Sluggish Lightning nearly bailed out by Vasilevskiy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was brilliant. He stopped 45 shots tonight, only allowing a goal to an uncovered Tavares in the slot (no shame) and a tipped point shot by Lee (again, no shame). The Lightning would've lost this game 8-1, easily, without Vasilevskiy.
9:16 TB Connolly (6), (Johnson, Barberio)
16:51 NYI Tavares (13), (Okposo, Bailey)
17:03 NYI Lee (7), (Hamonic, Nelson)
18:49 NYI Kulemin (6), (Clutterbuck)(EN)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
Anyone in a Lightning jersey not named Vasilevskiy or Boyle probably didn't deserve to be wearing it the way they played tonight. I certainly hope there's a more innocuous explanation for what we witnessed tonight. Maybe the flu is running through this team, which was aggravated by Garrison leaving in the Second Period. I can't explain it, otherwise. The team looked slow. They made wave after wave of really idiotic turnovers. They looked physically and mentally fatigued to the extent that they didn't even seem to want to be there. Gudas and Carle looked like corpses out there, for crying out loud. Getting outshot 48-21 by anyone is just not acceptable, and in the absence of extenuating circumstances there needs to be a closed door meeting followed by a bag skate, because this just cannot happen.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 2 penalty minutes 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:11. If Yzerman looks to make a shake up move, I wouldn't be shocked to see Paquette and Namestnikov trade places soon. Paquette took a bad offensive zone boarding call and he's seen his offensive contributions vanish while taking about 1 minor penalty a night. That means, sadly for him, he might have to be the one who gets shook in the shake up.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 hit in 13:19. He ended up getting himself pulled off the Stamkos line because they were generating nothing. Zero shots on goal and only one even attempted isn't good enough.
Lightning manage to wrestle 1 point out of the quicksand.
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 2 goals on 18 shots before allowing 1 of 3 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. I'll give him full marks for battling tonight, but that was hard to watch. The first goal was a fluky goal that he put into his own cage. Okay. But, the second goal cannot be allowed at any level of hockey and he got the benefit of 5 or 6 posts tonight on top of that. The Lightning have a real issue there, and the solution may be figuring out some way to shuttle one of the two good goaltenders they have in Syracuse up in back-to-back situations from here on out, which is a roster challenge, but may be necessary. You could've timed that second goal from shot to net with a sun dial it fluttered so slowly.
3:01 NJ Henrique (9), (Greene, Gomez)(PP)
15:17 NJ Elias (4), (Havlat, Henrique)
14:55 TB Stamkos (19), (Callahan, Drouin)
19:19 TB Kucherov (13), (Callahan, Garrison)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's first star.
Glass half full: they managed to squeeze a point out of a game where they trailed New Jersey in the Third Period. That's no small feat, and part of climbing out of the big hole that they were in was one of the better passing displays we've seen in the last 3-4 weeks, especially in the Second Period. I also thought Radko Gudas, coming off a stomach bug, might've played his best game of the season tonight at both ends of the rink.
Glass half empty: the goaltending was bad. The power play might've actually been worse, though. 0-for-5 on the power play tonight and one was a key double minor in the Third Period while they were pushing to tie the game where they got nothing going. Nothing. At some point as the season progresses, Yzerman seriously needs to find a righty PP QB to acquire via trade. Nothing they're doing to try to free up Stamkos with lefties at center point is working, and it's becoming counterproductive trying to force set pieces his way or asking him to force passes back through the seam to Filppula, who can't do anything with them because he's not a shooter.
Cedric Paquette had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:39 and he also was 44% on draws.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 21:15. Circle that ice time number. Playing with Stamkos for the full game, this was the first time Cooper really let Drouin out of the stable, and I think Stamkos in particular responded well with 10 shot attempts tonight. My big thing with Drouin now, though, is that team's are playing him as a pass first guy. He needs to shoot it more. 2 shots is more than he's been getting, but he only had 3 shot attempts total. I want to see him at a minimum of 4 shot attempts a game from here on out. Stamkos won't mind, Jonathan. 91 likes rebound goals, too.
Vasilevskiy plays the role of the slump slayer.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 24 shots for the victory in his first NHL start.
19:19 PHI Simmonds (14), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
1:50 TB Stamkos (18), (Drouin, Callahan)
6:34 TB Johnson (10), (Callahan, Kucherov)
19:18 TB Filppula (6), (Paquette, Johnson)(EN)
Ryan Callahan and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and third stars. The night offered Lightning fans a brief slice of the future, with Vasilevskiy in net and Jonathan Drouin playing on the top line with Stamkos. Both had important hands in the outcome of the game, with a cameo appearance by young Cedric Paquette on the EN goal to seal the game.
Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot. He was also 67% on draws.
Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 17:28. If I have a critique of Drouin, it's that I'd like to see him look to shoot a little more and generate some offense that way, too. I hope he stays on that line with Stamkos from here on out.
Bad news in Pittsburgh.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 5 shots before leaving the game after the First Intermission with what was deemed a "lower body injury". Evgeny Nabokov allowed 3 goals on 21 shots the rest of the way for the loss.
19:09 PIT Sutter (7), (Scuderi)(SH)
19:33 TB Drouin (2), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
2:55 PIT Rust (1), (Ebbett)
19:26 PIT Downie (5), (Hornqvist, Malkin)(PP)
7:47 PIT Dumoulin (1), (Downie, Spaling)
16:56 TB Kucherov (12), (Filppula)
The Lightning came out flying in the First Period, and were betrayed by a mixture of bad luck and great goaltending by Fleury. The one goal Bishop allowed was a shot that was going wide that took a goofy bounce off the knob of his stick and bounded into his net. It was so goofy and unlucky, I wouldn't be surprised if Bishop hurt himself kicking something in the locker room about his buzzard's luck. It was that kind of night. You then had Nabby handing Pittsburgh a free goal on a puckhandling gaffe and then a fourth goal coming off a deflection off Hedman. Meanwhile, the Lightning couldn't buy another goal on Fleury until a breakaway goal from Kucherov late in garbage time. Just nothing is going right now, and you hope that Bishop being held out for precautionary reasons turns out to be over something minor like a stubbed toe rather than something being broken or torn.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot and 4 hits and was 60% on draws in 14:10.
Jonathan Drouin had a goal and 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 14:50. He was probably one of the three best players on the rink for the Lightning tonight, and that was reflected in his promotion to the Stamkos line in the Third Period. He could've easily had a 3 point night tonight if the Lightning were so cursed right at the moment.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
10:33 WSH Backstrom (6), (Wilson, Schmidt)
18:40 WSH Backstrom (7), (Ovechkin, Wilson)
2:17 WSH Backstrom (8), (Ovechkin)
15:36 TB Johnson (9), (Carle, Kucherov)
17:29 TB Carle (3), (Stamkos, Garrison)
19:21 WSH Fehr (6), (unassisted)(EN)
Frustrating. This was a game filled with self-inflicted wounds. I'm not going to dwell on the disallowed Stamkos goal in the First Period, because ultimately that's not what undid the Lightning in this game. They had a 5-on-3 for a full 2 minutes and only got a slow dribbler chance by Callahan that Holtby held out. Then Paquette loses a faceoff and loses his man. Little thing. Down 1-0. They have plenty of guys back in transition and they completely blow the coverage and Backstrom gets a rebound goal. Little thing. Down 2-0. They have a neutral zone turnover and the defense parts to let Backstrom get a prime chance in the slot. Little thing. Down 3-0. They even have 2 players collide at center with the extra attacker so Fehr can get the EN goal. Little things, and they surrender the 4th goal. It's not like the Caps have dominated these two games, but the Lightning have done everything in their power to make them look like world beaters. Other than the PK there was very little of value to take out of tonight, other than what little morale building you can get out of climbing to withing 1 goal late in a game where you were down 3-0 in the Third Period.
Moving back to basics: Cooper's got to get these guys to get 35 shots on goal a night. The shot totals have been anemic lately, and when shot totals are low you don't get a good diet of greasy goals. They need that, and they need a healthy Palat back. A functional PP would be a nice change of pace, too. Every season has a spot like this where the offense will just struggle to get goals. It seems like, more often than not, the Lightning's struggle seems to come in December. It happened in '03. It's happening now.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and he was 33% on draws. The first goal was on him. He lost the draw and then lost Backstrom, which allowed Backstrom to easily collect the blocked shot and roll to the slot to get the backhander. Not good.
Jonathan Drouin was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 10:55. He was on the ice for Paquette's faux-pas and the Fehr empty-netter, so the +/- is deceiving. He got more comfortable and looked more dangerous as the game rolled on.