Nesterov, Nikita

NHL Game Day: 2-7-15 Kings at Lightning

Whose idea was it to start a game at 5 pm?

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TB-2

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 9 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 20 shots the rest of the way. Sadly, Vasiy couldn't make that 1 more key stop he needed to give the team a real chance to complete the comeback bid.

First Period
1:33 LAK Toffoli (14), (unassisted)
12:30 LAK Williams (14), (Lewis, Muzzin)
19:58 LAK Doughty (5), (Regehr, Kopitar)

Second Period
0:58 TB Kucherov (19), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:34 TB Hedman (7), (Callahan)
7:46 LAK Williams (15), (Gaborik, Regehr)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.

The Lightning just didn't show up mentally until the game was already 3-0 at the end of the First Period. Chalk it up to the early start tonight, perhaps, but it was unacceptable. They need to be ready to go from the jump tomorrow against the Ducks or they'll have zero chance.

Luke Witkowski was +1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:22. He, unfortunately, fell down trying to backtrack on a Filppula turnover on the first goal against, but was otherwise quiet, as usual.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:15. He was very active on the first shift of the Second Period, with the resulting pressure ending up in Kucherov's goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-29-15 Red Wings at Lightning

Dump Trick!

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Ben Bishop rebounded from his subpar performance against Carolina to allow just 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He was very sharp after shaking off the All-Star Break hangover he had in the last outing.

First Period
2:03 TB Paquette (7), (Killorn, Garrison)
11:59 DET Helm (9), (Ericsson, Datsyuk)
19:23 TB Paquette (8), (Drouin, Killorn)

Second Period
4:18 TB Stamkos (27), (Stralman, Drouin)(PP)
11:03 TB Paquette (9), (unassisted)(SH)
17:39 TB Barberio (1), (Sustr, Johnson)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Cedric Paquette, Bishop, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars.

News of the Tampa Bay Lightning's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. As has occurred several times so far this season, this team seems to have the ability to raise their level of play to match the challenge at hand. Tonight they faced a Red Wings team that has been playing really well and had taken a 1 point lead on the Lightning in the division after a really poor performance against cellar-dwelling Carolina coming out of the All-Star Break. Momentum-wise, this appeared to be a tough mountain for the Lightning to climb.

But, in the end, the Lightning absolutely dominated the Red Wings. After a shaky First Period in which Ben Bishop had to play well to let his team overcome some turnover and defensive zone coverage issues, the Lightning took control of all facets of the game. Shots on goal. Scoring chances. Special teams play. They rolled the Red Wings, and sent Detroit (and their fans) back to Michigan with tails firmly tucked between their legs.

Tonight's victory put the Lightning at the end of the 5th 10-game segment of the season at 66 points, 6 points ahead of the minimum they need to have to be comfortably on pace for the playoffs. They gained 2 additional insurance points in this segment and are slowly inching their way to a position where their focus can turn from clinching the playoffs to loftier aspirations. It starts with the next 10-game segment and our well-worn mantra: "12 in 10, do it again."

Cedric Paquette had his first career hat trick and was +3 with 5 shots and 2 hits. He was also 67% on 12 draws. As noted a few games back, he looked due, and his goal against the Hurricanes appears to have opened up the floodgates in dramatic fashion. The man we affectionately call Dump Truck has 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website. I kind of wish he had hit the 41 game threshold for the season tonight, because tonight's performance would've been quite the mic drop moment for a prospect.

Jonathan Drouin had a pair of helpers and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:49. He rebounded from an awful turnover early in the game that led to Bishop having to bail him out on the ensuing 2-on-0 chance given to the Wings. From there, though, he was dangerous offensively and his line with Paquette and Killorn put all kinds of pressure on the Wings all night long. Drouin's got 2 more games to go until graduation from prospect status on the site.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot in 14:58. He got caught in no-man's land on Detroit's first goal, failing to pick up Helm as he circled from behind the Lightning net, and he had some defensive zone coverage issues. He's taken a little half step back in the past couple of games, which coupled with the improved play of Barberio tells me perhaps more seasoning needs to be in the cards for Nesterov.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-27-15 Lightning at Hurricanes

Hangover in Carolina.

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Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss. This was one of the rare nights Bishop was clearly outplayed by his counterpart at the other end of the rink. His failure to make the Third Period save on Tlusty on a puck he should've gotten really put a fork in any Lightning hopes to pull it out tonight.

First Period
0:22 CAR E. Staal (16), (J. Staal)
6:05 CAR Gerbe (5), (Lindholm, Bellemore)
14:05 TB Paquette (6), (Drouin, Sustr)

Second Period
8:27 CAR Faulk (9), (J. Staal)(PP)
14:06 TB Boyle (10), (unassisted)(SH)

Third Period
7:53 CAR Tlusty (12), (Faulk, E. Staal)

Tonight was just a confluence of a number of things, and it's probably important not to overreact too much to the result, even though it's clearly a loss against an opponent the team should beat. First, and most obviously, the team had an All-Star Break hangover. It took them 8 minutes to get into the game, and the 2 goals they spotted the Hurricanes in that time period turned out to be the difference. That was aided by some bad puck luck against the team. Carolina's first two goals were of the very greasy variety. And then you had Bishop playing really subpar relative to his usual standards. You just have to expect those three things won't happen again with higher stakes against Detroit next time out.

Cedric Paquette had a goal and was +2 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 13:16. He was also 50% on draws. You could make an argument he was the Lightning's best player tonight, although that might be a low bar to clear. Paquette is now 2 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.

Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:19. He came out flying tonight, especially in the First Period. He had 5 attempted shots on goal, and he was rewarded with increased ice time. Drouin is now 3 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 15:56. I don't think he was as bad as the -2 indicates, but I also don't think he was influencing the game positively to the same degree he was leading into the break.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-20-15 Canucks at Lightning

On a night of farcical officiating, Espo's Rule holds true.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He made a couple of really key saves on the PK that allowed the Lightning to keep the game even and eventually pull away with the win.

First Period
NONE

Second Period
13:32 TB Filppula (9), (Stamkos, Callahan)

Third Period
0:11 TB Killorn (10), (Hedman, Filppula)
4:16 TB Boyle (9), (Connolly, Morrow)
8:09 VAN Corrado (1), (Burrows, Higgins)
17:34 TB Killorn (11), (Paquette, Hedman)(EN)

Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and Jason Garrison were the game's three stars. I'm shocked to see that neither Paul Devorski or Dan O'Halloran got tapped for the honor, because they clearly are the ones people buy tickets and show up to see (or so they appeared to think so, tonight).

The last 40 minutes of that game were an abomination, officiating-wise, from start to finish. I think the refs got paid by the call tonight, because they made a slew of ticky tack bookings that ultimately chopped the game up and made it less enjoyable. When you sprinkle in an icing call on the Boyle goal that probably shouldn't have been waved off and a couple of bad calls resulting in Canucks 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities, neither side can feel good about their treatment by the zebras tonight. Everybody has a hard night on the job, but those two periods were just B-A-D for the zebras.

Ultimately, though, Espo's Rule held up. Espo's Rule, simply stated, is that the team that fails to convert a 5-on-3 nearly always loses. Vancouver had a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities in this game and thanks to Bishop's goaltending on the first and some Radim Vrbata lumberjack-ery on the second, the Lightning got the kills and won the game. It's a good thing, too, because they did zippo with the power play opportunities they had, making this a much closer game than it should've been given the possession advantage the team mostly enjoyed.

Cedric Paquette had a helper and 2 penalty minutes to go with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 14:12. He was also 56% on draws and continues to be entrusted by Cooper when it comes to key shifts late in games.

Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 10:22.

Luke Witkowski had 2 blocked shots in 14:29 in his NHL debut. He wasn't terribly noticeable, which is a good thing for a rookie defenseman. If you did focus in on him, though, he did a good job of moving the puck quickly and not putting himself in bad positions where he'd have to make plays under duress. Smart man.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:39. He ended up having to be fitted for a full shield after taking a high stick.

All in all, between Witkowski, Nesterov, and Sustr, I thought this younger D-corps did well in their first sans-Carle, sans-Gudas test run. They held Vancouver to 1 goal and under 30 SOG's, and you can't complain to much about that result.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-17-15 Avalanche at Lightning

Misdemeanor theft in Tampa Bay.

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TB-3 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 40 shots and stopped 2 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Put simply, he outdueled Varlamov to win this game for the Lightning.

First Period
1:58 TB Callahan (15), (Killorn, Stralman)(PP)

Second Period
0:51 COL O'Reilly (8), (MacKinnon, Hejda)

Third Period
4:08 TB Stralman (3), (Filppula)
19:53 COL MacKinnon (9), (Landeskog, Johnson)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
COL- Duchene
TB- Kucherov, Callahan

Bishop and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and third stars.

Really, this was a game the Lightning probably didn't deserve to get points out of. Varlamov's second goal allowed was extremely soft, giving the Lightning a 1 goal lead that Bishop very nearly made stand up with some outstanding play. But, let's not delude ourselves. The Lightning looked pretty shabby the last 40 minutes of this game as the Avs upped their intensity level and the Lightning failed to match it. I think it's indicative of one of the major flaws that needs to be corrected before playoff time (even larger than the alleged "softness" flaw). The Lightning are built for speed and using that speed to create puck possession and protect their puck moving blueliners. When faster teams like the Oilers and Avs over the past couple of games get against the Lightning and are able to win races to 50/50 pucks, the Lightning are not good positionally without the puck in terms of gap control and separating the other team from the puck. They're not built for it and they're kind of clueless how to handle it, and it's just something that they'll need to continue to work on and get better with as they gain experience. Fortunately, as they do, they've got an elite caliber netminder in Ben Bishop at their backs.

Cedric Paquette was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:23. He was also 40% on draws. He was on the ice for MacKinnon's 6-on-5 greasy goal at the very end of regulation, but beyond that he was strong on the forecheck and the PK. Another plus night for #13.

Jonathan Drouin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:17. There was one shift where he undressed 3 of the 5 Avs on the ice and nearly set up a score. One of these days the coaching staff is going to find just the right combination/role to utilize the special talent this guy brings to the table.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:59. He took a puck to the face in the First Period that required stitches, but he gutted it out and had another good game contributing in all three zones.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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