Palat, Ondrej

NHL Game Night: 12-12-13 Red Wings at Lightning

Lightning get back on the right side of the shootout.

DET-1
TB-2 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots and denied all 6 shooters he faced in the penalty shot session for the SO victory. He made 2-3 amazing lateral saves over the course of the game to keep the Lightning in position to take away the 2 points, which erased memories of the lone goal he allowed which was a little soft mismanagement of a backhand rebound. On a tangent, I found Detroit's strategy of shooting only and not trying to deke Bishop in the shootout bizarre, and he ate their lunch because of it.

First Period
15:04 DET Quincey (1), (Nyquist, Franzen)

Second Period
19:16 TB Kucherov (3), (Brown)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
DET-NONE
TB- St. Louis

Bishop and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and third stars.

This was a very evenly played game, and the kind of game the Lightning is going to have to continue to win if they're going to stay on track for the postseason. With the exception of the first 10 minutes of the Third Period, I thought they had a slight advantage territorially, but Detroit probably had slightly better chances. Where the Lightning can help themselves are in some obvious areas: 1.) Be better on the PP, 2.) Be better on odd man rushes. I see too many PP's where it takes 3/4 of the PP just to try to get a decent set up. I see too many 3-on-2's where the Lightning settle for a bad, unscreened shot from the side instead of moving the puck to the middle or getting something laterally. I see too many 2-on-1's where passes are broken up and the Lightning get no shots on goal. I see too many breakaways where the Lightning miss the net or fail to put the opposing goaltender in a challenging position to make a save. They wasted several opportunities like this tonight, and if they can start improving in these areas I think they'll find the games will go a lot easier for them. When you take advantage of opportunities like those, you don't have to be as perfect to win games.

Tampa Bay starts the 4th 10 game segment of the season with 2 points. Just 10 more to go in this segment.

Radko Gudas was +1 with 1 shot, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 23:49. Stud. He does not care what your resume says. He does not care how many rings, trophies, or trophy wives with rings that you have. He will hit you, and he will hit you to hurt. Tonight's victim was Pavel Datsyuk, who by the Third Period looked very tired of Radko being on his back like a cheap, scratchy bearded t-shirt. He is blowing all expectations out of the water proving he can play against the other team's top line and excel defensively.

Mark Barberio had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 7:13. He had a better game than against Washington, but that's an awful low bar to clear. A flea couldn't limbo under that bar.

Tyler Johnson had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 23:33 and was 46% on draws. His line was not nearly as dangerous as in the previous two contests.

Alex Killorn was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:50. I thought his line with Filppula and Purcell was the most dangerous, and Filppula and Killorn in particular were very hard on the puck and created quite a few chances. If he can get one, I think the floodgates open for Killorn. He's back to playing his game.

Ondrej Palat had 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 22:26. He had one really awful turnover in his own end in the First Period that he got away with, but started to atone after that pick pocketing a Wing to get a partial break that resulted in a penalty and setting up a couple of chances with cross ice passes through traffic that took a lot of vision and touch. He's getting the bigger minutes now for a reason. He's earned them.

J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 12:41. Feed Kucherov in his spot, get points.

Matt Taormina had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:42. I think Lightning fans give him a pass because he's fighting above his weight class, but he's almost as bad in his own end as Barberio is. He had 5 giveaways tonight. The team only had 11 overall. On the good side, he did land a really nice hit tonight and he looks decent using his big shot on the PP. But, man, he's pretty scary in his own third.

Kucherov had the big goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:47. He has a spot. High slot. Quick release. All 3 goals have come from that spot. I think he might even be 3/3 on shots from that spot (or pretty close). As anemic as the PP has been, were I Cooper, I would be scheming ways to get Kucherov looks on the PP from that spot.

Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 15:09. He didn't stick out tonight, which is good for a rookie defenseman playing against Detroit.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-10-13 Lightning at Capitals

Capitals steal a point from the Lightning.

TB-5
WSH-6 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 31 shots and 3 of 5 shooters to convert in the Shootout for the SO Loss. He wasn't as on top of his game as usual, but the only goal I might be able to fault him for was Ovechkin's tying goal with the empty net, which squirted underneath his armpit.

First Period
2:26 TB St Louis (13), (Salo, Johnson)(PP)
10:49 TB Kucherov (2), (Purcell, Carle)(PP)
11:07 TB Thompson (3), (Brown, Crombeen)
14:15 WSH Ovechkin (23), (Backstrom)

Second Period
6:24 WSH Backstrom (7), (Grabovski, Brouwer)(PP)
12:41 TB Johnson (7), (Palat, St Louis)
16:38 WSH Ovechkin (24), (Johansson, Backstrom)(PP)
18:48 WSH Ovechkin (25), (Green, Backstrom)(PP)

Third Period
8:36 TB Palat (5), (Johnson, St Louis)
19:27 WSH Ovechkin (26), (Carlson, Backstrom)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Kucherov, Purcell
WSH- Fehr, Grabovski, Brouwer

Martin St. Louis was the game's third star.

The Lightning have nothing to feel ashamed of in this game. They dominated, and I mean DOMINATED play at even strength. They outshot Washington 42-31 and if it weren't for Washington being spotted two goals on a boarding major, I suspect the Lightning would have won this game in regulation going away. That's quite the achievement going against a high-powered team like Washington with their top defenseman, Victor Hedman, out of the lineup. I'll take that effort, minus the boarding major, 9 nights out of 10 and win on most of those nights.

The Lightning close the third 10-game segment of the season with 9 points, 3 shy of the minimum 12 you want every 10-game segment. That's bad. However, because the team had gotten a surplus of 4 points in the first 2 segments of the campaign, they remain on track for the season. However, they cannot afford to keep falling behind schedule in these 10-game segments and this fourth segment coming up is going to be critical for the Lightning as they attempt to stay in position for a postseason run.

Radko Gudas was -1 with 2 shots, 10 hits, and 3 blocked shots in a huge 28:38 of ice time. That's not a typo (neither the minutes nor the hits). The young man's a stud.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 7:18. Only Panik had less ice time (for reasons that will be obvious later), and that is very reflective of how he played. If you're ever looking to make the case on why plus-minus is a deceptive stat, Mark Barberio might be Case 1. Yes, he's got a good plus-minus so far this season and even got a plus rating in this game. No, he's not good defensively at all. He had an ill-advised step up in the neutral zone in the Second Period that led to a quick 3-on-1, a really long foray for Washington in the offensive zone, and eventually a penalty on the Lightning that Backstrom scored on to cut the Lightning's lead to 3-2. In the Third Period, Barberio was defending a defenseman, Karl Alzner, on the rush and Alzner nearly beat Barberio around the corner. Barberio made a stay-at-home defenseman look like Bill Guerin in his prime. So, you have bad decision making and a guy who is physically weak. That's a recipe for disaster the Lightning coaching staff decided not to bake with tonight.

Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 points, and was +2 with 3 shots in 20:50. He was also 42% on draws. He was certainly on the right line tonight, supporting St. Louis and Palat as they ran wild on the Caps. He wasn't the straw that stirs the drink, but he's a nice compliment to those two.

Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 22:20. The penalty he took was a complete fabrication by the refs and it's fortunate that didn't cost the Lightning. Beyond that, I thought Killorn had one of his better games in a while. He was strong as an ox on the puck and getting shots in bunches, playing his game. This is what you expect from Alex Killorn.

Ondrej Palat had 1 goal, 2 points, and was +2 with 6 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:25. In my mind he was the Lightning's best player tonight. He was so dangerous on the rush and he already is showing incredible chemistry with Martin St. Louis. Those two look like they have magic together and Palat nearly won the game twice in Overtime hitting the post from the RW circle on one play and toe dragging into the slot for another opportunity he was denied on. He was outstanding, and it speaks to the quality of Palat's game that of all the talented rookies this team has he is the one that is standing out the most right now.

J.T. Brown had an assist, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:02. He played sparing minutes with the fourth line but made the most of them, in my mind. He gave Nate Thompson an easy goal on a 2-on-1 by freezing the goaltender with a fake shot before dishing and he helped that line put together a stabilizing forechecking shift when the team was clinging to a 1 goal lead at 3-2 in the Second Period.

Matt Taormina had 2 hits in 11:33. A lot of his time came on the second PP unit as the Lightning tried to hide him a bit from Washington's skillful forwards.

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:07. He has a spot. High slot. Give him the puck there for a quick release slapper and he's looking as money as Steven Stamkos from the left wing circle. As breathtaking as that goal was, his Pavel Datsyuk impression in the Shootout is the one you're going to see on highlight reels. The young man has ridiculous hands.

Andrej Sustr had 1 hit in 11:36. He stood up ok with his reach on the one really dangerous rush I recall him facing, but it's clear he wasn't comfortable with Washington's pace so the Lightning coaches appeared to protect him just like Barberio and Taormina.

Richard Panik had 5 penalty minutes with 1 shot and 1 hit in 5:29. His major for boarding Alzner was obviously the turning point of the game. The Lightning held a 4-2 lead on Washington at the time he took the penalty and appeared to be cruising toward a victory. Washington emerged from that major penalty with a 4-4 tie, and that allowed Washington to avoid getting run out of their own building, in my opinion. The Lightning have Tyrell on emergency recall from Syracuse, so I don't know if it's feasible to send Panik down right now, but something's got to give. He's just not contributing anything right now, and he owes the team a point after tonight's debacle. I feel bad for the young man, but the team can't keep investing time in him and keep getting nothing in return. Ultimately, Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper aren't running a charity. This is a results oriented business and 30 games into the season Panik simply hasn't been getting results.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-7-13 Jets at Lightning

Lightning keep letting shaky goaltenders off the hook.

WPG-2
TB-1 (OT)

Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the OT loss. He played great and really deserved better than he got from the team in front of him. Did he have one lucky save on a point blank rebound chance by Jokinen that was off one of his own rebounds? Sure. But he gave the Lightning every opportunity to win this game.

First Period
5:25 WPG Wheeler (7), (Trouba, Clitsome)

Second Period
19:58 TB Thompson (2), (Gudas, St Louis)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
1:04 WPG Scheifele (3), (Wheeler)

Lindback and Radko Gudas were the game's second and third stars.

Someone needs to have a very serious discussion with this team about letting backup/shaky goaltenders off the hook. Al Montoya looked like hot trash in net tonight. He was giving up rebounds. He was barely squeezing off chances that nearly went though him. He did not look confident or poised between the pipes. 5 shots in the First Period. 12 in the Second Period, but mostly from the perimeter. Not much zone time. Nothing that really created the conditions to get some greasy goals. It's always important to do that, mind you, but when you play a goaltender like Montoya I have no idea why the team isn't on it like a cat on catnip. They sleepwalked through the first 40 minutes and ended up losing in OT of a game they could've easily won in regulation if they hadn't completely let Montoya off the hook. They did the same thing in Columbus sleepwalking through so much of that game, and I just don't get it.

Gudas had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:38. He was a stud tonight and he was all over Andrew Ladd like a bad holiday sweater throughout the game.

Mark Barberio was -2 in 12:59. A lot of people ask me why I am hard on Barberio. He's lived a charmed life so far this year if you look at his overall plus/minus so people don't think he's a bad defensive liability. Please refer to the OT winner the next time you feel the need to ask me why I am hard on Mark Barberio. Scheifele manhandled Barberio on what should have been a very easy tie-up for an NHL defenseman to make. That's why he terrifies me in his own third of the rink. Even small forwards can rag doll him.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits and he was 39% on draws in 19:05.

Alex Killorn had 3 shots and 3 hits in 16:31. He almost did his Chris Drury impression again working himself into a breakaway in Overtime only to ring his shot off the goalpost after a nice move. One note on that play, looking back at the replay: I am absolutely positive Al Montoya threw his stick after getting faked out of his shorts by Killorn on the play. That probably should've been called a PS for Killorn (mind you, Killorn faked him out so bad he probably should've finished off the goal). Instead, the Jets came down the other way and the waste receptacle conflagration occurred on Scheifele's winning goal.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot. As he was in the AHL, I thought he was the straw that stirred the drink tonight on his line as a lot of chances were running through Palat's play.

J.T. Brown had 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:27.

Matt Taormina had 1 shot in 10:54. He had one really cringe-worthy shift in the Third Period where he looked physically overmatched a la Barberio.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 13:50. He's mesmerizing with the puck and I think Lightning players need to learn to have their sticks on the ice ready to shoot whenever Kucherov's in the offensive third.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:42. He had a glorious chance jumping up into the high slot on one play in the First Period and made another in the opening frame where he made a beautiful cross ice feed to Thompson for a near tip-in goal. He was also pretty responsible defensively, as usual. If you're going to get shifts like Taormina and Barberio had tonight, I'd rather Cooper just dress 6 d-men and play Sustr more, to be blunt.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-3-13 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Lightning skate the final 40 minutes like they were in a turkey-induced coma.

TB-0
CBJ-1

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the loss. He deserved better. He was hung out to dry 1-on-1 with an uncovered shooter on the only goal he allowed.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
4:30 CBJ Foligno (7), (Johansen)

Third Period
NO SCORING

There haven't been many times this season where the Lightning have been outworked. Tonight, they got absolutely outworked by an arguably less talented team. That effort simply won't do. The power play was bad. The Blue Jackets double teamed the Lightning all over the ice to win puck battles. Their puck support was excellent, the Lightning's was terrible. They went to the net front. The Lightning acted like they were allergic to it. There's nothing good you can say about the night, other than thanking Ben Bishop for giving the team a chance. The Lightning will not reach 12 points in this 3rd 10 game segment of the season. They have to readjust their sights to at least salvage 8 points to leverage some of the extra points they got in the first 2 segments of the year to try to stay on track. It's bad. This was a bad, bad loss.

Mark Barberio had 2 hits in 17:16. I didn't notice any huge mistakes, but he was oddly invisible at the offensive end of the ice, too.

Tyler Johnson had 2 shots, 1 hit, and was 53% on draws in 17:19. He was the Lightning's best center tonight. That's a low bar to clear, though. You could trip on it.

Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 1 hit and was 50% on draws in 16:40. I'm beginning to think his game is too north-south to work at the center position. Seems like a pro winger.

Ondrej Palat had 2 blocked shots in 17:26. He came close a couple of times to working the Lightning into the scoring chance they needed, either with his forechecking or his stick handling. Just couldn't get anything to stick.

J.T. Brown had 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:27. He had a breakaway chance that he was stopped on that led to Bobrovsky leaving the game and he was one of the few Lightning forwards consistently going to the net.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:18. Had a slick little attempt on net in the First Period and helped spring Brown for his breakaway chance. I don't know why, with the team down 1 goal in each of the past 2 games, Cooper hasn't spotted him more with quality line mates. Cooper moved Tyrell onto the kid line in lieu of Panik, and I just face palmed. Tyrell wasn't going to finish off a chance from Johnson or Palat. Let's just be honest with ourselves about that. I have no idea why you don't spot a finisher like Kucherov on that line instead.

Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:15. He was one third of the rolling blunder that led to the game's only goal. At least he can say it wasn't a rookie mistake, because two veterans (including Filppula, who was exceptionally brutal tonight) chose to partake in creating that king-sized dumpster fire of a play.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 11-29-13 Penguins at Lightning

Bounces don't go the Lightning's way.

PIT-3
TB-0

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He played well. It's hard to be upset considering the first goal he allowed was off a great cross ice feed from Crosby and the second was a centering feed that bounced off Hedman and in. Most nights that effort gets Bishop in the winner's circle.

First Period
6:53 PIT Kunitz (12), (Crosby, Letang)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
8:27 PIT Sutter (5), (Crosby, Jokinen)(PP)
18:17 PIT Kunitz (13), (Malkin, Crosby)(EN)

J.T. Brown was the game's second star.

There's nothing to be ashamed of in tonight's effort. They held their own against an elite caliber team and just didn't get the bounce or two they needed. I'll take that effort 9 games out of 10 and take my chances that the bounces start to go my way. The unfortunate thing is that the loss is going to make it really difficult for the Lightning to get 12 points out of this 10 game segment of the season, now needing 7 of 8 possible points in the next 4 games. That's the problem with losing streaks like on the Lightning's West Coast swing. They really cut your margin of error down dramatically.

Mark Barberio had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:59. His delay of game penalty in the Third Period led to Pittsburgh's insurance goal and, as usual, he just isn't strong along the wall in his own end. He's got to improve there. Period, point blank.

Tyler Johnson was -2 with 1 shot and he was 62% on draws in 18:58. That stat line doesn't tell the tale. The kid line matched up head to head against the Crosby line all game long and they held their own. Crosby set up Pittsburgh's first goal, but they got nothing else until the empty netter at the end, and the balance of play between the two lines was surprisingly even. That's incredibly impressive for three rookies.

Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots and was 29% on draws in 15:01. QUIT TAKING OFFENSIVE ZONE PENALTIES! That is all.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:52. I'll echo my comments about TJ with regard to Palat and add that both Palat and Johnson were also outstanding on the PK.

Brown had 4 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:10. He worked himself into quite a few good chances and set up 1-2 others for his teammates. He's a little snakebit right now, but that will pass with time.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 14:31. He had a partial breakaway and a couple of other quality scoring chances. Sooner or later, he's going to put up a multi-goal game, I'm fairly certain. He's very dangerous, and I would actually like to see him spotted in Panik's place on the kid line just to see if a little more polished finisher on that line can yield some dividends.

Andrej Sustr was -1 with 1 shot and 3 blocked shots in 18:05. He was on the ice for Pittsburgh's first goal, but that was a superstar play off the rush by Crosby. Beyond that, he also held his own. Nothing to be ashamed of.

Richard Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:27. He had maybe the chance of the game on his stick at the end of the Second Period all along in front of Fleury and target visioned it right into Fleury's chest. Ploof. I don't know how the Lightning can breath confidence into him at this point, but I do know that kid line is generating chances for Panik and they're not going in because he's the most snake bitten at all. Given its been feast or famine in the goal department since Stamkos' injury, I'm very serious that Cooper should consider spotting a finisher like Kucherov on that line if these late game situations come up where the Lightning are scrambling to find a goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-27-13 Flyers at Lightning

Vinny's return drowned out by the Hedmania.

PHI-2
TB-4

Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the victory. He had the shutout working until just under 3 minutes left in the game when he was hung out to dry for two quick ones. It would've been nice for the team to stay focused and get that shutout for Anders, who has been playing better of late. He had a solid, workmanlike performance tonight, including stopping Wayne Simmonds on a penalty shot (on a terrible call on what should've been treated as an excellent play by Victor Hedman).

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
9:15 TB Hedman (5), (Thompson, Johnson)
12:16 TB Palat (4), (Hedman, Sustr)(SH)

Third Period
5:00 TBL Hedman (6), (Purcell, Filppula)(PP)
18:07 PHI Lecavalier (9), (Schenn, Streit)(PP)
18:47 PHI Mark Streit (1), (Giroux)
19:26 TB Johnson (6), (unassisted)(EN)

Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and third stars. Palat was robbed.

Obviously there was a very strange dynamic at play with Vincent Lecavaier's first game back in Tampa since leaving the organization. That probably contributed to a strange First Period where neither team played terribly good hockey. The Lightning had more possession, partly because of some awful turnovers by Philly, but the Lightning also got away with some mistakes that could've gotten a lot worse for them had Philly been on. Coming out of the First Intermission, though, the Lightning took the game by the throat and dominated for the next 37 minutes of the game before some late stumbles that made the game more interesting than it should have been. I have no doubt that Jon Cooper will be pleased with the 35-21 shot advantage in the contest, and I also have no doubt he'll enjoy using those last 2 Flyers goals in garbage time as a teaching tool for his young team about making sure they finish off games. Actually, the more I think about it, Jon Cooper is probably pinching himself his team only gave up 21 shots and precious few scoring chances with Radko Gudas still out of the lineup.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Victor Hedman basically took over the middle part of this game. On both sides of the puck he was everywhere. Defense. Offense. He was the best player on the ice. I'll remind everyone that in the year he was drafted, some scouting services like Red Line Report went so far as to say Hedman was a prospect with potential that exceeded even that of Steven Stamkos from the draft class previous. It takes longer for defensemen to adjust to the NHL than it does for forwards because the position demands more maturity and a more cerebral approach than playing forward. If Hedman's starting to lift up to the lofty potential that scouts saw in him when he was drafted, watch out. If he becomes a true, dominant #1 NHL defenseman it can completely alter the landscape of the team's future for the better.

With back-to-back wins over the Rangers and Flyers coming off Bishop stealing a point in Anaheim, the Lightning checks into the 5th game of this 3rd 10 game segment of the season with 5 points, 7 shy of the 12 you want, at a minimum, in every segment. They're still a little off pace, but it's a strong recovery from the disastrous trip to the West Coast. Pittsburgh on Friday is a tall order, but if they can get a point or two out of that game, you have to like how they've kept their wits about them after their first real adversity of the campaign.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 14:28. I'll give Barberio credit. Yes, he made 3-4 mistakes in his own zone, but he seems to be getting away with them, and we all know he's pretty darn good in the other two zones.

Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +3 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:28. He was also 57% on draws. His speed created the capping empty net goal in the game, and his kid line continues to consistently be a bright spot for the team regardless of how the rest of the club is performing.

Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and was 40% on draws in 17:09. Quit taking minor penalties. Bloody hell, you're a Harvard graduate. You're allegedly smarter than this.

Ondrej Palat had a shorthanded goal and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:12. My man deserved a star tonight. His work to hustle the Flyers under extra attacker duress created the pass/bobble that led to Johnson's empty net goal. That one of those hidden assists you don't find on the scoresheet, but it'll be there when the coach's evaluate this game.

J.T. Brown was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:08. He was absolutely robbed blind on a bid in the First Period by Ray Emery. He was less of a factor after that.

Nikita Kucherov had 6 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:56. Yes, he got the goal in his first game, but that was just a decent game for Kucherov overall. Tonight, he was a whole other step above that even if he didn't get the result on the scoresheet. He had 5 scoring chances by himself, should've had a 6th on a breakaway where I think his eyes got a little big and he bobbled away the puck, and he set up 1-2 more scoring chances for linemates like Purcell passing the puck, too. I'm not sure I've ever seen a prospect come up and be this quick/decisive with the puck, offensively. He gets the puck and it's either immediately gone via a pass or gone full steam on a hard shot on net. Earlier in his career there might've been the critique that he overhandled the puck, which is a typical Russian stereotype, but I haven't detected that at all in this callup. Additionally, he seems very motivated to stay in the NHL and he's backchecking like a mad man. That last part has to make the Lightning organization the most excited of all. They've really gotten Nikita to buy into playing on the other side of the puck to win back possession and help keep it out of the back of his own 4x6, and that's how a good player becomes a championship caliber player. If he keeps playing like he did tonight, I don't see how he could, in all good conscience, be sent back down to the AHL. That's how good he was tonight.

Andrej Sustr had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:01. I loves me some Andrej Sustr. I have to think he's one of the bigger reasons for how well the Lightning performed defensively tonight, absorbing some of Gudas' share of the ice time and looking incredibly poised doing it. The Flyers are a team that likes to run at people and that can rattle young players. There was no shrinking violet under pressure by Sustr tonight, though. He moved the puck smartly regardless of whether he was going to take a bump or not. Very mature.

Richard Panik was +1 with 1 hit in 14:02. Honestly, I thought he was a bit of a passenger tonight on the line with Palat and Johnson. You'd like to see him catch up to Palat and Johnson's level of play and start contributing, because if he does that line will go from good to great in a hurry.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-25-13 Rangers at Lightning

Tampa Bay celebrates Marty1k Night in style.

NYR-0
TB-5

Ben Bishop stopped all 37 shots he faced for the victory. There was no doubt the Lightning were loosey goosey defensively in the First and Second Periods, due a lot to the absence of Radko Gudas, but Bishop is the big eraser of mistakes. His First Period glove stop on Stralman will make highlight reels, for sure. Another night where U of Maine Justice was served.

First Period
2:12 TB Kucherov (1), (Purcell, Brewer)
3:10 TB St. Louis (9), (Filppula, Hedman)

Second Period
3:12 TB St. Louis (10) , (Filppula, Sustr)
16:52 TB Purcell (6), (unassisted)

Third Period
18:59 TB Purcell (7), (St. Louis, Alex Killorn)

Martin St. Louis, Bishop, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

Life is good when you have a true number one goaltender. You give Bishop a few goals of support to work with and he's going to get you across the finish line on most nights. The Lightning did a decent enough job keeping the really heinous odd man rushes and breakaways out of their game, and even though they were loose in their own end and allowed a ton of shots, it was enough. All that said, I wouldn't want a steady diet of it and I hope Gudas returns very, very soon.

The Kucherov goal was a nice story, especially on this website, but it was gravy and not meat and potatoes. The meat and potatoes story of the night was that Marty and Purcell each had a pair of goals. Those two getting on track is what has to happen for the Lightning to stay in the hunt until #91's return. Silky smooth hands by Martin St. Louis on his two breakaway goals. I'd expect nothing less if the Swedish Battletank, Fredrik Modin, made the trek down to the game, as he did tonight.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot. He's not going to ever be confused for Scott Stevens in his own third, but if he cuts down the really poor turnovers, the Lightning may be able to live with him.

Tyler Johnson had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 18:38 and was 75% on draws. Home cooking agrees with Tyler's faceoff percentage.

Alex Killorn had a helper and was +3 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 14:13. He was also 25% on draws. It's a decent stat line, but the number of penalties he's taking won't cut it.

Ondrej Palat had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. Excellent on the penalty kill. Excellent on one or two occasions carrying the puck for entry into the offensive zone on the PP. He's quietly a backbone type player on the lower lines.

J.T. Brown was +2 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 16:45. His speed allows him to be very active in the play and he's got a quick release that he isn't afraid to use. He's been a nice fit getting some scoring line and PP minutes.

Kucherov scored his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot on his first NHL shift. Efficiency. He was also +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:31. You got a taste of his talents tonight, with a quick, hard release on his goal and a quick, crafty setup to Teddy Purcell that nearly amounted to a helper. That was the good. The nitpick side points out he got away with one offensive zone penalty that sprung Purcell on his first goal and he probably got away with another offensive zone penalty later in the game. I don't know if the refs had great dinner reservations they didn't want to miss, but both teams got away with bloody murder in the offensive zone in the second half of tonight's game.

Andrej Sustr had a helper and was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 21:44. He recovered from a pretty terrible shift early in the First Period to have a decent night lugging big minutes in Gudas' absence.

Richard Panik had 2 shots in 14:35.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 5 penalty minutes in 0:38 of ice time. He left the game with an upper body injury after his second shift.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-22-13 Lightning at Ducks

A strange end to a bad trip.

TB-0
ANH-1 (OT)

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 43 shots for the overtime loss, and the 1 goal was actually knocked in by Panik, otherwise Bishop would've swept it off the line. That was an outstanding performance by Bishop who turned away what seemed like a half dozen breakaways and several other quality chances once the game degenerated into glorified line rushes.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
4:52 ANA Getzlaf (13), (unassisted)

Bishop was the game's third star.

Just a bizarre game, with the Lightning alternating moments when they looked to be forechecking well and generating chances and other moments where they displayed sieve-like defense allowing far to many breakaways and scoring chances. And, no matter how good a chance either team got, it didn't seem to matter because the goaltenders were so in command.

The Lightning really needed that second point tonight, though. They finish the trip at 0-3-1-0 with just 1 of 8 possible points. In segment 3 of the season they have 1 point after 3 games, meaning they'd need 11 of 14 possible points in the remaining 7 of the segment to hit 12. That's a tall, tall order.

Radko Gudas had 5 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 7:25 before leaving the game with an upper body injury. The Lightning are in real trouble if Gudas is out for any extended period of time. It's unclear if Gudas pulled something after getting jumped by Luca Sbisa following a clean hit on Mathieu Perrault, or if he sustained it or aggravated it further after a hit on Corey Perry in the Second Period. I saw an odd play where he tried to move the puck with one arm while his other arm hung slack in the Second Period before leaving the game, but he was also seen with an ice pack on his face before the Second Period. Either way, the Lightning have nothing to replace what Gudas has meant to this team so far this year in terms of minutes, shot blocking, and physical presence. It's a straw/camel's back moment if Gudas goes on IR, potentially.

Mark Barberio had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:19. Man he's frightening in his own end.

Tyler Johnson had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and was 43% on draws in 19:42. You could argue he was the Lightning's best player not named Ben Bishop tonight and he generated several very good scoring chances for himself.

Alex Killorn had 4 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 19:17. He was also 50% on draws. He darn near won it in OT on a beautiful behind the back spinning shot attempt.

Ondrej Palat had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 22:15. His ice time says it all. He was one of the few guys the Lightning had doing all the little things right.

J.T. Brown had 6 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:22. He was extremely active in the First Period and carried that on into the Second Period. I also don't remember his shot having such a quick release. Must come from hanging around all those Russians.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:09. At one point, defending a 2-on-1, he did the old Pavel Kubina praying mantis maneuver dropping to his belly. Anaheim's forward read it and slowed down hoping Sustr would clear. He was, I dunno, 8 feet away from Andrej. With Andrej's reach, Andrey still swept the puck away from him. My goodness what reach.

Richard Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 17:14. He was dangerous throughout the game, but the ending was unfortunate given he knocked the puck in. Would've been nice if Bishop could've swept it off the line successfully, given the success Filppula and the team have had in the shootout.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-21-13 Lightning at Sharks

Roadie of doom continues.

TB-1
SJ-5

Andres Lindback allowed 5 goals on 36 shots for the loss. Honestly, though, I can't fault him any of the 5 goals and he made some key stops that gave the Lightning the opportunity to make this a game. They simply could not put one in before garbage time to support their backup.

First Period
3:39 SJ Wingels (6), (Couture, Marleau)
18:03 SJ Stuart (2), (Kennedy, Couture)

Second Period
11:47 SJ Wingels (7), (Marleau, Braun)

Third Period
4:23 SJ Burns (5), (Thornton, Hannan)
4:42 SJ Marleau (11), (Couture, Braun)
7:39 TB Johnson (5), (Palat, Panik)

Well, the scoreboard isn't entirely different than what I expected. So, that's obviously a negative. Unlike the Kings game, though, there were more silver linings in this defeat. The effort level was there for 60 minutes and this could have been a game if the Lightning could've gotten a bounce or deflection to go their way. After doing nothing in LA, they did manage to outshot San Jose in this one and the line juggling by Jon Cooper did appear to have some promise. We'll see if that translates to anything against Anaheim.

Radko Gudas was -2 with 4 shots, 8 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:45.

Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:11. I thought the game was in Spain for a moment given the matador style effort to allow Marleau the break for San Jose's 5th goal. Ole!

Tyler Johnson had a goal and 2 shot, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 16:54. He was also 33% on draws. The good news is he's consistently getting scoring chances every game. The bad news is the league seems to be getting a book on him in the faceoff circles and his percentage is starting to take a beating recently.

Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and he was 38% on draws in his first game back as a center. And, he really needs to stop taking offensive zone penalties. For real. It's starting to border on Conacher-esque. That's not good.

Ondrej Palat had a helper and 4 shots and 5 hits in 17:39. The kid line was the Lightning's best line tonight, and Palat was part of the reason why.

J.T. Brown was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:23. He was out with the first team PP unit for a First Period shift that spent nearly the full 2 minutes in San Jose's end, but they could not convert.

Richard Panik had a helper and 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:16. He had a beautiful cross ice feed for the secondary assist on Johnson's goal and he looked like he was handling the puck very well tonight (even a little overconfident at times). Kind of poor judgement moving the puck on San Jose's 4th goal, but he got it back later. Can't say the same for some of the vets on their boo boo's tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-19-13 Lightning at Kings

Lightning hit a fork in the road.

TB-2
LA-5

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 31 shots for the loss. Unlike Phoenix, there's not a lot I would fault Bishop for. Lots of deflection goals and one breakaway goal. Oh, and Killorn deciding to go Clint Dempsey into his own cage.

First Period
14:58 LA Kopitar (6), (Doughty, Williams)
16:49 LA Frattin (2), (Voynov, Stoll)(PP)

Second Period
2:38 LA Williams (8), (Doughty, Kopitar)
15:08 LA King (7), (Vey)(SH)
16:17 TB Filppula (9), (Hedman, St. Louis)(PP)
17:15 LA Brown (4), (Frattin)

Third Period
1:22 TB Hedman (4), (Johnson)

That was a pretty disgraceful effort to put out on the ice for your captain's 1,000th NHL game. And, no, I'm not talking about the Kings' first 3 goals, 1 of which was a perfect shot, 1 of which was a perfect (lucky) deflection, and 1 of which Killorn kicked into his own net. Those things happen. What had to leave Marty lingering on the bench muttering to himself after the game was how poorly the team responded after that adversity. 9 shots on goal through 40 minutes was piss poor, especially considering how shaky Scrivens looked at times. When you compound that by not putting forth the effort on the first half of a 4 minute power play, leading to a SH goal against, and a horrendous Connolly turnover leading to the Kings' 5th goal, that's how you allow a few bad breaks to snowball into a catastrophe. And I suspect I know what Marty is thinking: if you hustle and if you don't make soft, unforced errors at your blue line, you get out of that period down 3-1, possibly. Then Hedman's semi-soft goal on Scrivens early in the Third Period would've meant something and the Lightning's push in the final frame would've been to steal a point against a quality opponent rather than to try to avoid the inevitable wrath of a Head Coach that hates to lose even more than he likes to win. Now the Lightning have dropped their first consecutive games of the season with another tough game coming up, and they're at a fork in the road. The question is, are they going to cave in here or are they going to put the effort in to stay competitive? That's what I want to see right now. The result is obviously the big thing, but let's start with the building blocks of making sure that the team doesn't look comatose for 40 minutes of a game.

Radko Gudas had 4 hits and 1 blocked shot in 21:18.

Tyler Johnson had a helper and 3 shots in 17:56. He was also 39% on draws. He was a big part of the push the Lightning put on in the Third Period and he nearly snuck one past Scrivens in the First Period.

Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 12:01. He and Brett Connolly were a waste receptacle conflagration tonight. I see stupid offensive zone penalties. I see sloppiness with the puck. I see very little being generated on the forecheck. I see why his ice time took a nose dive. That line needs to be broken up and Connolly may need to sit a game in the stands to think about what occurred tonight. And, Killorn may need a turn on a checking line to get reoriented on playing a simple game.

Ondrej Palat was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:39. Another decent night on the PK and he was helpful with his fellow kid liners in the Third Period garbage time push.

J.T. Brown was -2 with 2 blocked shots in 13:04. His line did precious little at even strength, which isn't a direct reflection on his play, but you'd like him to really be the first man in on that line with Filppula and Purcell. I understand all the early penalties really hampered the ability of that unit to get into the flow, though.

Dmitry Korobov had 1 hit in 13:04 in his NHL debut. It was a mixed bag for Dmitry. I thought he had a pretty solid little First Period at both ends. He looked pretty good under duress in his own end moving the puck out of trouble and he threw a puck toward the net (uncredited by the scorers) that led to one of the few opportunities for the Lightning in the opening frame. He got less ice time in the Second Period because of all the special teams play and a little extended Third Period garbage time against a little more quality opponents. And, that was about what I would expect from Dmitry. He put a big pop on Dustin Brown along the boards and had a nice long pass to spring an offensive chance on the positive side of the coin. On the negative side, he made an odd unforced error (Korobov does it 1-2 times a game in my experience, a la a young Kubina) to move the puck to an open point in his own end where a Kings defenseman was waiting to pounce and there was one wide rush where his slow footwork was slightly exposed. I'd say it wasn't a big net positive or negative game for Dmitry's stock. But, that said, I felt he showed he's certainly better under duress in his own end than Barberio and that he has more two-way game than Aulie ever dreamed of having. So, there's something to work with there, warts and all.

Richard Panik was +1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:53. Would've been nice for the kid line to get one during that Third Period push for their confidence.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 4 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 8:44. I have no idea why he exists right now. He had one or two good forechecking shifts, but that doesn't offset his skating liabilities defensively, and you'll have a hard time explaining to me why Malone is running around trying to start fights when a game is out of hand like that but Labrie isn't. His whole role is supposed to be to spark the team on a night when they're flat like they were tonight, and he just didn't do anything. Again. He seems like a genuinely nice person and he's a great story. But, if the Lightning are down 4 goals and flat as a pancake, he needs to be challenging the other team's entire bench to a fight. Period. Or, he's no use to anybody. And, if that's the way it's going to be, I'd just as soon see his spot filled by someone like Philippe Paradis who might actually do something to light a fire under the butts of his teammates. I'm not saying it to be mean. The trigger has no heart, and Labrie needs some tough love right now because it feels like he's got a bit of role/identity crisis right now.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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