Nesterov, Nikita

NHL Game Night: 1-15-16 Penguins at Lightning

4 is a fluke. 5 is a streak.

PIT-4
TB-5 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 40 shots for the OT victory. It was a mixed bag for Vasilevskiy, mostly on the positive side. He showed off his athleticism and ability to read the play on several occasions, with several timely saves. On the other hand, he had one or two short side goals he probably regrets a little. Still, he was a factor in a night where the Lightning were outshot 40-25, for sure.

First Period
1:51 TB Namestnikov (7), (Stamkos, Nesterov)
10:37 PIT Letang (6), (Crosby, Hornqvist)

Second Period
8:12 TB Filppula (6), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
10:47 TB Namestnikov (8), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
14:23 PIT Hornqvist (10), (Malkin, Letang)(PP)

Third Period
10:13 PIT Daley (2), (Malkin, Kessel)
13:48 PIT Kunitz (7), (Maatta, Hornqvist)
15:21 TB Stralman (5), (Filppula, Paquette)

Overtime
2:11 TB Namestnikov (9), (Kucherov)

Vladislav Namestnikov and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars. Namestnikov's selection was obvious, as he had his first NHL hat trick. Filppula had a 3 point night as he continues to try to revive his season after looking comatose most of the first half of the season.

Interesting game. Entertaining for the casual fan. Less so for the serious fan who cares about limiting chances and goals against. The Lightning did a really good job of fending off the curse of coming out flat the first night off a road trip. They jumped all over Pittsburgh and got the early 1-0 goal. They unfortunately couldn't press it to 2-0 and ultimately lost that early momentum when they got in the box and eventually the Penguins equalized. The Lightning built a 3-1 lead in the Second Period on a string of undisciplined penalties by the Pens, but failed to get the knockout punch to go up 3 goals, which they very nearly paid the price for. The Pens owned most of the rest of the game, eventually storming back to take a 4-3 lead before Anton Stralman bailed the team out with a strong individual play on a spinorama backhand goal to equalize and get the game to Overtime. In an evenly played overtime, the Lightning got some puck luck with a Namestnikov whack on a Kucherov rebound going in off Hornqvist's stick. I'll take it, even though there will be about a million defensive coaching points for Cooper to drive home in video sessions after this one.

For the first time this year, the Lightning finally got one of these games it'd be really nice to have with a view toward having a big 10-game segment of the year to make up ground. They've been decent at getting points early in the 10-game sets, but always seem to struggle a bit to get that next win or two quickly and set themselves up to have a good 14-16 point segment. With 8 points already and 6 games left to play, they're in excellent shape to have one of those big segments and make a serious dent in their 6 point season deficit and get on a more comfortable pace to make the playoffs. Getting a 5th straight win would be another one it'd be really nice to have. And, with two games against division-leading Florida coming up in the next 8 days, the Lightning have a chance to not only get on more solid footing, but they could also interject themselves in the division title race all of a sudden.

Nikita Nesterov had a helper and 2 penalty minutes with 1 hit in 9:09. Like you would expect from Nesterov, he got in trouble when the Pens made him play more in his own zone. When his 5-man unit has the possession advantage, he's a huge asset. When the rink tilts, be afraid.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-12-16 Lightning at Avalanche

Lightning get right against defensively terrible Avs.

TB-4
COL-0

Ben Bishop stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout and the issuance of some good old U of Maine Justice. He had very little work to do, but when the need came to make 2-3 10 bell saves, he made them, and therefore made the Lightning's work very easy tonight.

First Period
10:29 TB Palat (3), (Hedman, Killorn)

Second Period
1:39 TB Stamkos (19), (Namestnikov, Palat)
5:16 TB Stamkos (20), (Palat, Namestnikov)

Third Period
11:55 TB Johnson (5), (Hedman, Kucherov)

Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Ben Bishop were the game's three stars.

After a clunker in Calgary to start this road trip, the Lightning successfully manufactured a couple of wins in Edmonton and Vancouver, and tonight they were finally able to put together a full 60 minute effort that looked like an elite level team ready to go on a run. I don't want to overstate it because I think Colorado is dreadful at 5-on-5 and their PP is the only thing of much value, but the Lightning made the Avs look like a glorified Junior A team tonight. They outshot the Avs 38-21, outchanced them by an even wider margin, and just generally never looked all that threatened. That was ruthlessly efficient and what just about every coach dreams about: build a 3-0 lead at the Second Intermission and cruise to the shutout victory with a detail-minded Third Period. It was impressive, and if you're an optimist, tonight would point to the logical fusion of the offensive firepower the team had last season and the more defensively responsible style they've had to learn so far this season just to stay afloat. Put together, it could be a terrifying brew.

Headlining the win was a pair of goals for Stamkos set up by Palat and Namestnikov as that line has started to gel. It's a good group, because Palat and Namestnikov have the skill to threaten a team on their own, which allows Stamkos to lay in the weeds and find open pockets of ice to snipe from. When you add in Palat's strength and puck retrieval ability, it's a good mix. It was also good to see Johnson get a goal, as he's the next one who needs to get on track if the Lightning are truly going to go on a run the second half of the year.

Through 3 games of Segment Five of the season, the Lightning have collected 6 points. They're playing themselves into a good position to dig themselves out of the hole they're in for the season. I still implore you to avoid getting too happy about the Lightning rising up the Wild Card standings because there's still a ton of work to do. But, after these past 3 games, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Nikita Nesterov was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:39.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-9-10 Lightning at Canucks

Lightning pull another one out on this western swing.

TB-3
VAN-2 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the OT victory. He didn't have a ton of work but made a small handful of timely saves. I'm also willing to bet part of the reason Vancouver missed the net on a few of their chances is that Vasilevskiy's size and positioning make a shooter cut it a little too fine at times.

First Period
3:41 TB Killorn (7), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)
15:24 VAN Baertschi (7), (Horvat, Weber)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
12:20 TB Filppula (5), (Stralman, Callahan)
17:10 VAN Horvat (6), (Hutton, Biega)

Overtime
3:51 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Stralman)

Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Filppula were the game's second and third stars.

Thankfully, the ending of this game had some flair to it, because the bulk of this game was as boring as the previous two games on this road trip. The Lightning came out with a lot more energy in this contest and deserved the early 1-0 lead, but got in the box and eventually forfeited momentum and the lead before heading to First Intermission. The game really devolved into a defensive struggle in the Second Period with the Lightning squandering several PP opportunities in the middle frame before finally breaking through just after a PP in the Third Period when a Filppula centering feed banked in off of Edler's skate. It's another lucky goal, true. But, considering the Lightning did outshoot Vancouver 17-5 in that Third Period, it's the kind of puck luck you get when you're waylaying a team in possession. So, I won't poo poo that goal. Unfortunately, Bo Horvat had pretty perfect placement on a shot/pass off the rush late in the game to equalize, and this one ended up in Overtime.

The Lightning have been good in Overtime this year and with Vasilevskiy in net, I even like their chances in the Shootout, so I was optimistic heading out of regulation. Ironically, though, I think tonight was the Lightning's lousiest 3-on-3 session in a couple of months, and they were really lucky to get out of it with the second point. Vancouver missed the net on several glorious opportunities with a frequency that would make Victor Hedman blush, and that gave the Lightning the chance to end it on a Kucherov breakaway sprung by a good stretch pass by Vladislav Namestnikov.

You're going to see a lot of deceptively positive stuff about the Lightning climbing back into the second Wild Card spot with the win tonight. I really hope the team doesn't actually think they've made it all the way back, though, because they're still in a Grand Canyon sized hole and they still have no margin for error. Let's put it this way: to be on target at 60 points in our 12-in-10 model by the end of this 5th 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning would have to win 7 of their next 8. So please, let's pump the brakes on any celebrations because there's still a ton of work to be done and this team still is not playing anywhere close to their best hockey. You can be happy, though, that winning a couple in a row probably forestalls any thoughts of an early sell off by the Lightning. Mind you, I doubt Yzerman would act that rashly even with the pressure of the Stamkos and Drouin situations upon him.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 hits in 15:18.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-8-16 Lightning at Oilers

Lucky breaks delay season obituary for at least one night.

TB-3
EDM-2

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the win. I'm going to attribute the lucky breaks the Lightning got in the Third Period to the Hockey Gods delivering some justice on behalf of Ben for all the wins he got shafted out of earlier this season for lack of goal support.

First Period
15:20 EDM Schultz (2), (Eberle)

Second Period
3:38 EDM Pouliot (9), (Nugent-Hopkins, Sekera)(PP)

Third Period
3:01 TB Kucherov (15), (Hedman, Johnson)
14:50 TB Hedman (3), (unassisted)
15:51 TB Stamkos (18), (Hedman, Namestnikov)

Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop were the game's first and third stars.

I'm kind of at a loss. I wish I could tell you how exciting this come from behind win was and how this is the turning point of the season. But, honestly, the Lightning played a subpar game tonight and got lucky drawing and inside straight of three lucky goals in the Third Period to pull it out. It's not that they played awful, mind you. They had the bulk of possession in the First Period and the Third Period, and when you have possession you increase your odds of getting some of that good old "puck luck." But, honestly, they simply weren't generating much in the way of chances. It was an antiseptic, robotic, emotion-free effort like we saw in Calgary occasionally interrupted by the Lightning struggling with Edmonton's speed on odd man counters the other way. Really, it was mostly boring, joyless hockey if you want to be brutally honest about it.

They crawled back into the game off a faceoff win that led to a shot into a maze of players that was credited to Kucherov. Then you had a 2-on-1 where a Hedman centering feed was tipped into the Edmonton goal by Taylor Hall on the backcheck. Finally, the hat trick of good fortune was polished off by a Stamkos centering feed/shot from the bad angle on the goal line that banked in off of Nurse's skate for the game winning goal. Yay.

We'll see if the Lightning can parlay this into any kind of run. I'm skeptical, but I'd be happy to be wrong.

Nikita Nesterov was a +2 with 2 penaty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:02. He got his chances tonight. Thankfully, I think he's still got his "shoot-first" preset in his mind, but there was a time or two in this game, like in Calgary, where I think he was a little hesitant to try to get it through with a potential shot blocker in front of him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-5-16 Lightning at Flames

The hole gets deeper.

TB-1
CGY-3

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. Can't fault him for the goals (a 2-on-1 and a tip by an unmarked man in front). Can't fault him for the lack of goal support, either.

First Period
3:56 CGY Stajan (4), (Giordano, Brodie)

Second Period
15:30 CGY Jones (8), (Giordano)

Third Period
18:21 TB Stamkos (17), (Stralman, Filppula)
19:02 CGY Bouma (1), (Wideman, Russell)(EN)

They might as well have not gotten off the bus. They came out flat as a pancake, which they compounded with some pretty bad turnovers in the First Period. Calgary gets the early goal on the odd man rush, and from that point on the game never felt within reach. Calgary was too good defensively, and although the Lightning outshot the Flames 31-24, you could probably count the number of real scoring chances they had on one hand. The Lightning had nothing on the rush. Nothing off counters. No odd man rushes. And they were incapable of threading anything threatening through Calgary's defensive zone coverage inside the Flames zone. It was a clinic.

The Lightning finish Segment Four of the season with just 11 points in 10 games. Their overall season deficit climbs 1 point to 6 points overall at approximately the halfway point of the season. It's going to take a Herculean effort by the team in the second half just to make the postseason, and frankly they don't look like they have it in them. To reach 96 points, the Lightning have to play .643 hockey the rest of the way (with the extra 2 games at the end of the year factored in). That's pretty difficult stuff. What that means for the future of Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin, and a few others in the organization? Nothing good, I would venture to guess. The frustrating thing is the Lightning probably left 5 points on the ice in this segment between the collapse in Washington, the power play futility against Vancouver, and the poor shift after taking the lead in Toronto. The deficit could be a very manageable 2 points right now. Instead, it's gone up to 6, and the fat lady is already starting to warm up on January 5th.

Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:29. He's become sort of a power play specialist for the Lightning in the past couple of weeks, and when you get no power plays, the specialist's effectiveness tends to slide.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:45. He also had 4 other shot attempts he couldn't get on net. Calgary's defense climbed into his head with their shot blocking, and he ultimately froze on a great chance late in the game from the slot when he should've shot immediately. Not good.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-28-15 Canadiens at Lightning

Another opportunity slips away.

MTL-4
TB-3 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 34 shots before allowing 2 of 3 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. The 5-hole goal he gave up to Flynn in the SO was abysmal.

First Period
15:58 MTL Plekanec (8), (Subban, Andrighetto)

Second Period
5:40 TB Kucherov (13), (Filppula, Stralman)(PP)
9:57 MTL Galchenyuk (9), (Markov, Petry)

Third Period
13:21 TB Garrison (4), (Killorn)
13:42 TB Callahan (5), (Filppula, Sustr)
14:14 MTL Weise (11), (Desharnais, Pacioretty)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
MTL- Flynn, Pacioretty
TB- Filppula

Ryan Callahan and Nikita Kucherov were the game's second and third stars.

I would call tonight's contest another bizarre and regrettable exercise that the Lightning may live to regret when they're scratching for points in the standings later this year. The First Period was awful. The effort level was unacceptable and the team looked completely flat and unprepared to play a hockey game. They disrespected an opponent on a losing streak and they surrendered an early power play opportunity to them to allow them to build a ton of early momentum. They almost weathered it, but then Nesterov and Johnson got abused by two of Montreal's stars and the Lightning found themselves down 1-0 at the intermission. They probably deserved to be down 1-0 at the intermission, mind you, but it still hurts because they nearly got away with the flat start.

The Second Period was a case study in sheer frustration as the Lightning outshot Montreal 16-8 and outchanced them by an even wider ratio. Unfortunately, Condon was somehow making ten bell saves despite using the unorthodix thrashing around his crease like a dying fish technique. Kucherov was able to tie the game early in the frame on a greasy goal on the PP, but a temporary loss of coverage by Condra (one mistake) allowed Galchenyuk to quickly re-establish Montreal's margin.

The Third Period was one of the sloppiest displays of passing you'll ever see the Lightning put on the ice this season, and for the bulk of the final frame it looked like Montreal would coast to victory. Tampa Bay couldn't hit a break out pass to save their lives and Montreal was more than content to work the play below the Lightning goal line. Then, somehow, Garrison scored a wraparound goal on the rush and 20 seconds later a broken play led to Callahan potting one in an open side, and it looked like the Lightning might snatch victory for the jaws of defeat. Not so fast, as they came out flat the shift after the goal and lost coverage on Weise on a bang-bang goal in tight that was put on the board by replay. Oof. We head to Overtime.

The first half of Overtime was a textbook display of possession by the Lightning. They held onto the puck for nearly all of 2:30 seconds and developed some chances from the slot but couldn't finish. It could've easily been all over in that first half of OT, but the Lightning just couldn't find that moment to bear down and finish. Montreal then managed to surge at the end of OT where the Lightning had to survive some goal mouth scrambles before it headed to the Shootout where the Lightning suffer from a significant handicap.

That handicap: Ben Bishop's 5-hole. The book's out around the league. Galchenyuk nearly scored on Bishop's 5-hole on the Habs' first attempt and Flynn scored a laughably lazy shot through Bishop's 5-hole on the second attempt. It puts the Lightning in a situation where they're spotting opponents 1-2 goals in the SO every time. It's bad.

Like the Vancouver game, a big opportunity to grab points and set themselves up to cut into their overall season deficit goes by the board. Tampa Bay sits at 9 points through 7 games of Segment Four of the season. If they go .500 the rest of the way in the segment, they won't dig the hole any deeper, but the time is running out to slice into that 5 point season deficit and get firmly back in playoff position. That makes this next game against the Rangers, a really tough opponent, doubly huge.

Tyler Johnson was back tonight, along with Brian Boyle, but he looked rusty as a wrecked ocean liner at the bottom of the ocean. That was rough to watch.

Jonathan Marchessault was -2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:53. Johnson's return is going to seriously curtail Marchessault's ice time and role, and I don't know that the Lightning got quality for the trade off tonight, although it is obviously hugely important to knock the rust off Johnson.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:31. He was God awful against the rush tonight. Simply God awful. He was directly responsible for Montreal's opening goal and there were times tonight he looked more like a bullfighter (a really good one!) than a NHL defenseman. All he needed was the red cape. Ole!

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-26-15 Blue Jackets at Lightning

Apocalypse in Tampa.

CBJ-2
TB-5

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory.

First Period
5:34 TB Blunden (2), (Sustr, Condra)
9:44 CBJ Bourque (1), (Jenner, Johansen)

Second Period
3:07 CBJ Hartnell (14), (Wennberg, Prout)
6:21 TB Stamkos (15), (Kucherov, Marchessault)(PP)
6:53 TB Stamkos (16), (Marchessault, Kucherov)(PP)
14:17 TB Nesterov (2), (Callahan, Stamkos)(PP)

Third Period
4:39 TB Garrison (3), (Blunden)

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Mike Blunden were the game's three stars.

Let it be noted that Nikita Nesterov brought about the apocalypse at 14:17 of the Second Period. One game removed from a tear stained 1 for 10 effort in defeat against the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored 3 power play goals in the Second Period tonight to break open a must-win game against Columbus. It also likely turned Tampa Bay into a lake of fire, because I'm pretty sure 3 power play goals by the Lightning is one of the signs of the end of days. Columbus opened the door by getting in severe penalty trouble with back-to-back 5-on-3's and later a major penalty on Scott Hartnell for running Ben Bishop, and lo and behold the Lightning power play actually made them pay for it. Good thing, too, because trailing 2-1 in the Second Period and being outshot by a decent margin, it looked like the Lightning needed the help.

Mind you, as exciting as the Lightning PP showing a pulse tonight was, nothing will beat the thrill of watching Vladislav Namestnikov beat the living daylights out of a man twice his size in Ryan Johansen. People forget Namestnikov had a rep as an instigator in junior, and they tend to sleep on him because of the Russian last name. He'll surprise you with his ability with the fisticuffs though, and he embarrassed the much bigger Johansen tonight.

Mike Angelidis was +1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 7:57. He was also 13% on 8 draws.

Jonathan Marchessault had 2 helpers and was -1 with 2 shots in 15:25. He looked very comfortable running the center point position on the 5-on-3's where he got his two apples.

Nesterov released the 4 Horsemen with his PP goal and had 2 shots and 2 hits in 16:57. Tonight was a night where he started to look like the same Nikita Nesterov who was such a positive story for the Lightning last season, and his goal celebration was flavorful.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-22-15 Canucks at Lightning

Lightning waste an opportunity to climb in the standings.

VAN-2
TB-1

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for the loss. I can't be mad at him. He gave them a chance with 2-3 really important saves in the Second Period.

First Period
15:57 VAN Baertschi (5), (Vrbata, Biega)

Second Period
19:38 TB Marchessault (5), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)

Third Period
11:09 VAN D. Sedin (16), (H. Sedin)

Jonathan Marchessault and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

First, the Lightning came out with a flat as a pancake First Period that they simply cannot have in the standings situation they're in. They only played energetic hockey for 40 minutes tonight and that just isn't good enough. Second, and most obviously, the power play went 1-for-10. There's the game right there. The first 6 chances on the PP were pretty putrid by the Lightning. They got the goal from Marchessault on the 7th and the 8th and 9th really fed on that and created the chances that the Lightning just couldn't bury, punctuated by one Stamkos crossbar. There's some good tape to study there, though. Marchessault, as a sniper in the slot/RW circle, helps the team develop a pressure point on the strong side of the ice and allows Stamkos to drift to the open area away from the play. That's how the Lightning power play needs to start to work. They can do that with Marchessault in that spot and they can do it with Tyler Johnson in that spot when he returns from injury. So, even though it's small solace right now, there's something to build off of despite how statistically ugly that performance was.

The kick in the pants is this game was a nice opportunity for the Lightning to close out this half of Segment Four of the season in great shape. They already had 6 points through the first 4 games and even 1 point would've put them in good shape to start to cut into their season deficit and get them back into playoff position. It's been a recurring pattern over the last 15 games: they've had their chances to do more than just tread water in the standings, and they just haven't been able to pull that one more win out to start to get their heads up above water. At some point, those chances will run out, though.

The Lightning, at least, will now take the holiday break to hopefully get a handful of their forwards out of the tub and back with the club with a must-win against Columbus coming up on Saturday.

Mike Angelidis had a 5 minute fighting major and 1 hit in 5:56. He was also 50% on 6 draws.

Marchessault had a goal and was -1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 19:03. He was also 67% on 6 draws. He played really well and displayed his best quality again: he's a pure sniper.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:03.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-20-15 Senators at Lightning

Lightning show no signs of a Washington hangover.

OTT-2
TB-5

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the victory. It wasn't one of Bishop's more dominant performances, because it didn't have to be. That said, he made 1-2 key situational saves in the Third Period that allowed his club to eventually pull away at the end.

First Period
4:20 OTT Smith (8), (Lazar)(SH)
5:23 TB Nesterov (1), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)
7:16 TB Stamkos (13), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)(PP)

Second Period
2:45 TB Angelidis (1), (Blunden, Marchessault)
14:28 OTT Karlsson (9), (Hoffman, Pageau)

Third Period
18:27 TB Killorn (6), (unassisted)(EN)
18:40 TB Stamkos (14), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)(EN)

Nikita Nesterov and Mike Angelidis were the game's first and third stars.

Tonight was a battle of a couple of injury depleted teams. With Brian Boyle leaving the game with an apparent concussion, the Lightning were depleted to 10 forwards, seemingly half of which were fresh up from Syracuse. Meanwhile, injuries and a match penalty shortened Ottawa's bench to about 11 forwards and 4 defensemen. The ensuing test of team depth was one the Lightning appeared to pass with flying colors. The Lightning power play continued to show the same signs of improvement it's teased over the past week and the Lightning had the lion's share of possession throughout the contest. More importantly, they cleared some psychological hurdles by getting through the Third Period protecting a 1 goal lead after melting down against the Capitals last time out. I thought they may have been a little guilty of playing not to lose in the first half of the final frame, but they got on their forecheck in the back half of the Third and eventually pulled away for the big victory.

With Brian Boyle, I imagine, out for the Canucks game to rest his head until after the Christmas break, I'd expect Tanner Richard to make his NHL debut on Tuesday.

With two more goals tonight, Steven Stamkos seems to be awakening from his slumber. A lot of the credit, in my opinion, goes to the less publicized play of Vladislav Namestnikov, whose heroics tonight included springing Val Filppula for a penalty shot-enducing breakaway and a clever backhand up-pass that eventually led to a Kucherov breakaway and a Stamkos chance dead in the mid slot after Kucherov missed. Even with those two near-misses, he had a couple of helpers tonight as he is starting to look like a real nice NHL scoring liner. He's been as important to the success of that line with Stamkos and Kucherov as Kucherov, in my opinion, and that's no small statement when you think about it.

The win was huge as far as the playoff pursuit goes. On a macro-level, which I caution you not to get too caught up in during the month of December, the Lightning moved to within 2 points of 3rd in the Atlantic Division and 1 point of the second Wild Card spot. On the micro-level, which the Lightning need to be more concerned with, they got to 6 points for this 10-game segment through 4 games. A win against Vancouver next time out would set them up nicely to get more than the minimum 12 points in 10 games you try to get and start to cut into the 5 point deficit they have for the season because of that terrible Segment Two of the season. You'd love to see them get 14-15 points out of this segment somehow and cut that deficit down to 2-3 points by the mid-season mark.

Angelidis had his second NHL goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 14:10. He was also 31% on 13 draws. Strong night for the Crunch line of Blunden, Angelidis, and Marchessault with Angelidis getting the payoff on the greasy goal on a play Blunden brought to the high traffic area. Blunden's been a pleasant surprise with how he's played over the past 3 games and Angelidis' game tonight was just par for the course for anyone who has seen him play for Syracuse. Just an honest, grinding forward.

Jonathan Marchessault had a helper, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 10:13.

Nesterov had a PP goal, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 13:10. His goal was extremely important after the deflating shorthanded goal against.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-18-15 Lightning at Capitals

Third Period meltdown tarnishes solid Lightning effort.

TB-3
WSH-5

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss. Situational saves matter. The Oshie goal off the wing high short side cannot be allowed in that situation. It's got to be a higher caliber scoring chance that beats you there. That, among other things, opened the door to the meltdown that happened.

First Period
8:18 TB Killorn (5), (Marchessault, Coburn)

Second Period
6:54 TB Sustr (1), (Kucherov)
9:04 TB Stamkos (12), (Hedman, Stralman)
13:49 WSH Ovechkin (15), (Oshie, Carlson)(PP)

Third Period
7:54 WSH Oshie (11), (unassisted)
10:02 WSH Ovechkin (16), (Chimera, Williams)(PP)
14:16 WSH Johansson (6), (Oshie, Ovechkin)(PP)
19:35 WSH Oshie (12), (Backstrom, Ovechkin)(EN)

That's a tough one. It's not that the Lightning lost to a really good team like the Capitals, it's that they looked like they were going to post a watershed victory only to see it implode right before their eyes. Add it to the list of similar losses the Lightning have suffered this season.

Part of the Lightning's undoing tonight has to be attributed to the officials. The refs giftwrapped a pair of highly questionable phantom calls on a slash to Stamkos off a faceoff that ended up cutting the Lightning lead to 3-1 and a ticky tack interference call at the bench on Hedman that allowed Washington to tie the game. Take that phantom slash on Stamkos away, and the Lightning likely take a 3-0 game into the locker room and the outcome is pretty much in the bag. Mind you, the PK has to do better than go 1-for-4, but I'm more than a little bitter about the night the zebras had.

There's plenty of silver linings from the night, the biggest of which was Stamkos snapping out of his goal scoring slump. It's amazing how he looked like he was shot out of a cannon in the Third Period with that weight lifted from his shoulders. It wouldn't be all that surprising if he went on a tear over the coming few weeks. But, you know, that's not going to take the sour taste out of this one.

Mike Angelidis had 3 hits in 7:57. Hard working night on the fourth line.

Jonathan Marchessault had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots in 14:25. He had a strong game, including hitting a post that was nearly a key goal in the Third Period that might've allowed the Lightning to stave off the coming disaster.

Yanni Gourde had 2 hits in 7:43.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 14:06. I thought he played one of his better games in a while tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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