Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss.
WBS Kostopoulos, (7) (Sundqvist, Andersen), 6:20
WBS O'Neill, (4) (Mouillierat, Rust), 3:33
WBS Kuhnhackl, (6) (Simon), 5:19
Matthew Peca was the game's third star.
Syracuse actually outshot Wilke-Barre/Scranton 30-23 in the contest, but couldn't find the scoresheet.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Vasiy says, "LET THERE BE KITTENS!"
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 27 shots he faced for the shutout victory.
SYR Darcy, (2) (DeAngelo, Peca), 14:44 (PP)
SYR Walcott, (1) (Blujus, Broll), 7:46
SYR Blujus, (2) (Koekkoek, Peca), 2:38 (PP)
SYR McGinn, (6) (DeAngelo, Blujus), 18:11
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Character building victory for the weary Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the OT victory. None of his goals were brutally soft tonight, mind you, but you had goals resulting from rebound control in tight, sliding too far out of position to challenge a first shot, and another going through him under his arm. Point being: he can play better. And, for everyone who was ready to usher Ben Bishop out of town to anoint Vasilevskiy just a couple months ago: slow down.
2:59 TB Kucherov (12), (Namestnikov)
10:40 TOR Bozak (5), (van Riemsdyk, Parenteau)(PP)
18:03 TOR van Riemsdyk (9), (Bozak, Parenteau)
11:34 TOR Rielly (4), (Komarov)
19:24 TB Stralman (3), (Kucherov)
5:56 TB Blunden (1), (Gourde, Sustr)
6:32 TB Marchessault (4), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:28 TOR Winnik (3), (Polak, Spaling)
2:01 TB Namestnikov (6), (unassisted)
Vladislav Namestnikov was the game's first star. Well deserved because he was excellent from start to finish. He's now got double the goals of Valtteri Filppula and has edged ahead of Filppula in points despite playing fewer minutes. Oh, and one is +7 this year and the other is -9, too. I feel like Vladislav's clearly on the cusp of stardom and Filppula is borderline stealing money, which points to some difficult moves that Yzerman really needs to make happen.
Overall the game was 39 minutes of some of the worst hockey the Lightning have played all season followed by the kind of character-building moments that could allow the Lightning to come out a much better team by the end of the year if they can keep manufacturing points. The Lightning looked dead tired and flat as a pancake for most of the first two periods after playing on the tail end of a back-to-back and their 3rd game in 4 nights while also dealing with the clown show that is the Toronto media whenever Stamkos is in town. They looked dead late in the Second Period when the Toronto defense decided to revert to the norm and the Red Sea parted for Anton Stralman to cut the lead to 3-2. Game changing moment.
From that point on, the Lightning took control of the tenor of the game with two key strikes brought by fresh legs from the Syracuse Crunch. Toronto managed to get a seeing eye goal off a faceoff to salvage a point, but it's an absolutely amazing thing to see the Lightning athletically dominating a Toronto team late even after Toronto had a week off heading into this one. Namestnikov punctuated it by scorching past the Toronto 3-man unit to create his own breakaway and the game winning goal.
Bear in mind this is a Lightning team that has absolutely stunk at coming from behind in Third Periods the past couple of years. I haven't looked it up, but it feels like the Lightning have only won 3 or 4 games (including tonight) coming from behind in the Third Period the last 2 seasons, and they hadn't done it yet this year. They're learning how to win games when the goals don't come to them. They're learning how to win games when they're hurt. They're learning how to win games when they're tired. They're learning how to win games from behind. Sure, a lot of that education also came in the playoffs last year, but I want you to imagine what this graduate course in weathering adversity could lead to once Johnson, Palat, Drouin, Paquette, and all of Santa's other reindeer come off the IR. If I were the NHL, I'd be terrified if the Lightning can weather this storm and make the playoffs.
Jonathan Marchessault had a goal, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 17:13. He was really good tonight. Caught some bad luck with his stick breaking leading to the 2-on-1 that led to the Rielly goal, but he stuck to it and got the goal to go ahead 4-3 in the Third Period. Note, he now also has more goals than the previously mentioned Filppula.
Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 6:55. It's Gourde's birthday and his NHL debut, and it improved greatly once he got that interference call out of the way in his first or second shift in the league.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:45. He's still not where he was a year ago, and that's a little concerning.
Crunch show character in OT loss.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 38 shots for the OT loss.
SYR McGinn, (5) (Angelidis, Gourde), 4:51
TOR Brennan, (9) (Nylander, Panik), 15:00 (PP)
TOR Frattin, (5) (Carrick, Leipsic), 16:06
TOR Campbell, (7) (Leipsic, Arcobello), 17:16
SYR Taormina, (6) (Gourde, Richard), 3:02 (PP)
SYR Darcy, (1) (Erne, Vermin), 17:39
TOR Valiev, (2) (Kapanen), 2:21
Kind of like the Lightning up top, tonight the Crunch sought redemption against a stacked Marlies team that embarrassed them the last time the two teams met. And, like the Lightning, the Crunch proved they can compete against a top flight team. The fact they pulled out a point was the differing story line, and one that Tampa Bay can envy.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Vasiy can't stop the bleeding for Syracuse.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss in the first game of his conditioning stint with the Crunch.
ALB O'Brien, (3) (Tropp, Boucher), 14:36
ALB O'Brien, (4) (Tropp, Boucher), 15:04
SYR Tambellini, (10) (Taormina, Richard), 17:24 (PP)
ALB Burlon, (2) (Tropp), 7:38
Syracuse falls to .500 for the season and 6th in the 7 team North Division as a consequence of the defeat.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Soft goals and a dysfunctional power play.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 pretty brutal goals on 10 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 1 on 18 the rest of the way. 2 soft goals, 2 goal loss. Soft goals almost always tend to be the margin.
12:24 LA Andreoff (1), (Shore, Doughty)
0:27 TB Boyle (1), (Callahan)
0:39 LA McNabb (1), (Kopitar)
3:47 LA Lucic (1), (Carter, McNabb)
The Lightning came out flat the first 10 minutes of the game, but otherwise were respectable in this contest at even strength. They definitely generated enough chances, but LA has Jonathan Quick and the Lightning didn't get anywhere near that quality of goaltending to start the game.
Where the Lightning needed to help themselves, and didn't, was on an obscenely bad 0-for-6 night on the power play including completely squandering over a minute of 5-on-3 time. The whole unit is awful and I don't mean to pick on one guy, but Kucherov's got to come off the number one unit. He keeps passing up Grade A chances to shoot for telegraphed passes through the box that almost always get deflected or outright picked off. The guy who scored that scorcher of a shot on the rush against San Jose should not be this differential with the man advantage, but he is, and it's clearly in his head now. Mind you, I didn't like Palat in that spot on the number one unit either before he got hurt and the one guy I think could fix it (Drouin) isn't considered completely trustworthy by the coaching staff for his decision-making either. In any case, the other thing I'll say is that it might be time for Cooper to start to delegate the power play to an assistant to get a fresh approach and a fresh voice on the issue. The Lightning power play has been unwatchable since about the second month of LAST season, and they can no longer stay competitive being this inept.
The tough thing about losing this game is that it kind of makes Thursday's game against Ottawa a must-win. They're sitting at 10 points in this 10-game segment with 2 games left in it. 12's the minimum they need. You don't want to have to play Washington needing the 2 points just to not dig yourselves an even deeper hole in the standings. So, they must get that 2 points against Ottawa and hope they can get 1-2 points against the Caps to start to pay down that 5 point deficit they have overall for the season. That means they cannot, cannot, cannot, CANNOT, CANNOT, CANNOT come out flat on the first game home from a long road trip on Thursday against the Senators. Let me reiterate: the stakes are much larger than they appear on the surface. They CANNOT come out flat on Thursday on the first game back home from a long road trip.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 2 hits in 11:36. He had a good game. Got absolutely robbed by Quick on what looked like a sure goal, was feisty physically, and by-goodness he shot the puck. Decision time is upon us with regards to Marchessault's waiver status, and he's made the Lightning's decision really difficult over the past few weeks.
Joel Vermin had 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 8:53.
Lightning survive bizarre Third Period to go 2-0 on California roadie.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the win, but left the game in the Third Period after a (uncalled!) high stick by Hertl went into his mask. Reports are that Bishop has some redness but thankfully no cut, no damage to the eye, and no damage to the bone around the eye. Thank goodness, because he's playing at a really high level right now. Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 8 shots in relief to get the Lightning across the finish line.
2:19 TB Kucherov (7), (Hedman)
11:20 TB Condra (3), (Sustr, Brown)
13:35 SJ Tennyson (1), (Braun, Hertl)(PP)
16:44 TB Kucherov (8), (Stamkos)(PP)
3:01 TB Boyle (6), (Brown)
8:26 SJ Ward (10), (Burns, Pavelski)(PP)
14:32 SJ Burns (10), (unassisted)(PP)
This was the tale of a really good, opportunistic, smart road game played by the Tampa Bay Lightning up until the 8:13 mark of the Third Period when all hell broke loose. The Lightning came out on the First Period and really caught San Jose flat, and turned possession into a slick goal by Kucherov and then a greasy goal off Condra's skate to develop the 2-0 lead. San Jose came back in the Second Period but the Lightning used a 5-on-3 goal by Kucherov to maintain the 2 goal margin. Early in the Third Period, Boyle potted a rebound goal set up by the scoring speed of J.T. Brown and this thing looked like it was going to be elementary. Then a post whistle scrum mysteriously led to Hedman alone getting called for cross checking and San Jose quickly got a cheap PP goal to pull within 4-2. Then Bishop leaves the game after scrambling from his crease holding his eye. Then Killorn takes a boarding call leading to the Lightning margin being cut to 4-3. Then the Sharks nearly score at the buzzer thanks in part to uncalled interference on Joe Thornton. So, what should've been an easy win after building a 3-goal margin turned into a big ball of anxiety.
I liked using Stamkos on the PK. A lot.
The victory gives the Lightning 10 points in this 10-game segment of the season with 3 games left to go. The California trip is already a success, and if they can manufacture a win tomorrow night against the Kings, or any points, they'll be set up well to pay down their debt and get back closer to playoff position. So, securing the 2 points tonight what tremendously important.
Jonathan Marchessault was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 6:03. With all the penalty killing and the size the Sharks have, this wasn't a game that Jonathan ended up being used in a lot.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 8:48. Honestly, he's been quiet since coming back from Syracuse, and that's been a good thing. He's being efficient in his time that he does get on the ice.
Caps power play takes Tampa Bay to school.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the loss. I thought he showed a little rust early in the First Period but shook it off quickly and nearly got the Lightning to the Second Intermission with a chance to steal points.
7:09 WSH Ovechkin (12), (Chimera, Kuznetsov)(PP)
18:03 WSH Chimera (6), (Kuznetsov, Niskanen)(PP)
19:18 WSH Johansson (4), (Carlson, Schmidt)
5:16 WSH Oshie (6), (Backstrom, Carlson)(PP)
10:49 TB Boyle (5), (Callahan, Brown)
12:45 TB Hedman (2), (Namestnikov)
Tonight's game should be an object lesson on what an unstoppable weapon a potent power play can be. The Lightning actually weren't that bad at even strength in this game, but Washington completely outclassed the Lightning with the man advantage, creating 4-5 minute surges every time they got a power play, and goals, that tilted the game in their favor. Were I the coaching staff, I don't know that I'd show the team the tape of this game, but I'd set aside a good half a day to dissect the Caps power play and use it to fix the Lightning's.
Unlike the Lightning, who channel everything through Steven Stamkos in a way that often seems forced and telegraphed, the Caps create multiple pressure points away from Ovechkin's spot in the left wing circle that force PK's to lose their shape and lose Ovechkin, allowing him to drift to open ice for goal scoring chances. The Caps can do this because they have a lot of other high quality forwards (which the Lightning can match, both in terms of playmakers and trigger men) and quality power play point men (which is a personnel shortfall because the Lightning's only real scoring threat on D, Hedman, is only really good on the rush and isn't nearly as potent on the PP). The Lightning should at least start trying to work 2 and 3 man games from the right wing circle down with some of the skilled puckhandlers they have like Kucherov, Drouin, Namestnikov, and Palat, sprinkled in with shooters like Johnson. I think the Lightning have tried to do that, at times, but the difference is they don't ever threaten to actually score from those positions, and end up artificially forcing passes through the seam to Stamkos, which doesn't put Steven in a good position to score. The Lightning have to train the guys on the strong side of the ice to be more assertive and look for their own opportunities to score, allowing Stamkos the ability to drift to open ice and for passing lanes to develop more organically. Having a legit power play trigger man or two to add another set of pressure points would be ideal, but right now the Lightning don't have those guys and they need to continue to develop them or find them elsewhere. Put it another way: until the other 4 guys on the Lightning PP can threaten the other team's PK, they've got no reason not to completely overload on defending Stamkos.
Further complicating issues was the mysterious injury of Tyler Johnson, who skated one shift and was done. A Caps player jumped on Johnson's back/neck in the neutral zone early in the shift before Johnson eventually nearly scored off the rush near the end of that shift. He looked fine, but I wonder if the pop to his neck re-aggravated whatever happened when Johnson got elbowed in the head by Bolland against the Panthers. Either way, to lose one of your top two centers a whopping 2 minutes into the game was a heck of a blow to the Lightning, and contributed greatly to what ultimately occurred.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:58. He got a lot of garbage time ice time to go along with some good shifts early in the game, and I think he continues to build a case to stay with the team.
Joel Vermin was +1 with 2 hits in 9:46. His forechecking popped loose the puck that became Hedman's goal. He's not as far along as Marchessault, but he's done nothing to this point to invalidate himself as an NHL prospect.
Deeply unjust hockey gods banish Lightning to deep standings hole.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 19 shots for the loss. He looked to me to be very sharp despite limited shots again. Followed the puck really well. I can't fault the kid for a lucky goal that takes a double deflection to get past him.
19:39 FLA Ekblad (4), (Huberdeau, Jagr)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
Vintage early '00's Panthers hockey. Give up a zillion shots with a collapsing defense and inept offense. Hope Luongo can keep you in the game and smash and grab it at the end. And they did. Disgusting. The Lightning deserved all 4 points from the home-and-home. They ended up getting 1.
On a side note, when is the NHL going to just move that franchise down there? It's bad enough to hold game's in front of a bristling crowd of hundreds, but tonight the ice conditions were as bad as I've seen ever. It looked like the game was being played with a racqetball, to the extend that you had even the most basic puckhandling and passing exercises eluded both teams. It was borderline unwatchable at times, and the league should be embarrassed in that product. If you're not going to make the Panthers invest in the infrastructure to at least make the rink playable the way Tampa Bay has, just quit playing footsie and move them to Quebec City already.
The hole is 5 points. The Lightning got 7 out of the target minimum of 12 points in that 10 game segment of the season. They'll be spending the bulk of the rest of this season trying to climb out of that hole. How bad is it? The Lightning could play at a .700 clip from here on out and it would take them 25 games to catch up with comfortable playoff pace. It's not good. That's why the injustice of these past two games against the Panthers hurts so much. Things went straight to hell in a handbasket, standings-wise, with those two defeats.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:16. Made some decent plays in limited ice time.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 shots and 2 hits in 9:11. He rung post on one of the best chances the Lightning had in the game and was fairly active in the offensive zone in his limited ice time. That might've been his best game with the Lightning to date, in fact.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the loss. The third goal was a hugely deflating softie that went in off of his glove. For everyone who has been ready to ship Bishop out of town at the earliest convenience and make Vasiy the guy, pump the breaks. The kid's 21, and he is mortal. There will be rough patches that he needs to develop through.
5:57 BUF Eichel (6), (Franson)(PP)
0:52 TB Stamkos (8), (Kucherov)(PP)
1:40 BUF Franson (1), (Eichel, Ennis)
5:24 BUF Foligno (1), (Legwand, Deslauriers)
19:24 BUF Ristolainen (4), (Johnson)(EN)
Ryan Callahan was the game's second star.
I could sit here and tell you the Lightning outshot the Sabres, and they did. I could tell you they grossly outchanced the Sabres in the last 40 minutes of the game, and they did. There's not any comfort in that, because the Lightning have such a significant talent advantage on the Sabres that they should be outshooting and outchancing them. Ultimately, this comes down to something more fundamental than talent and tactics. At this point, it's looking more and more like the Lightning emotionally and mentally don't have the will. The Sabres wanted this game more. They've wanted it more in all four games this season and have routinely jumped on the Lightning in every first period where Tampa Bay often looked flat as a pancake. The difference is that they got the payoff tonight.
So now the Lightning need to ask themselves if they have the will to turn this around. It's as simple as that. They need to outwork opponents. Absent that, they're not going to make the odd man rushes and the lucky breaks they need to get out of this slump. In retrospect, I wish Yzerman had made more than one small tweak to the roster to get more fresh, hungry blood onto the roster, but that's water under the bridge now. Short of a tweak like bringing up Koekkoek, the answers will have to come from inside that room, and it'll have to start with that fundamental question. Do you want it more than the other team? And if they can't convincingly answer that in the affirmative, they're screwed.
It's not a question anymore of whether the team is in trouble. They'll finish this segment in the red by at least 2 points based on our old 12 in 10 rule. It's only a question of how deep the hole will be. Note that this is the first time, on a season-wide basis, the Lightning have been behind schedule in over 2 years. They've missed segment targets about 4 times in the previous two seasons, but they've always had insurance points banked to cover the damage. This is uncharted and dangerous waters.