how they were moving the puck up and out of the zone in transition. Third Period? Flat as a pancake at first and then way too loosey goosey defensively late. I don't know what's going on (I hope it's not players prematurely getting fat and happy with their spot in the standings) but 5 of the last 6 periods of hockey have been bad hockey and it's got to stop.

Radko Gudas had a helper, 2 ill-advised retaliation minors, and 3 hits in 18:40. He did manage to draw a retaliation penalty from Umberger in the Third Period, so he 50% made up for his lack of discipline. Tonight was his 41st NHL game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status here on the website. Congratulations.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:02. He held up better against this style of opponent than I would have imagined.

J.P. Cote had 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:37. He seemed to be more active offensively tonight than in past games, to be sure.

J.T. Brown had 1 blocked shot in 11:10. He had one brisk rush in the First Period and not much else. It was an off night for his line.

Andrej Sustr was -1 with a phantom cross checking minor and 2 hits in 11:08. As I said about 2-3 weeks ago, he really looks like he's hit a rookie wall to me. There's no shame in it, but sometimes it takes an offseason of training to be able to get over that wall. That said, as it stands now, he's probably the next in line to graduate from prospect status on the site.

Nikita Kucherov had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:34. Again, it was an off night for his line and the rare night he didn't have at least one breakaway.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-11-14 Lightning at Flyers

You stay classy Philadelphia.

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Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 38 shots for the victory. This was one of the few games this season where you can say that Anders was a reason the Lightning won the game. He had the cape on in the First Period and made several key saves that made the difference in this game. Steve Mason allowed 2 softies and Lindback outplayed him. Therefore, Lightning win.

First Period
4:33 TB Killorn (11), (unassisted)

Second Period
5:21 TB Purcell (9), (Filppula, Carle)
6:44 PHI Voracek (11), (Giroux)
7:28 TB Malone (4), (Thompson, Crombeen)
11:14 PHI Simmonds (15), (Giroux, Timonen)(PP)
14:35 PHI Voracek (12), (Meszaros)
15:41 TB Filppula (18), (Killorn, Purcell)
19:03 TB St Louis (20), (Johnson, Gudas)

Third Period
18:12 TB Malone (5), (Crombeen, Carle)(EN)

Valtteri Filppula and Matt Carle were the game's first and second stars.

For the Lightning, this game probably helped make up for the point or two they deserved but didn't get out of the Capitals game. Coach Cooper's going to (rightfully) be upset by a poor defensive effort this afternoon against the Flyers coming off of some pretty strong defensive efforts in recent games, including the Capitals game. Too many odd man rushes. Too many breakaways. And, they really struggled to get out of their zone cleanly for the last 50 minutes or so of the game. But, they got a fortunate bounce on Killorn's First Period goal and a couple of softies out of Steve Mason and they managed to kill off a key 5-on-3 in the First Period, and that helped pull them through. With the victory, the Lightning pull into a tie with Boston for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with the Bruins set to play the Sharks later. At the halfway point of this 10 game segment the Lightning have 6 points, so they're on pace to get the 12 points you want, at a minimum, out of every 10 game set. So, certainly, this was a big win.

It came at a price, though, with Sami Salo leaving the game with an apparent foot injury and Hedman leaving the game with an apparent head injury. Hopefully neither will miss significant time, and the Lightning should get Ben Bishop back next week.

Now, onto more pressing business: the Philadelphia Flyers took this afternoon to remind us all what a colossal pack of dirtbags they are from the players to the broadcasters all the way to the peanut vendors. Yeah, that's name calling, but it's also the truth. Class and the Philadelphia Flyers have never shared the same address, and it showed again in today's game. CSN Philly's play-by-play man Steve Coates should really take a look in the mirror after today's broadcast. Seriously. He started off by accusing Gudas of being a dirty hitter in the First Period, which is interesting considering Gudas has never been suspended for a hit in the NHL and the closest he came to a suspension was for slamming a stick on the boards at the opposing team's bench. Fast forward to the Third Period with the game getting out of hand. The Flyers, as is their M.O., responded to adversity with their usual display of poor sportsmanship taking runs and cheap shots at Lightning players, including Tyler Johnson taking a pretty significant slash in the Flyers end. Coates had the gaul of accusing Johnson of embellishing to draw a call even as it became very clear Johnson was hurt as he was protecting his arm skating slowly off the ice. Moments later, Scott Hartnell (who has had suspensions for dirty play in the NHL, not to mention being accused of biting an opposing player) was called for a dirty hit to the head of Victor Hedman. Hedman's had some concussion issues over the course of his career and looked absolutely livid on his way off the ice to go get medical attention. How did Coates and CSN Philly react? They had the stones to run a package that highlighted Hartnell's hitting as one of the bright spots of the game and praised him for his physical play. The hypocrisy is so thick you'd think he'd have to take a bath after narrating that montage. When you consider he's on a broadcast team with Keith Jones who used his spot as a studio host on NBCSN earlier this year to brand the Lightning "the weak sisters of the Atlantic Division" (how's that one working out for you, Keith?) I think you can see why the Lightning and its fans might have a beef with Philly. That's to say nothing of the clown show a couple of years back when Philly stopped playing in protest of the 1-3-1 because they had no earthly clue how to break it (because their coach's incompetence was somehow the Lightning's fault). You add it all up, and you've got a team that combines a special mix of undeserved arrogance with the complete absence of respect for the game and that makes them really easy to dislike (and that's before you even mention their degenerate fans). Fortunately, when my head hits the pillow at night, I know I don't support a team that hasn't won a Stanley Cup since the Watergate era, and therefore I don't feel like I have to overcompensate by trying to be king of the jerks to every other team's fans. Oh by the way, Flyers fans, before you start your peacock strut about how tough your team (allegedly) is and the typical garbage about "hockey in Florida isn't relevant," maybe you should instead focus on the fact your franchise hasn't had a decent goaltender since Ron Hextall was a young man. Ponder that for a moment, if you can. It certainly cost your club 2 points this afternoon.

Radko Gudas had a helper and was +4 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:53. It should be noted that none of those 5 hits resulted in a penalty for an illegal hit to the head, unlike the allegedly wonderful play of pure-as-the-driven-snow Scott Hartnell. Color me shocked, because to hear Steve Coates tell it, Radko Gudas clubs baby seals before and after every morning skate and has a pre-meal ritual on off days of stealing the handbags of elderly women so he can pay for his drink with their grocery money. In any event, tonight was Gudas' 40th NHL game of the season, which means he'll likely graduate from prospect status on Bolt Prospects in Monday's game against Columbus.

J. P. Cote had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:48. Lindback bailed him out on a transition breakaway in the First Period that exposed his lack of make-up speed.

J.T. Brown had 3 shots and 1 hit in 12:49 in his return to the lineup from a shoulder injury.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:50. After Gudas, either Sustr or Panik will probably be the next to graduate on the site.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:21. He was a dangerous with a partial breakaway on the first shift of the game in the First Period and a free-and-clear breakaway in the Third Period. If he potted even half of the breakaways he gets himself, he'd be threatening to enter the Calder Trophy discussion.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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