Hangover in Carolina.
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.
0:22 CAR E. Staal (16), (J. Staal)
6:05 CAR Gerbe (5), (Lindholm, Bellemore)
14:05 TB Paquette (6), (Drouin, Sustr)
8:27 CAR Faulk (9), (J. Staal)(PP)
14:06 TB Boyle (10), (unassisted)(SH)
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.
On a night of farcical officiating, Espo's Rule holds true.
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.
13:32 TB Filppula (9), (Stamkos, Callahan)
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.
Misdemeanor theft in Tampa Bay.
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.
1:58 TB Callahan (15), (Killorn, Stralman)(PP)
0:51 COL O'Reilly (8), (MacKinnon, Hejda)
4:08 TB Stralman (3), (Filppula)
19:53 COL MacKinnon (9), (Landeskog, Johnson)
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.
Lightning put to bed an annoying stat.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. He made the big saves when necessary to give the team a chance to execute the comeback.
13:52 EDM Pouliot (9), (Nugent-Hopkins)(SH)
7:10 TB Stamkos (26), (Carle, Garrison)
19:02 EDM Pouliot (10), (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins)(PP)
1:33 TB Palat (10), (Kucherov, Johnson)
11:59 TB Palat (11), (Johnson, Nesterov)
The Lightning were flat as a pancake the first 40 minutes of play, but recovered in the final frame in time to win their first game this season after trailing at the Second Intermission. That's a stat I've been tired of seeing all year, and I'm happy to see it given a dirt nap courtesy of the victory tonight.
Through 46 games the Lightning have 60 points, meaning they're at the minimum number of points you want to be on pace for the playoffs with 4 more games in this segment to play with. So, again, how many insurance points will they back out of a possible 8 in those 4 games coming up?
Cedric Paquette had 2 shots and 3 hits in 17:12. That's a rookie who plays like a man, and as active as he's been the past couple of weeks, I keep expecting him to start popping in a goal here or there soon. He's due.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 15:49. He's assertive offensively and even when he makes mistakes defensively, he seems able to make hustle plays to mitigate the damage. He's quickly running Barberio out of the organization, in my opinion, because he looks like he might be the better long term bet of two very similar players, stylistically.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 11:10. That wasn't his most artful performance in terms of defensive plays and decision-making with the puck, in my opinion.
Mytischi 3 vs. Podolsk 1
Dmitry Korobov, Mytischi, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 32 GP, 1-7-8, -1, 51 PIM
21 year old undrafted right handed defenseman Albert Yarullin (subtle enough?) had 1 goal and 1 assist to lead Mytischi to a 3-1 win over Vityaz. Yarullin, who was a former teammate of Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov with the Russian junior national team, has 4 goals and 12 points in 15 games since joining the club. Dmitry Korobov was scoreless in 19:07 in the match.
Bratislava 3 vs. Sochi 5
Jaroslav Janus, Bratislava, DNP
Season totals: 24 GP, 6-12-5, 2 SO, 2.93 GAA, .893 sv%
Jaroslav Janus did not dress for Slovan's 5-3 loss to HC Sochi. Sochi was led by 2 goals and 3 points from ex-Senators pick Andre Petersson.
Lightning dare to put up a fight.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss.
9:23 TB Stamkos (24), (Palat, Kucherov)
16:42 BOS Marchand (12), (Soderberg, Krug)
10:55 TB Stamkos (25), (Palat, Nesterov)
15:24 BOS Pastrnak (3), (Lucic, Miller)
19:06 BOS Lucic (9), (Krejci, Seidenberg)
1:30 BOS Pastrnak (4), (Krug, Krejci)
14:18 TB Callahan (14), (Killorn, Barberio)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
This was an almost impossible mission for the Lightning tonight. They went into this game against a fresh Bruins team having played the night before in Philly. They were down their All-Star center (Johnson) and their best defenseman (Hedman). And Boston has been a place where the Lightning historically just don't play well. And, even when they do, something weird does them in (as it did tonight).
With all that going against them tonight, and with the Bruins on a 3 game winning streak, the Lightning lost a 1 goal game where the difference was a fluky goal. And, until late in the Second Period where the Lightning started to lose steam and that fluky goal happened, it's a game where the Lightning had the better of the play. Come the Third Period, with the Lightning skating with dead legs, Boston started to take the possession edge of the game and built up the 2 goal lead. At that point it would've been easy for the Lightning to pack it in, but then something happened that might make Lightning fans a little proud of the team.
Responding to seeing one of his teammates get boarded, Cedric Paquette had the audacity to shove mighty Zdeno Chara. Chara, naturally, sucker punched Paquette underneath the chin in the throat area dropping Cedric to the ice. It's an act which made Boston's NESN crew, led by the uber-classy Jack Edwards, pump up Chara's tires for being some kind of invincible warrior for bravely sucker punching a rookie. Yes, quite the feat of valor. I can see why they immediately ordered Chara's new medal. And, when said sucker-puncher was subsequently given a double minor for roughing, Edwards immediately started crying about the referees and generally carrying on about a rookie, Paquette, having the audacity to stand chest to chest with Chara. I mean, if you shove Zdeno Chara in the chest he has every right to sucker punch you in the chin and throat area, right. I mean, that's a totally symmetrical response, right? Wait, what? The refs said it wasn't!?
The game rolled on and there was another physical confrontation between J.T. Brown and David Krejci where Brown initiated dropping the gloves, upon which Edwards immediately excoriated Brown for thuggish behavior beyond the pale. You see, when Zdeno Chara sucker punches a guy in the throat, that makes Chara a world class gladiator worthy of being your son's role model ("Don't poke the bear! Grrrowl!"), but when another team's player drops the gloves first, partially in retaliation in a game that was getting a little physical/chippy, that makes them a thug. Hypocrisy, thy name is Jack Edwards! In any event, these two incidents gave the Lightning a jolt of adrenaline that helped them close the game to 1 goal and really make it interesting at the end. They picked up their hitting in the process and generally came together as a team in that moment, which is an emotionally galvanizing/team building instance in time that might've been lacking to this point of the season.
Note that in the process of that comeback bid, Edwards again showed what a colossal hypocrite and generally classless person he is by excoriating Paquette for throwing a completely clean and monstrously heavy open ice check in the neutral zone on a Bruins player. Citing that Paquette was somehow "standing over McQuaid" (he wasn't) Edwards began to attack Paquette as an unaccomplished player unworthy of the great honor of breathing the same air as a mighty Bruins player. Here's the thing, though:
You know what rookie Cedric Paquette accomplished tonight, Jack Edwards? He got your bummy rear end to talk about him for nearly an entire period of hockey and he got your best defenseman to chase him around for the entire final shift of a game where the Bruins were trying to protect a 1-goal lead. He furthermore so crawled under your team's skin that Brad Marchand was running his mouth about retribution in games later this season. In other words, he played his role to a tee. That'll keep him in the NHL because that's part of what makes for a valuable lower-line role player. Thanks for playing along, smart guy.
In the end, Jack Edwards, your mighty Bruins team only managed to beat a tired Lightning team on the tail end of a back-to-back with no Tyler Johnson and no Victor Hedman by a goal that Anton Stralman kicked into the back of his own net on a fluke play. Wow. Quite the accomplishment. Would you like your Stanley Cup celebratory champagne for that victory now, or maybe wait a couple of hours? I mean, surely Bettman will call off the season and hand you the silver chalice. At least, that's how you and the rest of the NESN crew acted at the end of the game.
The clown princes of the NHL sit in the press box in Boston, Massachusetts. This much I know for sure.
Paquette had 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 9:57, and made the entire city of Boston hate him. He's alright in my books. He took Boston's top defenseman off the ice for 4 minutes to give the Lightning a power play and defended a teammate on the first play, buried a Boston player with a great open ice hit on the second incident, and had Boston's best defenseman chasing him around the entire last shift of a 1-goal game when he should've been 100% focused on protecting a 1-goal lead. Now there's talk the Bruins may be chasing Cedric around the remaining 3 matchups this season? Gee, if I didn't know any better, I'd say he's playing the acerbic 4th liner role to perfection. That's how a guy like Paquette stays employed and stays paid in this league, last I checked.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:34. He had a really nice look on the PP in the First Period I was shocked he didn't finished and looked more engaged in that period than at any time in the Philly game.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper, his first NHL point, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:53. Kind of a mixed bag. He looked dynamic offensively at times, particularly in the First Period, but was a little more iffy in the defensive end with some of his decisions. Fortunately some of his mistakes he helped cover for with hustle. All in all, probably a game you'd say was more positive than negative, for sure.
Lightning blow out Sabres 2-1.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory. His stop on Grigorenko on a 2-on-1 in the Second Period allowed the Lightning to turn the momentum after the Sabres' lone goal into a tidal wave that eventually overcame Neuvirth's exceptional effort at the other end of the rink.
3:51 TB Filppula (8), (Callahan, Paquette)
0:50 BUF McCormick (1), (Kaleta)(SH)
14:42 TB Stamkos (22), (Drouin, Killorn)
The Lightning outshot the Sabres 47-21 in the contest, and the final 39 minutes of this game were about as lopsided a game as you'll ever see in your life. The Lightning lived in the Sabres zone, throwing wave after wave of chances at the Buffalo net in a scene reminiscent of the old Lightning/Panthers games you used to see in the early '00's. Eventually, though, Neuvirth's nine lives ran out and the Lightning got the "W" that they richly deserved.
And remember, folks, Bobby "The Chief" Taylor says, "Ice is like great whiskey, it has to be aged and cured." Stick that in your flask.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:25. He started Filppula's goal with some good board work and had a rugged night where he gave and took with the Sabres throughout the night. His most high-profile moment, though, was a SH breakaway in the Third Period with the game tied 1-1 that Neuvirth got a piece of and steered off the outside of the goalpost and out.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 assist, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 15:06. I though his line was a revelation tonight, and it's fitting Killorn/Stamkos/Drouin got the game winner. They could've had a half dozen goals tonight if Neuvirth had been the slightest bit human. It will be interesting to see if the momentum that group gained tonight carries forward against better opposition.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 14:34. My goodness he had such a good game helping the Lightning press the attack... right up until that clunker of a shift with the game tied 1-1 in the Third Period where he made a blind turnover that led to zone time for Buffalo and Nesterov eventually taking the tripping call. He should thank Bishop and the PK'ers for picking him up there. That little oops aside, though, if Nesterov's night translates against better opposition, the Lightning may have found a significant silver lining in Radko Gudas' knee injury.
Khanty-Mansiysk 3 vs. Novokuznetsk 1
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansiysk, 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Season totals: 39 GP, 14-8-22, +4, 10 PIM
Nikita Gusev assisted on the game opening goal and had a team high 6 shots on goal in Yugra's 3-1 win over Novokuznetsk. Gusev played 16:59 in the match. Ex-Habs 2nd rounder Ben Maxwell had the eventual game winner for Yugra. For comparison purposes, Maxwell has 10 goals and 22 points in 33 games this season.
Mytischi 2 vs. Zagreb 3
Dmitry Korobov, Mytischi, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 29 GP, 1-6-7, +2, 47 PIM
Dmitry Korobov was scoreless in 19:55 in Mytischi's 3-2 loss to Zagreb. Ex-Lightning forward Brandon Segal had 1 goal and 1 assist to lead the way for Zagreb. Undrafted 21 year old (right handed) defenseman Albert Yarullin had his 3rd goal on the season on the power play in the contest. Yarullin has 3 goals and 7 points in 12 games since joining Mytischi. Yarullin was a teammate of current Lightning players Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov on Russia's 2012-2013 U20 WJC team where he had 3 goals and 5 points in 7 games as one of the team's assistant captains.
Dinamo Minsk 2 vs. Bratislava 3 (SO)
Jaroslav Janus, Bratislava, DNP
Season totals: 24 GP, 6-12-5, 2 SO, 2.93 GAA, .893 sv%
Jaroslav Janus sat backup to Flyers farmhand Johan Backlund in Slovan's 3-2 shootout loss to Minsk. Ex-Springfield forward Ryan Vesce had 1 goal and 1 assist and converted on his lone shootout attempt to lead the way for Zagreb.
Lightning open a Third Period can of beat down.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 11 shots (not a typo) for the victory. He made a handful of key saves while the game was tight and the only goal he did allow was a point shot that deflected off of Hedman's stick and took a crazy bounce in on net.
7:48 TB Carle (4), (Palat)
12:33 BUF Ennis (9), (Zadorov, Moulson)(PP)
19:02 TB Palat (9), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
5:20 TB Connolly (7), (Stralman, Palat)
8:40 TB Kucherov (16), (Johnson, Stralman)
18:05 TB Kucherov (17), (Palat, Johnson)
The Lightning, for about 30 minutes, didn't look like they wanted to be in Buffalo (well, yeah). In the Third Period, they outshot Buffalo 14-1 and absolutely dismantled the young Sabres. It was a clinic put on by the triplets line to put 2014 to bed the right way.
Now, here's the interesting part: the Lightning now have 11 points in this 10-game segment of the season with 1 more game to play. Despite all their struggles this month, they may still hit 12 points over this 10-game stretch, and at a minimum, they'll have 4 insurance points heading into the second half of the campaign. Nice.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot in 14:08.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 in 15:02 in his NHL debut. He made a key play breaking up a 2-on-1 that nearly resulted in a goal at the other end when Stamkos hit a crossbar. In all, he wasn't noticeable, but that's a positive for a rookie d-man.
The yak is still on the loose.
Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all 24 shots he faced for the victory and his first shutout of the campaign. He's won his last 4 starts allowing just 3 total goals in the last 3 of those starts, while running his season save percentage back up to .906 in the process. Now things get very interesting in Syracuse, once Vasilevskiy returns, because this is what we expected coming into the year. These are two of the best prospect netminders around, and they'll be in a knock-down, drag-out for starts all season long. The competition is going to push both guys to play better than they ever thought possible. It's going to be great to see unfold.
SYR Richard, (5) (Koekkoek), 2:12
SYR Namestnikov, (3) (Nesterov, Marchessault)
Gudlevskis and Tanner Richard were the game's first and second stars. As of this posting, Richard's +18 mark is second best in the AHL behind the +21 of Manchester's Nick Shore. I should also point out that, on top of the game winning helper he had tonight, Nikita Nesterov hasn't had a minus game in a full month, when he had a -1 outing on 11/19 against Hartford. He's been +9 since that game, taking him up to +9 for the year. He was -2 last year and the 13 points he has in 28 games this season is 3 off the 16 he posted as a rookie in 54 games last season. So, like Richard, here's a player who had some holes in his game who seems to be rounding the corner a bit. Nice to see. Slater Koekkoek, oh by the way, has helpers in 3 of the last 4 games.
Tomorrow, Syracuse draws Albany at home.
Box score from TheAHL.com.