Peca delivers critical divisional victory for Syracuse.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 42 shots for the victory, helping the Crunch overcome a 42-28 shot disparity. Since the trade deadline, Gudlevskis has suddenly been locked in while veteran Mike McKenna has struggled, begging the question of who will really be the team's number one goaltender heading into the playoffs.
2:10 SYR Peca (9), (Bournival, Condra)
17:09 ALB Gibbons (13), (Stollery, Helgeson)
1:13 SYR Peca (10), (Taormina, McGinn)(PP)
With the victory, the Crunch move out to a 3 point lead in the North Division over Albany with the Devils now holding a game in hand.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
No centers? No problem.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory. The good ones respond to giving up a couple of early goals by shutting the door the rest of the way. This is about the 3rd or 4th time I can recall this season that Vasiy showed that kind of resiliency and mettle.
16:32 FLA Jagr (14), (Barkov, Marchessault)
19:13 FLA Pysyk (4), (Smith, Barkov)
3:43 TB Kucherov (31), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:11 TB Gourde (1), (unassisted)(SH)
17:37 TB Palat (14), (Sustr)
Ondrej Palay, Vasilevskiy, and Yanni Gourde were the game's three stars.
Tampa Bay responded to bad luck and adversity with gutty brilliance tonight in a fashion that should make every Lightning fan proud of their team. They played a great First Period but found themselves on the unlucky end of a couple of greasy goals by the Panthers and some hot goaltending by Reimer (who actually played a whale of a game despite the loss). The Lightning didn't sag in the Second Period, as a lesser team would, and quickly cut the lead in half with the ubiquitous Nikita Kucherov power play goal. about 6 minutes later Gourde made one of the more fantastic individual plays you'll ever see to get the shorthanded goal with a defender draped all over him. Things got hairy almost immediately thereafter, though, when Andrey Sustr took a high sticking call that put the Lightning down 2 men and in danger of immediately surrendering the momentum. Remember, this is a team that dealt off two of its supposedly best PK'ers in Boyle and Filppula and has others like Paquette sitting on the shelf injured at the moment. To not allow a goal there set the tone for the rest of the game, and the Espo Rule victory pre-saged the eventual Lightning win in the Third Period, which was partially made possible by an amazing post to post save by Vasilevskiy on Sceviour late in the frame.
Tampa Bay sits at 73 points with 15 games left to go in the campaign. To reach a magic 96 points, they'll need 23 of a remaining 30 points or a .767 winning percentage. It may take a few less points than that to actually make the postseason, but you get the point about how steep the hill is. They've still got to play about .750 hockey the rest of the way to give themselves a chance.
Luke Witkowski had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:40.
Gregg McKegg was 63% on 8 draws in 7:38.
Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 2 hits in 19:30.
Gabriel Dumont had 5 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 9:24. He and Stralman lowered the boom to knock a couple of Panthers out of the game and set a physical tone tonight.
Matthew Peca was 0% on 7 draws in 10:39. Yikes.
Gourde had his first NHL goal and 2 shots in 17:09. He's been a completely different player in this callup. You wouldn't have known he was even in the lineup in his previous cups of coffee, but he's been a difference maker the past couple of outings.
Adam Erne had a clean sheet in 13:01. Might be hitting a wall in terms of his effectiveness on this recall.
Lightning dominance overshadowed by centerman attrition.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for a dominating victory. He gave Minnesota nothing. He was in absolute command and it took a goofy bounce for Minnesota to stave off his shutout bid. That's two straight games where Vasiy has only allowed a single goal. Hard to lose when you do that.
6:53 TB Kucherov (29), (Hedman, Palat)(PP)
11:01 TB Hedman (13), (Drouin, Dotchin)
4:37 TB Sustr (2), (Kucherov, Johnson)
16:02 MIN Scandella (4), (Brodin, Koivu)
18:51 TB Kucherov (30), (Gourde)(EN)
That was probably the most dominant game the Lightning have played against a quality opponent all season. The end result was never really in doubt and even as the Lightning were seeing their players drop like flies, their lower liners stepped up and continued to keep the game under total control. Unfortunately, it's dubious whether that kind of "next man up" success is replicable over the rest of the course of the season. Vladislav Namestnikov was the first to go down after going skates first into the board on a play that could be anything from a broken ankle to a knee. To my eyes, that looked like a season ender. Tyler Johnson was the next to go on a knee to knee hit from Nino Niederreiter. Johnson when down like a dropped sack of potatoes, and I'm hopeful he's the one of the three that can get back faster, but it didn't look great. Third to go was Cedric Paquette, who appeared to give himself a high ankle sprain tackling a Wild forward in the slot on a defensive zone play. That may come pretty close to ending his season given the slim number of games the team has left on the schedule. So, the Lightning are going to have to scramble just to find bodies at that position. McKegg can go back into the lineup and they'll probably immediately recall Matthew Peca. Ultimately, though, it may take Steven Stamkos donning the Superman cape and coming back from IR in the next 2 weeks and playing well just to keep the team's slim playoff hopes alive. It's either that or get Brian Bradley off the buffet line.
Luke Witkowski had 4 hits in 9:11.
Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 16:33.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 8:21. He was also 63% on 8 draws.
Yanni Gourde had a helper in 16:35 and was on the ice defending the 6 on 5 at the end of the contest.
Adam Erne had 2 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:20. He had a really strong First Period, drawing the penalty that led to Kucherov's opening goal, but once the carnage started in the Second Period, it seemed like the line shuffling hurt the continuity Erne was forming with his linemates.
Another inauspicious McKenna outing.
Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss.
5:59 BNG Bailey (17), (Carlisle, Flanagan)
10:59 BNG Mike Blunden (13), (Varone, Bailey)(PP)
11:47 SYR Walcott (4), (Peca)
6:43 BNG Akeson (11), (Varone, Perron)
14:54 SYR Peca (8), (Conacher, Thomas)
19:07 BNG Bailey (18), (Akeson, Paul)(PP)
16:23 BNG Akeson (12), (Varone, Harpur)(EN)
18:04 SYR Kurtz (1), (Halmo, Ikonen)
18:18 SYR Halmo (15), (Condra, Taormina)
19:35 BNG Akeson (13), (Varone, Sieloff)(EN)
Matthew Peca was the game's third star.
Deduct the garbage time foolishness at the end of the contest and it's a 4-2 game, which looks less bad but is still not entirely inspiring.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Usher Condra lets it burn in Crunch victory.
Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. After going into the Third Period with the all important 3 goal lead, Wilcox did eventually surrender a couple of goals including the false hope goal early in the final frame. But, he was able to hold the fort the rest of the way to get the W.
0:46 SYR Condra (8), (Peca, Brodeur)
7:23 SYR Gourde (20), (Halmo, Vermin)(PP)
12:00 SYR Condra (9), (Walcott, Taormina)
11:03 RCH Nylander (7), (Grant, Kennedy)(PP)
15:59 SYR Condra (10), (Gourde, Thomas)
2:25 RCH Bonis (6), (Cornel, Catenacci)
4:17 RCH Baptiste (20), (Kennedy, Catenacci)
Erik Condra and Yanni Gourde were the game's first and second stars. Condra had the home crowd screaming "yeah!" with his first pro hat trick while Gourde hit 20 goals for the second time as an AHL'er. Matthew Peca, somewhat quietly, has 1 goal and 7 points in his last 8 contests.
Syracuse pulls 2 points clear of Albany and 4 points clear of Toronto with the victory, and with both of those teams dropping their games in regulation tonight, the Crunch retained all their games in hand. Beautiful.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Game (and possibly season) slips away from Tampa Bay.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the hard luck loss. He deserved better. He made a good number of timely saves but the Lightning couldn't finish their chances most of the night. It's a shame. A win would've been huge for the team and huge for Vasilevskiy's confidence.
16:18 TB Drouin (13), (Filppula, Palat)
16:40 CBJ Anderson (10), (Savard)
4:29 CBJ Foligno (15), (Werenski, Wennberg)(PP)
18:55 CBJ Jenner (7), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's third star.
The Lightning couldn't finish their chances, let Columbus hang around, and eventually the Blue Jackets finished just enough of theirs. It's really simple. The Lightning played a pretty good game overall. They dominated the first 30 minutes of the contest and could've easily built a good sized lead with the scoring chances they had, but they allowed Columbus to hang around. The final 30 minutes of the game the Blue Jackets found some traction with their forecheck and eventually found the tying goal and drew the power play to get the winner. All things being equal, there wouldn't be a whole lot from this game to cry over, but things are not equal right now. The Lightning standings situation is fast becoming desperate and it's getting to the point where every night they fail to earn points puts them closer to an early trip to the golf course.
Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 9:08. He was also 60% on 5 draws.
Matthew Peca had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:46.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Matthew Peca is just eight games into his NHL career since being recalled from the Syracuse Crunch on Dec. 27, but he’s adjusting quickly to playing at the game’s highest level.
Peca has a goal and an assist and is averaging 12 minutes of ice time per game as the Lightning seek to close a six-point gap for the final wild card position in the Eastern Conference currently held by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Better effort. Crushing result.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)
For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.
Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.
Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.
Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.
The Lightning's season is circling the drain.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 44 shots for the loss. He was markedly better today than his past couple of starts, but unfortunately he didn't get much support in front of him as the Lightning got outpossessed and outplayed at the skater positions.
5:34 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Nesterov)
1:11 PHI Konecny (6), (Voracek, MacDonald)
8:42 PHI Couturier (7), (Provorov, Voracek)
9:51 PHI Raffl (8), (Giroux, Schultz)
16:44 TB Killorn (13), (Nesterov, Drouin)
17:41 PHI Gudas (2), (Schenn)
The Lightning just got whipped today. They got outshot 44-26 and the score reflected it. They simply played a flat game, lost most every 50/50 puck, and their passing was awful in all three zones. There's no excuse for this team to play this flat, given that they should be fighting for the playoff lives at the moment. We're getting very near to a point of no return from which the Lightning simply won't have a realistic chance to get back into it in the standings. You'd think you'd see the urgency because of that. Nope. This team, after two and a half years of heavy lifting, just looks out of gas. There's consequences (big roster changes) that come with that if that happens to be the case.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:29. I thought he played a really nice game this afternoon.
Matthew Peca was -2 in 13:07. He made a pretty horrendous turnover to Voracek at the end of the First Period that Vasilevskiy bailed him out of. Beyond that, it was his second straight subpar outing. He's probably not much longer for the NHL on this callup stint if this keeps up.
Adam Erne had 3 shots and 3 hits in 8:36. He played another nice game today. He had some big hits, stole the puck to create a scoring chance for a teammate in the offensive zone on another play, and drew a penalty getting hooked on a breakaway on another play. He was one of the few Lightning players who looked like he had energy today.
Awful goaltending hands Lightning failure.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Three of those goals were of the awful variety, and the third goal, which came as the Lightning were mounting a push to try to knot the game at 2-2, was an absolute back breaker. Hockey is a frustrating, terrible sport when you're the victim of bad goaltending and your team has to work five times harder to get a goal, which is what happened tonight.
2:25 NSH Fisher (11), (Johansen, Ekholm)(PP)
3:56 NSH Forsberg (9), (Fiala, Johansen)
6:12 TB Johnson (12), (Hedman, Killorn)
13:21 NSH Sissons (3), (Fisher)
14:04 NSH Ellis (5), (Wilson, Arvidsson)
14:02 NSH Sissons (4), (Jarnkrok)(EN)
17:00 NSH Sissons (5), (Jarnkrok, Bitetto)
The Lightning actually had a decent night in terms of raw puck possession stats. It wasn't equaling a ton of scoring chances, but the game was not nearly the lopsided disaster the score indicates... except that the goaltending was terrible. That's been the biggest difference between this Lightning team and those of the recent past. Even when Bishop was healthy earlier this year the Lightning were not getting consistent goaltending. They have to hope and pray when he returns that he will re-find some of his Vezina candidate caliber form. Without it, they haven't got a prayer.
The Lightning failed to get 12 points for a second 10-game segment of the year, getting just 10 points in this one after managing just 7 points the previous segment. At the roughly midway point of the campaign, they're a full 6 points off comfortable playoff pace, meaning they'll have to play at least .675 hockey the rest of the way to get there safely. That's not impossible, but it's incredibly difficult and pretty much a fool's errand to try without good goaltending.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:29.
Matthew Peca was -2 with 2 hits in 11:17. He was also 56% on 9 draws. This was the first night of his NHL stint that he wasn't really a noticable positive in the lineup.
Adam Erne was -2 with 1 shot and 6 hits in 14:59. He continues to look the part and made a swooping power forward move off the right wing that was a bright spot in a fairly abysmal night.