Paquette, Cedric

NHL Game Night: 12-1-14 Lightning at Rangers

Taking out the trash.

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NYR-3

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory as the Lightning swept the season series against Benedict Arnold and the Rangers 3-0. He also had a helper in tonight's game on top of several sparkling saves that allowed the Lightning to keep contact before eventually pulling away in the Third Period.

First Period
6:32 TB Johnson (7), (Palat, Hedman)
12:14 NYR Hayes (3), (Hagelin, Stempniak)
16:02 TB Connolly (3), (Hedman, Bishop)

Second Period
2:42 NYR Fast (2), (Brassard, Nash)
9:24 NYR St. Louis (10), (McDonagh, Stepan)(PP)
14:23 TB Carle (2), (Johnson, Filppula)

Third Period
5:34 TB Connolly (4), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
6:58 TB Johnson (8), (Kucherov, Gudas)
19:33 TB Palat (6), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)

Brett Connolly, Tyler Johnson, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

That was satisfying. No, not because the Lightning played their best game. They didn't. Their passing wasn't sharp and allowed the Rangers to run up a big shot advantage. Along with a handful of terrible turnovers the Lightning really allowed themselves to be put on the ropes when they fell behind in the Second Period and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage. And then Matt stinking Carle scored to tie the game and the Rangers' world started caving in around them.

You see, after getting annihilated in the first two games of the season series, the Rangers decided this was their measuring stick. This was going to be their big moment to show they were ready to run with the big dogs! Ryan McDonagh, who by virtue of being captain of the Rangers evidently immediately became Brian Leetch reincarnate in New York last year, or something equally irrational, was going to return from injury to help the Rangers smite their new tormentors from the South!

BTW, Rangers and fans, for the record, Victor Hedman > Ryan McDonagh. But, I digress.

The Rangers' best punch they could throw, their heavyweight haymaker, was a Second Period where they walked into the locker room tied 3-3. And, at that point, I think everybody in that building knew how the Third Period would unfold. And brother, it did. Martin St. Louis finished the 3 game series with 2 goals and 2 points, 1 more point than Ben Bishop, and a pretty fantastic -6 rating. I can see why Slats threw in the 2 first rounders.

On the Lightning side of the ledger, it was no surprise the Kucherov line continues to dominate the opposition, but Brett Connolly was a revelation with 2 goals and another that got disallowed for being deflected in with a high stick. You're beginning to see the high-end, elite skill Brett was touted to possess when he was selected in the top-10 so many years ago. He's sugar in open ice, although he might still be another word that starts with "s" along the wall. Also of note, Victor Hedman sneezed 3 assists tonight without even trying. It's obscene how easily he's tallied points since about the midway point of last season.

With 25 games played, the Lightning sit at 36 points, meaning with 5 games remaining in segment 3 of the season they're already at the minimum point total they need to be at to comfortably be on pace to make the playoffs. Everything they get in the next 5 games just replenishes and, possibly, expands the bank of insurance points they had coming into this 10-game segment of the season.

Cedric Paquette was -1 with 2 penalty minutes 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:33.

Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 10:19.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-29-14 Senators at Lightning

Lightning outlast Senators.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. He made several key stops, including a denial on a shorthanded 3-on-1 by Ottawa to keep the Lightning in contact before they pulled away in the Third Period.

First Period
18:13 OTT Legwand (3), (Karlsson, Turris)(PP)

Second Period
5:13 TB Callahan (11), (Stamkos, Killorn)

Third Period
1:16 TB Killorn (7), (Stralman, Callahan)
8:09 TB Morrow (1), (Paquette)
13:53 TB Kucherov (9), (Johnson, Garrison)(PP)

Bishop, Ryan Callahan, and Alex Killorn were the game's three stars.

Just an efficient, professional, workmanlike effort by the Lightning to nullify a good goaltending effort by Robin Lehner. They leveraged the fact Ottawa was on the downside of a back-to-back and ultimately wore the Sens down with their depth, eventually getting goals from three different lines.

Of note: first, Victor Hedman returned and was a beasty, particularly in the defensive third. Second, Jon Cooper rolled out a couple of new lines, including a Drouin/Filppula/Connolly line that shows some promise. I wish Connolly was a little harder on the puck on the forecheck, but that line has a chance of doing something. I wonder what would happen, though, if Cooper elected to but speedster J.T. Brown on the right side of that line for puck retrieval and general mischief-making purposes. Hmmmmm.

Cedric Paquette had a nice helper on Morrow's first goal of the season and was +1 with 1 hit in 10:58.

Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot and 2 hits in 14:14. The ice time will continue to creep up as he continues to play a well-rounded game like he did tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-26-14 Rangers at Lightning

Marty returns to Tampa... leaves with a L.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 19 shots for the victory. It's so hard to stay sharp and keep a high sv% when you're facing so few shots. Good problem to have, though.

First Period
5:25 TB Stamkos (15), (Filppula, Callahan)(PP)
9:00 NYR Zuccarello (4), (Nash)
11:04 NYR Boyle (1), (Stepan, Brassard)(PP)
17:34 TB Callahan (9), (Garrison, Stamkos)(PP)

Second Period
10:17 TB Callahan (10), (Stamkos, Killorn)

Third Period
9:38 TB Kucherov (8), (Johnson, Carle)
12:49 NYR Nash (15), (unassisted)

Ryan Callahan, Steven Stamkos, and Anton Stralman were the game's three stars.

On a night when all the focus was on Martin St. Louis returning to Tampa just 2 points shy of 1,000 for his career, he was held off the board and Ryan Callahan posted 2 goals and 1 assist, instead. I wouldn't have bet on this when the trade went down, but you can make a pretty darned iron clad argument at this juncture Ryan Callahan's a better NHL player than Martin St. Louis right now. The fact the Lightning also got Slats to cough up 2 first rounders in the transaction just makes it all the more lopsided. I can't see the deal getting better looking for the Rangers as time wears on. 5 years from now I suspect it'll be pretty clear Steve Yzerman stole Sather's Rolex, car keys, and the shirt off his back in that trade. And, in his own selfish, petulant way, Marty may have done the Lightning one last solid on their way to becoming an elite superpower in the league.

Overall, I thought the Lightning again showed they're 1-2 weight classes above the Rangers in strength. In the normal run of play, the Rangers were nowhere in this contest, getting outshot 29-19. They manufactured some goals off of faceoffs and an early period turnover, but everything else was pretty well controlled by Tampa Bay. In fact, had the Lightning not sagged a little in focus right after the Marty tribute video, when the team surrendered 2 quickies, I suspect the game might've been as big a squash as the game played at MSG. The Rangers are a very mediocre-at-best team right now, and I fully expect them to surrender a pick in the 10-15 range to the Lightning in the summer draft. Beating them at every opportunity only helps to make that prophecy reality.

Cedric Paquette had 1 shot in 11:30.

Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 hits in 12:19.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-22-14 Wild at Lightning

Young Lightning grow up a little.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. If you limit the odd man rushes the way the Lightning did tonight, Ben's pretty hard to beat.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
3:11 MIN Parise (7), (Vanek)
13:42 TB Stamkos (14), (Stralman, Garrison)(PP)
18:07 TB Killorn (6), (Stralman, Callahan)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

The Lightning avenged one of their worst losses of the season to the Wild earlier this year and showed a bit of growth against a type of team they've traditionally struggled with. Not only are the Wild a faster team in the Western Conference style, but they also play a close-to-the-vest style a la the New Jersey Devils, which has always been a challenge for the team. They came out hard, like they did in the previous contest, but maintained their effort level throughout the game including after a mistake led to the Wild taking a 1-0 lead. And, when they got a power play opportunity down 1-0, they capitalized with strong puck possession despite some very tight penalty killing by the Wild. This game was steel on steel and both teams played a strong game and all the credit in the world goes to the Lightning for coming out of it with the 2 points.

Now, here's the great thing: they accomplished this tonight without Hedman. They accomplished it with Drouin still playing less than 10 minutes and not yet making the impact his talents indicate he can. And, they did it with Stamkos still a touch below the level of play he showed before he broke his leg a year ago. If all those things happen, and they're already capable of winning a game against a good Western Conference team when it's steel on steel like it was tonight, what can they do when they're at full strength clicking to their full potential?

Cedric Paquette was -1 with 3 hits and 2 blocked shots in 13:05. He was out for the Lightning to try to answer the 6-on-4 situation to close out the contest.

Jonathan Drouin played 9:37.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-18-14 Lightning at Islanders

Deck a little too stacked.

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NYI-5

Evgeny Nabokov allowed 5 goals on 36 shots for the loss. He actually performed better than his last couple of starts, but the Clutterbuck shorthanded goal was from a less than prime angle and was the turning point of the game. Soft.

First Period
11:53 TB Killorn (4), (Garrison, Drouin)

Second Period
0:39 NYI Clutterbuck (2), (unassisted)(SH)
12:23 NYI Grabovski (4), (Nielsen, Okposo)
13:26 NYI Strome (3), (de Haan)

Third Period
0:36 NYI Visnovsky (2), (Nielsen, Tavares)(PP)
2:14 TB Palat (5), (Carle, Kucherov)
8:55 NYI Cizikas (2), (Okposo, Nelson)

This was just one of those nights. The Lightning weren't super flat, but certain players like Callahan who've been lights out lately were clearly not in their best form after the emotional tilt with the Rangers last night. You couple that with the fact the Islanders have basically been off for a week before this game and throw in a pinch of Nabby in net and two dashes of some puck luck for the Isles and this one got out of hand.

Fortunately, the Lightning didn't really desperately need points out of this game. They close the second 10 game segment of the season with 28 points, giving them 4 insurance points heading into segment three of the year. 12 in 10, do it again.

Cedric Paquette had 1 blocked shot and was 50% on draws in 2:40 and left the game with what appeared to be either a foot or ankle injury after blocking a shot. His absence was noticeable.

Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 in 10:28. He had one amazing pass on the power play to Kucherov that could've easily netted a goal, but Nikita was stunned in amazement that Drouin was even able to thread the puck through and didn't have the reflexes to get it on frame.

Vladislav Namestnikov was 33% on draws in 13:57. He had legs, but looking at the stat sheet reveals nothing was doing.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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