Stephens, Mitchell

NHL Game Night: 12-31-19 Lightning at Sabres

Comeback win puts Tampa Bay on the precipice of crawling out of early season hole.

TB-6
BUF-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the win. Goal support is good.

First Period
19:03 BUF Sheary (6), (Lazar)

Second Period
2:12 BUF Johansson (6), (Sheary, Scandella)
7:00 TB Palat (12), (Johnson, Sergachev)(PP)
8:12 BUF Vesey (5), (Johansson, Sheary)
9:56 BUG Eichel (25), (unassisted)(SH)
13:57 TB Killorn (14), (Point, Kucherov)(PP)
16:55 TB Johnson (8), (Palat, McDonagh)

Third Period
6:20 TB Shattenkirk (6), (Johnson, Cirelli)
8:08 TB Killorn (15), (Maroon, Paquette)
19:57 TB Cirelli (9), (Killorn, Stamkos)(EN)

Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and third stars. We're moving closer to a reality where Alex Killorn may break 20 goals. #EndOfDays

You know, the Lightning really took off when they decided to finally stop beating themselves tonight. This was a game where the puck management was sloppy and the defensive zone coverage was sloppy and the effort just lacked polish. And, because of that, they fell into a three goal hole halfway through the game. Credit them for not panicking and just resolving to try to get a goal or two before the intermission, which they got, to give themselves a chance. This was one of those games where it wasn't a Picasso, but sometimes Dogs Playing Poker will have to do.

The standings impact of tonight's win was very big as they now have 46 points through 38 games. Go at least .500 over the next two games and they'll pull into the midway point of the campaign right where they need to be on playoff pace. In fact, with the Panthers wetting the bed against the Fighting John Tortorella's of Columbus tonight, the Lightning technically pulled into playoff position tonight, but the competitive standings at this time of year are really less important than the points pacing.

Carter Verheaghe was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 7:40.

Mitchell Stephens was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 7:42. He was also 29% on 7 draws. A rare bad night in the circles for the rookie.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-28-19 Canadiens at Lightning

Lightning get away with murderously bad First Period.

MTL-4
TB-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 43 shots for the win.

First Period
2:08 MTL Kotkaniemi (4), (unassisted)
10:00 MTL Domi (10), (Suzuki, Petry)
19:01 TB Killorn (12), (McDonagh, Stamkos)

Second Period
1:34 TB Stamkos (14), (Hedman, Killorn)
4:56 TB Stephens (1), (Hedman, Vasilevskiy)
12:00 TB Killorn (13), (Cirelli, Hedman)
12:13 MTL Chiarot (5), (Gallagher, Danault)

Third Period
0:55 TB Cirelli (8), (Hedman)
18:32 MTL Weal (4), (Tatar, Gallagher)(PP)

Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn, and Steven Stamkos were the game's three stars.

Um... there's going to be a real temptation to look at the outcome of this game and the game control the team had the final half of this contest and feel a lot more content about tonight's effort. But, honestly, that was embarrassing, and if it weren't for some serious puck luck in the Second Period the Lightning could've very easily have gotten blown out of this game. It's inexcusable to come out in any game so flat that you get outshot 18-0 before you can even manage your first bid on goal in the First Period. The complete lack of effort by the Lightning in the first 15 minutes or so of this contest was just so wildly unacceptable that, had I been in Julien BriseBois' shoes, I'd be skipping demotions and firings and gone straight to summary executions. For a team that knows it's been mediocre to start this year and that has been strutting around telling reporters they're quietly confident about going on a streak to put that out on the ice tonight to start the game was an inconceivable display of gutlessness. And, frankly, no outcome is going to make me forgive what I saw. That's horrible. This team? This organization? The complacency that I see from Tampa Bay down to Syracuse right now? Who the blank to these guys think they are that they can come up that short in the effort department for a period or a game? Hell, with these teams behind the eight ball a bit, I shouldn't see that kind of loafing for a shift, let alone see another team run up a 18-0 advantage before firing a shot back in anger. It's pathetic. It's not good enough. Puck luck helped you slip the hangman's noose tonight? Cool. Your habits and your attitude still aren't good enough right now. Fix. Them.

Having managed to cheat death/dodge the bullet tonight, the Lightning still need 6 of the next 8 possible points to pull into the 40 game mark on playoff pace. They don't have a heck of a lot of margin for error right now, is my point.

Mitchell Stephens potted his first NHL goal on 3 shots in 8:43. He was also 40% on 5 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-23-19 Panthers at Lightning

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmagnificent.

FLA-1
TB-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. I didn't think he looked completely comfortable for the duration of the game, but he also faced so few quality chances that it hardly mattered.

First Period
0:41 TB Point (14), (Cernak, Kucherov)
15:06 TB Hedman (8), (Point, Palat)
18:03 TB Sergachev (6), (Palat)(PP)

Second Period
2:47 FLA Huberdeau (14), (Ekblad, Trocheck)(PP)
5:53 TB Killorn (11), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
9:52 TB Kucherov (13), (Point, Stamkos)(PP)

Third Period
18:05 TB Hedman (9), (Kucherov, Point)

Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos were the game's three stars.

Lord knows I've seen A LOT of Lightning/Panthers games going all the way back to the two teams' original confrontation at Thunderdome, and I don't think I've ever seen more comprehensive domination than what I saw tonight. Do the Lightning beat the Panthers? Like a drum? Often. Do they beat them up in the process too, though? Now that was something different and special. And, above all, the defensive effort was equally fantastic. I mean, point blank, they emasculated the Florida Panthers. They're back to what Phil Esposito originally tried to gloss them as: the Pussy Cats. There hasn't been a hell of a lot to love about a very mediocre season to date, but wow, tonight was a satisfying treat.

The Lightning pull to within one point of the Pussy Cats and Sabres with games in hand on both teams and those teams tied for third in the division. The Lightning also have some winnable division matchups coming up against Montreal, Buffalo, and Detroit coming up. Suffice it to say, if the team's going to make a push now's the time.

Carter Verheaghe had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 10:07.

Mitchell Stephens had 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:56. He was also 46% on 13 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-21-19 Lightning at Capitals

Lightning fall victim to the Espo Rule.

TB-1
WSH-3

Curtis McElhinney allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the loss. I'd say he deserved better.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
4:40 WSH Gudas (1), (Eller, Siegenthaler)

Third Period
10:00 TB Kucherov (12), (Point, Palat)
13:57 WSH Orlov (3), (Vrana, Kuznetsov)
17:37 WSH Dowd (3), (Wilson, Orlov)(SH)(EN)

That's a hugely frustrating game where, despite being grossly outpossesed through 40 minutes, McElhinney allowed the Lightning to retain contact. Then, in the Third Period, score effects kicked in and the Lightning tied the game and started getting power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 after Kucherov tied the game. But Espo's Rule states when a team fails to convert a 5-on-3, they often lose, and that's what happened to Tampa Bay tonight.

The opportunities squandered are just slowly putting Tampa Bay further and further behind the eight ball. With points that were clearly dropped late in the last two games, the team's now in a situation where they'll have to get 10 of the next 12 available points to be on minimum playoff pace again at the 40 game mark of the year. That seems horribly improbably right now considering the team is anti-clutch at the moment.

Mitchell Stephens had 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 7:33.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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