Lightning's regular season ownership of Montreal continues unabated.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory. After a so-so outing against Boston, he was sparkling against Montreal. Now, mind you, he did make it a lot harder on himself with his puckhandling gaffe to start the Third Period, but he made that 1 goal lead stand up the rest of the way, too. He seems to savor these duel opportunities against Price, and he's been getting the better end of them.
10:07 TB Filppula (12), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
15:58 TB Stamkos (38), (unassisted)
2:45 TB Hedman (10), (Killorn, Callahan)
11:10 MTL Plekanec (21), (Subban, Markov)(PP)
0:34 MTL Parenteau (7), (Plekanec)
18:55 TB Stamkos (39), (Namestnikov, Garrison)(PP)(EN)
Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were the game's first and third stars. I've said it constantly over the course of the second half: the franchise cornerstones need to be the team's best players for the Lightning to go anywhere in the playoffs this year. Tonight, in a playoff atmosphere against a hated opponent with division title supremacy up for grabs, the Lightning got 3 goals and 2 assists out of the duo. That's great to see, especially after the Hedman turnover in his last outing against Winnipeg.
The Lightning are 3 points shy of the 96 points we target at the start of the season to comfortably make the playoffs, but the focus is starting to shift at this juncture of the season. The Lightning needed this win tonight to keep their Atlantic Division title aspirations in good shape, and they got it done. The teams are back to all square at 93 points each with the Habs holding a game in hand. But, the Lightning have a 4 game ROW lead right now, so the tie will likely go to Tampa Bay if it comes to that.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with a helper and 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 11:06. After taking several cross checks in the neutral zone from Brendan Gallagher, who thought he was safe by jumping on a baby-faced Russian rookie, Namestnikov swiftly took the initiative and relieved Gallagher of any sinus congestion he might be having by beating the snot out of the veteran with 3-4 quick rights. My goodness. Peckaham dubbed him "Baby Faced Killer" on the SunSports broadcast. A legend was born. If you're wondering, he's 9 games shy of graduation from prospect status on the website, so he's got a realistic opportunity to wrap that up before the regular season expires and join Drouin and Paquette as this year's Bolt Prospects Alumni class.
Flat Lightning done in by late mistakes.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the loss. He deserved better. He was the only reason the team had a chance in this game at all.
4:13 TB Kucherov (26), (Drouin, Carle)
10:00 WPG Stafford (14), (Stempniak, Tlusty)(PP)
12:44 WPG Wheeler (20), (unassisted)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
This was a trap game, and the Lightning fell right into it. You look at the opposition over this 4 game stretch: Montreal, Boston, Winnipeg, Montreal. Yep, one of those things is not like the others, and the Lightning didn't have their intensity tonight. They worked themselves into pretty strong position to get 1-2 points, though, thanks to Vasilevskiy's goaltending and Kucherov's Third Period snipe. Even with the Jets tying it after Kucherov got kicked out of the game for face planting Enstron they were in ok shape. Riiight before Hedman decided to essentially hand Wheeler the GWG. A worse turnover you will not see in this league, and it's completely unacceptable from your franchise cornerstone defenseman.
Through 70 games the Lightning have 91 points, having once again met the 12-in-10 threshold in segment 7 of the season. They actually got 13 points, meaning they've got 7 insurance points in hand heading into the final segment of the year. 5 points should tie up playoff position comfortably, but it's the banner the Lightning are looking for, and they did themselves no favors tonight with that endeavor.
Mike Angelidis had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:05. He was also 17% on 6 draws.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 15:09.
Crunch avenge their most humiliating loss of the year.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 38 shots for the win. Credit him for continuing to battle after allowing 4 goals on his first 20 shots faced.
SYR Gourde, (23) (Ashton, Cote), 4:28
SYR Martindale, (9) (Marchessault), 5:39
ADK Agostino, (6) (Reinhart), 12:27 (SH)
ADK Setoguchi, (2) (Vause, Acolatse), 2:15
SYR Ashton, (6) (Richard), 3:35
ADK Acolatse, (5) (Kulak, Arnold), 6:41 (PP)
ADK Agostino, (7) (Setoguchi, Cundari), 11:16
SYR Martindale, (10) (Koekkoek, Broll), 2:52
SYR Witkowski, (2) (Richard, Gourde), 11:45
SYR Richard, (11) (Gourde, Ashton), 14:15
SYR Dotchin, (5) (Martindale), 18:29 (EN)
Gudlevskis, Carter Ashton, and Ryan Martindale were the game's three stars. Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard each had 3 point nights as well, so lots of Syracuse players got healthy on the stat sheet tonight.
The Crunch have fallen 6 points out of the conference title chase, but are still up 5 points on Springfield in the division. The real question is whether Syracuse can sustain any success if Vladislav Namestnikov stays with Tampa Bay the rest of the season. It's a tough ask, but the team did manage 7 goals tonight, obviously.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Bruised but unbroken.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 30 shots before allowing 2 of 3 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. He looked like he was battling it a bit at times tonight, but 2 goals in 65 minutes is strong, even if the Bruins' second goal was a bit soft.
7:57 BOS Pastrnak (9), (Spooner, Lucic)
15:29 TB Stamkos (37), (unassisted)
2:20 BOS Bergeron (19), (Seidenberg)
8:04 TB Namestnikov (5), (Barberio, Sustr)
BOS- Bergeron, Marchand
Boston's media, bastions of class and taste that they are, decided to award all three stars to Bruins players in a game that went to the shootout and where the Lightning outshot and outchanced the B's. Quite scum baggy on their part.
Everything was going against the Lightning going into this game as they found out they'll be facing extended absences by Palat, Coburn, and Paquette due to injury and they were heading into a barn where they simply have been cursed. They had a pretty poor First Period adjusting to the shuffled lines and pairings, but from the Second Period on they dominated, eventually outshooting the Bruins 37-30 for the game. That's an impressive show of strength from the Lightning's depth players, especially given how much Boston traps. Honestly, the two goals Boston got tonight were a goal that could've easily been waved off for being kicked in and a point shot softie that Bishop didn't get. If anything, these close games against Montreal and Boston have been very good stress tests heading toward the playoffs, and for the most part the team has responded impressively.
With Montreal going down to Ottawa tonight, all is now square at 91 points stop the Atlantic Division with Montreal holding just 1 game in hand. The Canadiens hardly look like world beaters right now, though, so the Lightning are in good shape to take this at the finish line even with the injuries.
Mike Angelidis had 1 hit in 7:36.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:11. I thought he was pretty heady with the puck, for the most part, but it was clear he had some struggles with the size and physicality of the Bruins' forwards. So, the coaching staff had to be careful about usage with Nikita tonight.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a goal and was -1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 12:29. He very quickly moved up to take the Palat spot on the line with Johnson and Kucherov and performed admirably. His goal was a pretty nice display of skill to quickly get the puck up to his stick after a point shot hit some traffic in front. He's looking like a guy who will be very hard to send down to Syracuse ever again.
Not even Carey Price could deny the Lightning tonight.
Ben Bishop stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout, and handed down some U of Maine Justice in the process. He didn't face many quality chances, but his rebound stop off the rush in the Second Period was the most important stop of the contest, bar none.
1:03 TB Johnson (25), (Garrison, Coburn)
Just a masterful individual effort by Johnson swooping around the net and feeding a puck through a defender's legs on the way to set up his own winning goal in OT. Kucherov made 1-2 moves like that too, tonight. All-in-all, the Lightning just took their game to another level tonight, out-attempting the Canadiens by about a 2-to-1 margin. Carey Price's superhuman effort was the only thing that kept Montreal from getting blown out, and in the end, even that wasn't enough. There's one more game between these two teams on the schedule and just one point separating them atop the division, and the Habs have to be looking over their shoulder after getting dominated in all three head-to-heads so far this season.
The Lightning sit at 90 points through 68 games played, so they've already hit 12 points for this 10 game segment and they're sitting on at least 6 insurance points for a playoff pace with 2 games to hit 70 games played. The Lightning have hit 12 points in every 10 game segment so far this season except one, when they just missed with 11 points. At this pace, they'll more or less clinch a safe number of points for a playoff berth some time around game 72 or 73 of the season, meaning the focus shifts toward the possibility of hanging banner(s) and positioning themselves advantageously for the playoffs.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 shots and 3 hits in 14:12 tonight. He was really strong tonight, and could've had a couple of goals easily with a little luck. He's really played well since his recall, and is giving off every indication he's got the potential to be a real force in the Lightning lineup next season when he gets up to the NHL full time.
Missing Vladdy N.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss.
SYR Gourde, (22) (Ashton, Kunyk), 8:18 (PP)
BNG Wideman, (15) (Robinson, McCormick), 13:02
BNG Johnson, (4) (Camper, Prince), 15:50 (PP)
BNG Schneider, (19) (D. Grant, Mullen), 11:30 (SH)
BNG D. Grant, (18) (Mullen, Dzingel), 15:16 (PP)
SYR Richard, (10) , 18:05 (PP)
Without Vladislav Namestnikov, the Crunch just seem to be a middle-of-the-road team at best. He and Marchessault are the straws that stir the drink for Syracuse, and they just can't seem to score with one of them out of the lineup.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Lightning win a shootout against some Texans.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 35 shots for the victory. The stat line isn't pretty, but he made several key saves in the Third Period to preserve the victory for the Lightning. Were it not for Fiddler's goal with under 3 seconds left, which might've been kicked in, it'd look a lot better.
12:59 TB Stralman (6), (Palat)(PP)
14:24 DAL Seguin (30), (Spezza, Ja. Benn)(PP)
15:52 TB Kucherov (25), (Palat, Coburn)
3:52 DAL Seguin (31), (Klingberg)
11:03 DAL Fiddler (9), (Goligoski, Sceviour)
3:40 TB Killorn (14), (Callahan, Hedman)
5:31 TB Hedman (9), (Johnson, Palat)
19:36 TB Boyle (14), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
19:57 DAL Fiddler (10), (Jo. Benn, Sceviour)
That was hardly artful, but effective in the end. The Stars defense ultimately just wasn't going to be able to stop the Lightning unless Enroth stood on his head. He didn't and therefore they didn't. Just that simple, really.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 hits in 12:50. He was very effective in limited ice time, helping to set up a handful of prime chances. He's gone to dirty areas and he showed good vision and decision-making off the rush.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory.
4:25 TB Kucherov (24), (Palat, Johnson)
15:17 TB Callahan (21), (Stamkos)
6:48 TOR Booth (2), (Holland)
6:31 TB Namestnikov (4), (Sustr, Hedman)
15:14 TB Killorn (13), (Stamkos, Garrison)(PP)
17:42 TOR Panik (10), (Phaneuf, Kadri)
That's a beautiful thing. The Lightning went out and built a 2 goal lead over 40 minutes of hockey while holding their opponent to just 14 shots, and proceeded to get the back breaker on the power play in the Third Period to get that all-important three goal lead. That last part is critical, and although it may be a mirage, it's nice to see the Lightning starting to get those put-away markers on the PP of late.
Now you put a little heat back on Montreal and see if some things can shake loose in the division crown race.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:53.
Namestnikov had a goal on a beautiful setup from Sustr and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 10:00. Made the most of his minutes, for sure.
Tough return for Vasiy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss.
SYR Gourde, (19) (Mormina, Namestnikov), 11:34
RCH Leduc, (6) (Austin, D'Amigo), 14:02 (PP)
RCH Irwin, (12) (Schaller, Austin), 18:06
RCH Dalpe, (16) (Carrier), 7:50
RCH Irwin, (13) (D'Amigo, Schaller), 13:13
SYR Mormina, (3) (Marchessault, Angelidis), 14:52
SYR Namestnikov, (13) (Marchessault, Dotchin), 17:15
Vladislav Namestnikov was the game's third star. He's now at a solid 32 points in 32 games.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Number one, with a bullet.
Allen York stopped 26 of 29 shots for the Crunch to cap their 3 win weekend.
SYR Namestnikov, (11) (Koekkoek, Corrente), 6:14
SYR Corrente, (2) (Gourde, Mormina), 17:54
SYR Smith, (11) (Richard, Namestnikov), 16:46
RCH Reid, (8) (Tuzzolino, Leduc), 16:57
SYR Namestnikov, (12) (Marchessault), 18:11
RCH Varone, (13) (Irwin, Burt), 19:58 (PP)
RCH D'Amigo, (9) (Irwin, Austin), 8:33
Vladislav Namestnikov and Matthew Corrente were the game's first and second stars. They've been usual suspects of late when three stars get announced. Namestnikov now had 30 points in 31 games. The Lightning will need to make room for him up top next season, because he's wearing this level out.
When you wake up tomorrow, the Syracuse Crunch will have the most points in the AHL. Nice. If they had a functional power play, they'd be untouchable.
Box score from TheAHL.com.