Choke job on Channelside.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss.
16:20 TB Killorn (4), (Stamkos, Stralman)
1:39 TB Stralman (2), (Stamkos, Filppula)
3:51 NYI Bailey (5), (Nelson, Strome)(PP)
16:51 NYI Clutterbuck (5), (unassisted)
16:24 NYI Tavares (11), (Nielsen, Leddy)(PP)
It was Black Saturday at the rink tonight, and the Isles got 2 free points just for showing up. The Lightning absolutely dominated about 45-50 minutes of this game, but went 0-for-4 on the PP (rarely looking threatening) and going 1-for-3 on the PK (and also looking rarely threatening). When you couple those with a Clutterbuck cheapie on a puck Coburn misplayed in front of his own net, you get a tragedy like tonight's outcome. The Lightning had a chance to pull into the halfway point of this segment in very good shape to rehabilitate some of the damage they caused in games 11-20. Instead, they'll have to win 3 of the next 5 just to make sure they don't dig the hole any deeper. It's not good enough. It was something to shrug off last season when the team was so good at even strength it could get by without a functional power play and still lead the league in goals. This season, it can't be shrugged off. They HAVE to figure out this power play or they're through, and it starts with the other 4 players on the ice starting to create pressure points and take shots rather than telegraphing everything to Stamkos. If I could've reached through my TV and choked out Kucherov tonight on the power play I would've for passing up two solid chances for a lesser opportunity to Stamkos. It can't happen. It's not unselfishness. It's self-destructiveness.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:45. Marchessault nearly set up a go ahead goal late in the Third Period to Namestnikov with a good read an exceptional quickness.
Joel Vermin was -1 with 1 hit in 11:57.
Luke Witkowski had 1 shot and 3 hits in 7:31.
Caps power play takes Tampa Bay to school.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the loss. I thought he showed a little rust early in the First Period but shook it off quickly and nearly got the Lightning to the Second Intermission with a chance to steal points.
7:09 WSH Ovechkin (12), (Chimera, Kuznetsov)(PP)
18:03 WSH Chimera (6), (Kuznetsov, Niskanen)(PP)
19:18 WSH Johansson (4), (Carlson, Schmidt)
5:16 WSH Oshie (6), (Backstrom, Carlson)(PP)
10:49 TB Boyle (5), (Callahan, Brown)
12:45 TB Hedman (2), (Namestnikov)
Tonight's game should be an object lesson on what an unstoppable weapon a potent power play can be. The Lightning actually weren't that bad at even strength in this game, but Washington completely outclassed the Lightning with the man advantage, creating 4-5 minute surges every time they got a power play, and goals, that tilted the game in their favor. Were I the coaching staff, I don't know that I'd show the team the tape of this game, but I'd set aside a good half a day to dissect the Caps power play and use it to fix the Lightning's.
Unlike the Lightning, who channel everything through Steven Stamkos in a way that often seems forced and telegraphed, the Caps create multiple pressure points away from Ovechkin's spot in the left wing circle that force PK's to lose their shape and lose Ovechkin, allowing him to drift to open ice for goal scoring chances. The Caps can do this because they have a lot of other high quality forwards (which the Lightning can match, both in terms of playmakers and trigger men) and quality power play point men (which is a personnel shortfall because the Lightning's only real scoring threat on D, Hedman, is only really good on the rush and isn't nearly as potent on the PP). The Lightning should at least start trying to work 2 and 3 man games from the right wing circle down with some of the skilled puckhandlers they have like Kucherov, Drouin, Namestnikov, and Palat, sprinkled in with shooters like Johnson. I think the Lightning have tried to do that, at times, but the difference is they don't ever threaten to actually score from those positions, and end up artificially forcing passes through the seam to Stamkos, which doesn't put Steven in a good position to score. The Lightning have to train the guys on the strong side of the ice to be more assertive and look for their own opportunities to score, allowing Stamkos the ability to drift to open ice and for passing lanes to develop more organically. Having a legit power play trigger man or two to add another set of pressure points would be ideal, but right now the Lightning don't have those guys and they need to continue to develop them or find them elsewhere. Put it another way: until the other 4 guys on the Lightning PP can threaten the other team's PK, they've got no reason not to completely overload on defending Stamkos.
Further complicating issues was the mysterious injury of Tyler Johnson, who skated one shift and was done. A Caps player jumped on Johnson's back/neck in the neutral zone early in the shift before Johnson eventually nearly scored off the rush near the end of that shift. He looked fine, but I wonder if the pop to his neck re-aggravated whatever happened when Johnson got elbowed in the head by Bolland against the Panthers. Either way, to lose one of your top two centers a whopping 2 minutes into the game was a heck of a blow to the Lightning, and contributed greatly to what ultimately occurred.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:58. He got a lot of garbage time ice time to go along with some good shifts early in the game, and I think he continues to build a case to stay with the team.
Joel Vermin was +1 with 2 hits in 9:46. His forechecking popped loose the puck that became Hedman's goal. He's not as far along as Marchessault, but he's done nothing to this point to invalidate himself as an NHL prospect.
The momentum is real.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 37 shots for the victory. He was sparkling tonight. The only regulation goal he allowed was a seeing eye shot through three players and he did get victimized again 5-hole in the shootout, but on balance he was the difference in the game tonight. He's formed the backbone for the resurgence of the team the last 3 games.
5:57 TB Johnson (4), (Marchessault)
14:37 LA Lucic (7), (Toffoli, Carter)
TB- Marchessault, Filppula
Bishop and J.T. Brown were the game's first and third stars. Marchessault may have gotten robbed, IMO.
That's the tightest checking team in the NHL, right there. The Kings apply so much back pressure it's stifling and I think the Lightning really struggled with it because there's not another team that gets back on you that quickly in the league. It's just really tough to get anything other than a greasy goal on those guys because you're not allowed any time and space to do anything of much creativity and they don't turn the puck over much. Credit to the Lightning for manufacturing the win, and now you look at consecutive wins against the Rangers, Ducks, and Kings. Those are three teams with talent levels that scream legit Cup contenders, and tells you the Lightning are earning their way back into the high rent district of the league. They're halfway to the segment goal of 12 points just 3 of 10 games into the segment, so they've got an opportunity to carve away at that 5 point deficit from their stinky performance in the previous 10 games. The schedule doesn't lighten up any, but it's certainly not any worse than the league heavies the Lightning put away these past three contests.
Jonathan Marchessault had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 11:05. His coming out party continues. He created the lone regulation goal by picking off a pass at the Kings blueline and showing good awareness to move it quickly to Johnson in open space. And, in the Shootout, he abused one of the best goaltenders in the world with a laser beam top shelf. He's making a case for himself nightly now.
Luke Witkowski had 3 hits in 5:28. Not a chance he was seeing much ice time in a game this tight on the scoreboard. Not a chance for any young d-man in the #7 role coming up from Syracuse. He got in and out of his 7 shifts without much incident, and that'll keep the coach's happy enough for tonight.
Lightning getting right.
Ben Bishop stopped all 30 shots he faced tonight for the issuance of some U of Maine Justice and the shutout win. He didn't have to be as brilliant tonight, and he got help from his lucky horseshoe a couple of times, but he deserved it. After getting the short end of the stick on goal support so very often this season, he deserved to get the clean sheet in this one.
5:57 TB Kucherov (6), (Sustr, Vermin)
12:35 TB Stamkos (10), (Callahan, Killorn)
13:49 TB Stamkos (11), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)(PP)
5:29 TB Boyle (4), (Brown)
10:01 TB Marchessault (1), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)
Styles make the fight, in boxing parlance, and Anaheim's style is very difficult for the Lightning to match up against. They're a big, fast, bludgeoning north-south team that really puts a ton of pressure on the Lightning's defense and smaller forwards. So, the Lightning don't get to comfortably play the possession style they're used to and have to play more of a counterattacking style against a team like this, which they did to a tee tonight. Anaheim swarmed the Lightning in waves the first 30 minutes of the game, but the Lightning were disciplined positionally and with their backcheck pressure and they ultimately got their goals on counters and the power play and blew this one wide open to make it a laugher. Anaheim played a ton of games in the past week, so by the time the Third Period came they were too out of gas to mount much resistance. Kudos to the Lightning for understanding the strategic situation and playing hard and sharp within its constraints.
Jonathan Marchessault had a power play goal, 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 4 hits in 11:40. Impressive game by him against a very big Anaheim team that was targeting him a bit. What impressed me the most about his goal is he actually drew the penalty it came on by frustrating a very good skating defenseman in Cam Fowler with his speed and tenacity.
Joel Vermin had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 1 hit in 12:22. Hustles and plays fairly smart positional hockey. His work on Kucherov's goal to start the Lightning snowball headed downhill toward success was critical.
Luke Witkowski had 4 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:17. Had a wild night that included trying to fight half the Anaheim Ducks on the ice after one faceoff and a critical misplay of a bouncing puck that led to a 2-on-1 where Getzlaf struck the iron. He's surviving, somehow, but you can't make mistakes like that too often before you eventually get fitted for the goat horns.
The turning point of the season?
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the win. He was sparkling. Sharp as a razor, including stopping a penalty shot by Kreider. He really did well to correct the 5-hole issues he had against Pirri in the last game in denying Kreider tonight.
14:47 TB Killorn (3), (Filppula)
13:43 NYR Moore (2), (unassisted)
18:55 TB Filppula (2), (Brown)(SH)
Bishop and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars.
The Lightning have been getting better in terms of their effort and energy level in recent games, but they've been getting zero payoff to this point with the ultimate indignity coming on the late goal in their 1-0 loss at Florida in the last game out. That futility coupled with the sudden rash of injuries that left 5 forwards out with injury for tonight's game and the fact the Rangers were going for their 10th consecutive win provided the recipe for a potential blood bath. And then something happened...
Tonight the Lightning played their most honest game of the season. Not their flashiest. Not their best. Their most honest. They hustled to loose pucks. They threw their bodies in front of shots. They took hits to make plays. The Rangers worked really hard, and this is no slight on New York's effort level. But, for maybe the first time this season, the Lightning simply wanted the 2 points more tonight by a clear and decisive margin. The old adage is that the harder you work the luckier you get, and that rang true tonight. Killorn's game opening goal was a heinous softie by Lundqvist and that ended up being the margin of victory. And, with under 2 minutes to go, with the Rangers in a position to potentially rob the Lightning of their payoff once again on a late PP, they got the vital turnover they needed for J.T. Brown to get free for a beautiful 2-on-1 setup to Filppula for the game winning goal. I thought the team was close to turning the corner 3 games ago in the OT home loss to the Panthers, where they played a chippy emotional game and just couldn't get the payoff at the finish line. Tonight they played an emotional game against one of last year's playoff foes and they got the payoff. The schedule is brutal coming up, but maybe this is the rocket fuel the team needed to start to get back on track. Sometimes when in a deep slump, it's not about tactics or any one lineup tweak. It's simply about playing with more emotion and energy and outworking your opponents.
Kudos to the callups from Syracuse to contributing to the night's victory. Honestly, maybe it was a blessing in disguise to have the Crunch's forwards up. People who haven't seen Syracuse the last couple of years might be surprised to know the speed/skill level in the Lightning's AHL pipeline isn't what it was in the Norfolk and early Syracuse days. They play a much different style in Syracuse right now than they do in Tampa Bay, and their offense comes from working hard and manufacturing goals the honest way. If some of that rubs off from the callups onto the Lightning's veterans up top, all the better. And if the Lightning's early season goal scoring troubles forces them to play a more responsible defensive style the rest of the year, which has always been a tough thing for Cooper to preach to such an offensively gifted group, maybe this tough going in the early season has been a blessing in disguise too. We'll see as the next few games unfold.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 2 penalty minutes (for an undeserved diving call on a guy who weighs 5 pounds soaking wet), 3 shots, and 3 hits. These past couple of games have really been his best in a Lightning uniform so far. He needs to find the finish, though.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:14 in his NHL debut. He looked good. He has NHL skating ability and he was assertive and hustled well. Like Marchessault, he's slightly built, so the real challenge is fighting his way through the backwash in close quarters.
Luke Witkowski had 1 hit in 7:15. The man took some hellacious bumps and found himself in some defensive jams, but he hustled his way out of the holes he found himself in.
Deeply unjust hockey gods banish Lightning to deep standings hole.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 19 shots for the loss. He looked to me to be very sharp despite limited shots again. Followed the puck really well. I can't fault the kid for a lucky goal that takes a double deflection to get past him.
19:39 FLA Ekblad (4), (Huberdeau, Jagr)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
Vintage early '00's Panthers hockey. Give up a zillion shots with a collapsing defense and inept offense. Hope Luongo can keep you in the game and smash and grab it at the end. And they did. Disgusting. The Lightning deserved all 4 points from the home-and-home. They ended up getting 1.
On a side note, when is the NHL going to just move that franchise down there? It's bad enough to hold game's in front of a bristling crowd of hundreds, but tonight the ice conditions were as bad as I've seen ever. It looked like the game was being played with a racqetball, to the extend that you had even the most basic puckhandling and passing exercises eluded both teams. It was borderline unwatchable at times, and the league should be embarrassed in that product. If you're not going to make the Panthers invest in the infrastructure to at least make the rink playable the way Tampa Bay has, just quit playing footsie and move them to Quebec City already.
The hole is 5 points. The Lightning got 7 out of the target minimum of 12 points in that 10 game segment of the season. They'll be spending the bulk of the rest of this season trying to climb out of that hole. How bad is it? The Lightning could play at a .700 clip from here on out and it would take them 25 games to catch up with comfortable playoff pace. It's not good. That's why the injustice of these past two games against the Panthers hurts so much. Things went straight to hell in a handbasket, standings-wise, with those two defeats.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:16. Made some decent plays in limited ice time.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 shots and 2 hits in 9:11. He rung post on one of the best chances the Lightning had in the game and was fairly active in the offensive zone in his limited ice time. That might've been his best game with the Lightning to date, in fact.
Baby Triplets and Wilcox steal the show.
Adam Wilcox sparkled, allowing just 1 goal on 26 shots for his first pro victory. The pendulum has swung a little bit, with Gudlevskis looking a little subpar in his first game back from Tampa Bay, and maybe Wilcox move to the top spot next weekend.
SYR Marchessault, (5) (Richard, Koekkoek), 10:02
SYR Marchessault, (6) (Gourde, Richard), 14:42
LV MacDonald, (1) (Gostisbehere, Brent), 19:42 (PP)
Coach Zettler may have found a gem with the assembling of the line with Marchessault, Gourde, and Tanner Richard this weekend. The line generated 4 goals in 2 games this weekend, and look like they'll have some longevity if they can stay in Syracuse together. Unfortunately, with Palat injured tonight up top, one of these forwards (Marchessault) may have to be earmarked for a trip to the big club.
Looks like Nikita Nesterov will also be recalled after a 2 game confidence/conditioning stint this weekend with the Crunch.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
No relief for Lightning offensive woes.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the loss. Can the team in front of Ben please give him a break and get him a sliver of goal support?
7:51 TB Kucherov (3), (Namestnikov, Palat)(PP)
16:53 BOS Beleskey (2), (Miller, Hayes)
5:54 BOS Connolly (4), (Marchand, Chara)(PP)
18:50 BOS Marchand (5), (unassisted)(EN)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.
I don't want to overplay this by saying the Lightning played horrible, because I thought they played a pretty honest game nose to nose with a hot Boston team tonight. But, they're still not doing enough to generate the greasy goals they need to snap out of this funk they're in. They were inconsistent tonight with what they need to do, which is to start throwing pucks from all angles into dangerous areas and having as many bodies as possible crashing those dangerous areas. There's still too much of a reliance on the rush to generate chances and too much of a willingness to pass the puck around the perimeter in search of more pristine but also unscreened looks at the net. Tonight was a little bit better, but it still wasn't good enough, and I still don't see the number of goalmouth scrums I'd expect to see from a frustrated, goal hungry team. They need to be playing to the echo of the whistle right now and they also need to be unafraid to mix it up if that's what it takes to break out of this antiseptic rut that they're in. It also wouldn't hurt if the team's power play didn't choose the biggest moments of the game to play their worst hockey. It's been an annual rite of passage to watch this power play underachieve.
Bolt Prospects Alumni Brett Connolly with the winner for Boston. Off the Christmas card list. We'll fix your little red wagon.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 2 hits in 7:02.
Nikita Nesterov had 4 hits in 18:00 in his first night assuming a good chunk of minutes for the scratched Matt Carle. Those expecting Carle's absence to be the panacea for all the team's woes learned tonight the scope of their problem is larger than just their third pair left defenseman, but I do think Nesterov showed he's no worse of an option than Carle in the near term.
Lightning succumb to the curse of the first game back from the road trip.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the loss. He was magnificent at time, including a game opening 3-on-1 robbery against Duchene. He's deserved a lot better in his past couple of starts.
15:57 COL Tanguay (1), (Iginla, MacKinnon)
13:04 COL MacKinnon (4), (Iginla, Tanguay)
15:46 TB Killorn (2), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
The Lightning were disappointingly flat in the First Period and nearly got away with it before surrendering the greasy goal to Tanguay toward the end of the period. When you don't play a full 60 minutes of hockey and that combines with running up against a goaltender who has a hot night, you'll lose. You can't always effect a hot goaltender, but you can always effect your effort level and it just wasn't a consistent, even effort tonight. Frankly, I think this team needed someone to take a run at somebody or start a scrum or something to get some emotion flowing in the First Period, but it was just antiseptic hockey. The team really misses what Cedric Paquette brings to the rink in the heart and grit department when he's out of the lineup, and that filters down throughout the team. It took into well into the Second Period for the Lightning to start to play a more north-south game and try to get traffic in front of Varlamov, which eventually netted Killorn's goal. But, unfortunately, they decided to foresake that formula with the game on the line with a power play late in the Third Period, and it was all downhill from there. It's disturbing. These first 20 games are the danger zone for the Lightning trying to fend off a Stanley Cup Final hangover. They managed to navigate the first 10 games, barely, but this is a bad start to the second batch of 10 games. They can't afford to dig a big hole right now, because they might not get out of it.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 1 hit in 7:50 of ice time. I'm just not quite sure Marchessault has the speed, at his size, to be a legit NHLer. He's got plenty of smarts and skill, but he struggles to find space because he hasn't really shown the extra gear and he's so slight.
Crunch hang on for opening night win.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work in the first half of the game, but made a handful of key stops at key moments in the second half of the contest to preserve the win, including a big glove stop at the end of the Third Period.
Click on any of the goals listed to see a GIF of the play.
LV Martel, (1) (Conner, Cousins), 16:31
It was kind of a tale of two games tonight, with Syracuse looking dominant in the first part of the game, only allowing the Phantoms chances on the odd unforced turnover and on the man advantage. They established a 4-1 lead in the Second Period and it had the look of a laugher, but they allowed Lehigh Valley to stick around and eventually spent the bulk of the Third Period protecting the dreaded 2 goal lead. They had a handful of very good forechecking shifts in the final frame to take some of the pressure off, but in the end it was a lot closer than it should have been.
Snap decision on this iteration of the Crunch is that they're very similar to last year's edition. Not surprising. They have decent speed but didn't look terribly threatening off the rush. Their bread and butter is still going to be the cycle and manufacturing those greasy goals, punctuated by the occasional laser beam from Marchessault (who was lethal tonight from the slot). With only one PP opportunity on the night, it's too early to judge if their extra man unit will be better than the travesty they called a power play last season.
As for the key newcomers, I thought Matthew Peca played a nice, responsible two-way game. He wasn't able to flash on the rush as I'd have expected, but I'm sure that'll come. Anthony DeAngelo got a helper for his first AHL point, but didn't get a chance to flash his offensive skill much in the game. Defensively, he reminds me a bit of Paul Ranger when Ranger was a rookie pro. That is to say, he's in the right zip code positionally, and even though he's not in perfect spots he's mobile enough to close the gap quickly. If he's anything like Ranger, he'll get sharper in that aspect as time goes on. Adam Erne had one very poor tripping penalty, but also showed a lot of the qualities that make him a valued prospect. He hits to hurt and he was very good on the cycle and on the forecheck in the Third Period as Syracuse was nursing the lead.
Box score from TheAHL.com.