Peca and hope return.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory, in a one game cameo performance before heading back to Tampa Bay.
SYR Peca, (5) (McGinn, Tambellini), 1:04
BNG Hobbs, (2) (McCormick, Robinson), 5:39
SYR Koekkoek, (5) (Peca), 9:58
SYR Angelidis, (6) (DeAngelo, McGinn), 13:13
BNG Robinson, (13) (Kostka, Fraser), 9:28
Matthew Peca, Vasilevskiy, and Tye McGinn were the game's three stars. Peca, playing in his first game in a little over a month due to injury, had 1 goal and 1 assist in the First Period alone. I don't want to overplay Peca like he's the second coming, but he's the type of player that Syracuse doesn't have much of: a skilled playmaking centerman. They've got lots of grit, but not guys that are creators who put pressure on the opposing defense. That's why Peca's so important to Syracuse and why I have a sneaking suspicion their nosedive over the last month and Peca's injury were highly related.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Workmanlike effort keeps the Lightning on pace.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. His lone goal against was a little unlucky deflection on a point shot off a faceoff loss, otherwise this would've been a shutout. This was his sharpest performance in his past several starts, in my opinion.
12:38 TB Stamkos(26), (Callahan, Killorn)
19:55 TB Paquette(4), (unassisted)(PS)
4:06 AZ Martinook(8), (Stone, Doan)
Paquette's smooth finish on the penalty shot at the end of the Second Period was crucial to helping the Lightning fend off the smash and grab attempt by the Coyotes. Domingue played really well in net for Arizona and I think it's always tough for shooters when they have to go against a goaltender who catches righty. You tend to be hard wired to shoot for rebounds stick side from distance, especially coming off the right wing, and those shots get swallowed up easily by a wrong-handed netminder. Domingue had to be that good because the Lightning came out storming in the First Period and had a possession advantage they maintained for pretty much the entire game.
The victory caps this sixth 10-game segment of the season with a 4-game winning streak to put the Lightning at exactly the 12 points you ask for out of the set. So, while it looked more than dicey just a week ago, the Lightning remain exactly on the number they need to be on to make the playoffs comfortably. So, they advance on: 12 in 10, do it again.
Jonathan Marchessault played 12:54 and saw his 3-game point streak snapped.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:59. He looked so good tonight in the offensive zone, especially in the 4-on-4 situation. But, man alive, he looked so bad with the puck in his own end. He had a critical turnover in the Third Period passing blindly out of his corner that he's very fortunate Arizona didn't make more of. He's now 4 games shy of graduation from prospect status on the site, by my count.
Lightning manage to snatch their season from the jaws of an epic collapse.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 41 shots before stopping 4 of 5 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. I thought he was generally good on first shots in this game, but looked a little out of sorts on second opportunities. He made several key situational saves in Overtime to help keep the team alive. In the Shootout, I tend to have a lot of faith with Vasiy in net because he does tend to be so strong facing down first opportunities.
15:38 TB Hedman(6), (Brown)
17:52 TB Marchessault(7), (Killorn)
19:39 TB Stamkos(23), (Callahan, Sustr)
13:45 WPG Myers(6), (Peluso, Lowry)
2:00 TB Killorn(10), (Callahan)
6:01 WPG Shiefele(13), (Trouba)(PP)
7:33 WPG Ladd(14), (Armia)(SH)
12:44 WPG Ladd(15), (Schiefele)
14:40 WPG Perrault(9), (Wheeler, Byfuglien)
15:04 TB Kucherov(24), (unassisted)
TB- Callahan, Stamkos
The Lightning ultimately got the result they needed out of tonight's game, but they hardly cloaked themselves in glory doing so. True, they opportunistically built a pair of 3 goals leads, including the all-important 3 goal lead in the Third Period, despite being on the wrong end of a shot disparity all night. That should've been enough, even despite a very poor power play night that included a blown Second Period 5-on-3 and a blown Overtime 4-on-3 opportunity. Only bad teams blow 3 goals leads in the Third Period, right? Well, the Lightning very nearly lost the game allowing 4 straight before a great individual effort shooting off the rush by Kucherov may have saved the season. Lucky, lucky, lucky, too. Lucky Winnipeg looks completely disorganized defensively and lucky Ondrej Pavelec brought his bullfighting cape to the crease tonight. The Lightning defense, in particular, looked like the completely took their foot off the gas in the Third Period with some very weak work leading to a pair of goals where they were manhandled physically by the bigger Jets. Was that because the Jets started running at the Lightning after Anton Stralman nearly beheaded Bryan Little on a neutral zone hit late in the Second Period? Hard to say. I do know this: I really hope Stralman doesn't face discipline for that head shot because I do not want to watch this team attempt to win a game with both he and Garrison unavailable.
Bottom line: I didn't see anything tonight that developed a wellspring of trust in this team. They still look to be teetering on the edge of disaster.
If any Matt Carle apologists trumpet his +2 to you tonight, remind them of the fable of the blind squirrel. Callahan, on the other hand, had a pair of nice finishes in regulation and OT, as if trying to earn his way out of membership in the imaginary Dead Money Trio. We shall see.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:59. Winnipeg's a rough matchup for a rookie because of their combination of size/speed. He didn't make any huge mistakes, but he also didn't get the amount of open ice he gets against other teams to utilize his skating ability. Mind you, had the Lightning not decided to implode in the Third Period, there might've been a lot of good developmental garbage time for Slater to eat up, but it was not to be. Lost opportunities.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 in 9:03. Winnipeg's a really bad matchup for Nikita. That's all I'll say.
Hard luck loss for Vasiy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the loss. Given the number of goals Syracuse has been allowing lately, that might be considered a Herculean effort.
BNG Flanagan, (5) (Bailey, Stortini), 16:35 (PP)
BNG Robinson, (10) (Schneider, Fraser), 19:37 (EN/SH)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
Note that Anthony DeAngelo was a scratch for a third straight game. Evidently, someone's been naughty.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Costly clunker in Canada's capital.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He wasn't at fault for the L, but his softie in the Second Period essentially ended the game by allowing Ottawa to build the 3 goal lead.
5:23 OTT Smith (11), (Stone)
16:51 OTT Prince (3), (unassisted)
17:25 TB Brown (6), (Coburn, Callahan)
4:41 OTT Stone (15), (Pageau, Zibanejad)(PP)
10:46 OTT Stone (16), (Ceci, Pageau)
15:22 OTT Pageau (13), (unassisted)
The Lightning came out flat tonight and never, ever got their legs underneath them. They were consistently beaten to loose pucks and they turned over the puck far too much. They deserved to be run out of the rink tonight, and they eventually were. When you fail to respect the game and your opponent, this is the end result. The bigger problem, though, is Jason Garrison missed the last two periods of the game with a lower body injury. Short of Ben Bishop getting injured, an injury to one of the team's top-four defensemen is one of the losses the team simply doesn't have the depth to cope with. It's pretty clear that the team doesn't have faith in Matt Carle anymore and they shouldn't have faith in Sustr and Nesterov moving up in minutes from the niches they're in, either. At a certain point, I really hope they start getting Slater Koekkoek more NHL experience for just this type of problem. I'd hate this to happen in the playoffs and Slater still be completely wet behind the ears.
Lightning winning streak snapped in front of "full house" in Sunrise.
8:50 FLA Huberdeau (8), (Barkov, Ekblad)
12:36 FLA Bjugstad (9), (Huberdeau)(PP)
15:56 FLA Smith (15), (unassisted)
17:33 FLA Trocheck (13), (Shaw, Jokinen)
5:39 TB Hedman (4), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
15:52 FLA Campbell (4), (Bjugstad, Jagr)(EN)
18:31 TB Brown (4), (Boyle)
The Lightning were probably due for a little stock correction, and unfortunately it came tonight in a pretty big divisional game. Obviously, things came off the rails in the Second Period, compounded by some good puck luck for the Panthers that ultimately doomed the whole endeavor. Burn the tape, I say. The big thing is to not allow your loss after a long winning streak to balloon into a losing streak the way Chicago did when they went down to Sunrise last night. Get the focus and jump back and move on.
So with that said, rather than lambaste the team, I'll take this opportunity to have a little fun with the Florida Panthers organization. You see, the Panthers announced a sell out tonight... but anyone with two eyeballs saw a half empty arena. Yes, with a Saturday night contest with the Panthers in first place facing off against the team in second in the Atlantic Division and a playoff atmosphere on the ice, Panther Nation, stayed home. Mind you, Panther Nation is a lot like the Lock Ness monster and the sasquatch, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised they were difficult to see through the forest of empty red seats. I remain amazed that market still has a franchise given that it's even more deserving of a relocation dirt nap than Atlanta was, at this stage, but I digress. The really amazing thing to me is that the Panthers broadcast team of "Goldie" and "Peanut Butter" Potvin decided to crow at length about the Panthers winning in front of this amazing "full house" in Sunrise. Baghdad Bob would've been proud.
Gentlemen, if I may...
When Kenny Rogers, as Brady Hawkes in The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues, had 3 aces and 2 kings, THAT was a full house.
When President Obama gave his State of the Union address before the entire Legislative Branch of the United States government and numerous other invited dignitaries and guests, THAT was a full House.
When Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos raised three adorable young girls (two out of the three, anyway) in a house in San Francisco that there's no way in hell they could plausibly afford, THAT was a TV show called Full House.
STOP LYING and self-aggrandizing about how you had a sell out and played your game in front of a bristling, bustling "full house." We all know better. That's just SO Panthers. You win back-to-back home games against last year's Cup finalists, which should be your crowning moment of glory (supplanting your near annual trip to the front row of tables at the June draft) and what do you do? Put on the clown shoes... again. I suppose at least this time you didn't reach for the opaque plexiglass. Silver linings.
Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 15:10. It seemed like Cooper was trying to get him out with the Filppula line in front of him as a security blanket defensively, but that line got run roughshod over them tonight and therefore Nesterov was spending too much of the night on the run in his own zone. He doesn't excel with a guy on his back in his own end. He did, at least, draw a penalty with a good individual effort of his own on a rush in the First Period, so there's that.
Lightning win 80's throwback night at Amalie.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the victory. Two short side goals and a whole lot of rebounds handed out. This was a rough outing for Vasilevskiy, and the silver lining is the team managed to find a way to pull it out for him anyway. That hasn't happened much for Lightning goaltenders this season, so the role reversal was a nice change of pace.
3:57 TB Nesterov (3), (Killorn, Sustr)
5:25 EDM Kassian (1), (Pakarinen)
16:57 TB Kucherov (19), (Johnson, Killorn)
19:26 EDM Letestu (7), (Nurse)(SH)
6:09 TB Palat (4), (Namestnikov, Stamkos)
17:12 TB Namestnikov (10), (Palat, Stamkos)
2:10 EDM Draisaitl (11), (Hall, Kassian)
4:29 EDM Pakarinen (4), (unassisted)
7:42 TB Boyle (9), (Coburn, Brown)(SH)
19:33 TB Killorn (8), (Kucherov)(EN)
So, now that they've re-found their goal scoring groove, the Lightning got away with a night of pond hockey against Edmonton. That won't please Jon Cooper. Too many turnovers. Too many odd man rushes. Too many plays that weren't situationally smart, especially early in the Third Period. And, it was all compounded by some subpar goaltending. Maybe it's fitting that Edmonton was the opponent in a game that took a definite 1980's feel in the style department. I'm not inclined to freak out about it, because the Lightning haven't played many games this wide open all year, but they do need to get back to a responsible mindset with a beast like Chicago coming to town... because 6 is a fluke, 7 is a streak.
The good news: the Palat/Namestnikov/Stamkos line is the truth, and Kucherov is starting to pull Johnson and Killorn along with him to build a second, potent scoring line. The Lightning never had a second scoring line last season despite leading the league in goals. If they can piece two together down the stretch and into a presumptive playoff run, they'll be that much more dangerous in the postseason. And, if they ever find anything approaching consistency on the power play, well, that's the stuff of dreams and legends, isn't it?
Advancing to 6-0-0 in this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning now have 4 games to pay down/off their 6 point season deficit and get on firm pace to make the playoffs. There's still a lot of work to do, but even going .500 the next 4 games would put the Lightning in considerably better shape than they were after the stinker they laid in Calgary just a couple of weeks ago. Also, with the win, the Lightning have pulled to within 3 points of idle Florida for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with another head-to-head matchup between the two clubs coming up in 4 days.
"But Pete, don't you tell us to ignore the standings and keep an eye on the segment goals?" Yes, yes I do. But, I'm willing to forego that discipline on this one occasion because I really hate the Panthers with the intense burning heat of about 1,000 exploding suns and it would bring me infinite joy to pass them like a road cone on the way to the playoffs while they're still in the haze of the false euphoria of their precious little turn-of-the-year winning streak.
Bring forth the Governor's Cup and I shall use it as a chalice to hold the bitter tears of Panther fan(s), to be garnished by their broken dreams (and a lime)!
Nikita Nesterov had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 17:08. Nesterov certainly looked like he was in his element playing in a game this wide open. He really appeared to savor it.
4 is a fluke. 5 is a streak.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 40 shots for the OT victory. It was a mixed bag for Vasilevskiy, mostly on the positive side. He showed off his athleticism and ability to read the play on several occasions, with several timely saves. On the other hand, he had one or two short side goals he probably regrets a little. Still, he was a factor in a night where the Lightning were outshot 40-25, for sure.
1:51 TB Namestnikov (7), (Stamkos, Nesterov)
10:37 PIT Letang (6), (Crosby, Hornqvist)
8:12 TB Filppula (6), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
10:47 TB Namestnikov (8), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
14:23 PIT Hornqvist (10), (Malkin, Letang)(PP)
10:13 PIT Daley (2), (Malkin, Kessel)
13:48 PIT Kunitz (7), (Maatta, Hornqvist)
15:21 TB Stralman (5), (Filppula, Paquette)
2:11 TB Namestnikov (9), (Kucherov)
Vladislav Namestnikov and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars. Namestnikov's selection was obvious, as he had his first NHL hat trick. Filppula had a 3 point night as he continues to try to revive his season after looking comatose most of the first half of the season.
Interesting game. Entertaining for the casual fan. Less so for the serious fan who cares about limiting chances and goals against. The Lightning did a really good job of fending off the curse of coming out flat the first night off a road trip. They jumped all over Pittsburgh and got the early 1-0 goal. They unfortunately couldn't press it to 2-0 and ultimately lost that early momentum when they got in the box and eventually the Penguins equalized. The Lightning built a 3-1 lead in the Second Period on a string of undisciplined penalties by the Pens, but failed to get the knockout punch to go up 3 goals, which they very nearly paid the price for. The Pens owned most of the rest of the game, eventually storming back to take a 4-3 lead before Anton Stralman bailed the team out with a strong individual play on a spinorama backhand goal to equalize and get the game to Overtime. In an evenly played overtime, the Lightning got some puck luck with a Namestnikov whack on a Kucherov rebound going in off Hornqvist's stick. I'll take it, even though there will be about a million defensive coaching points for Cooper to drive home in video sessions after this one.
For the first time this year, the Lightning finally got one of these games it'd be really nice to have with a view toward having a big 10-game segment of the year to make up ground. They've been decent at getting points early in the 10-game sets, but always seem to struggle a bit to get that next win or two quickly and set themselves up to have a good 14-16 point segment. With 8 points already and 6 games left to play, they're in excellent shape to have one of those big segments and make a serious dent in their 6 point season deficit and get on a more comfortable pace to make the playoffs. Getting a 5th straight win would be another one it'd be really nice to have. And, with two games against division-leading Florida coming up in the next 8 days, the Lightning have a chance to not only get on more solid footing, but they could also interject themselves in the division title race all of a sudden.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and 2 penalty minutes with 1 hit in 9:09. Like you would expect from Nesterov, he got in trouble when the Pens made him play more in his own zone. When his 5-man unit has the possession advantage, he's a huge asset. When the rink tilts, be afraid.
Lightning pull another one out on this western swing.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the OT victory. He didn't have a ton of work but made a small handful of timely saves. I'm also willing to bet part of the reason Vancouver missed the net on a few of their chances is that Vasilevskiy's size and positioning make a shooter cut it a little too fine at times.
3:41 TB Killorn (7), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)
15:24 VAN Baertschi (7), (Horvat, Weber)(PP)
12:20 TB Filppula (5), (Stralman, Callahan)
17:10 VAN Horvat (6), (Hutton, Biega)
3:51 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Stralman)
Thankfully, the ending of this game had some flair to it, because the bulk of this game was as boring as the previous two games on this road trip. The Lightning came out with a lot more energy in this contest and deserved the early 1-0 lead, but got in the box and eventually forfeited momentum and the lead before heading to First Intermission. The game really devolved into a defensive struggle in the Second Period with the Lightning squandering several PP opportunities in the middle frame before finally breaking through just after a PP in the Third Period when a Filppula centering feed banked in off of Edler's skate. It's another lucky goal, true. But, considering the Lightning did outshoot Vancouver 17-5 in that Third Period, it's the kind of puck luck you get when you're waylaying a team in possession. So, I won't poo poo that goal. Unfortunately, Bo Horvat had pretty perfect placement on a shot/pass off the rush late in the game to equalize, and this one ended up in Overtime.
The Lightning have been good in Overtime this year and with Vasilevskiy in net, I even like their chances in the Shootout, so I was optimistic heading out of regulation. Ironically, though, I think tonight was the Lightning's lousiest 3-on-3 session in a couple of months, and they were really lucky to get out of it with the second point. Vancouver missed the net on several glorious opportunities with a frequency that would make Victor Hedman blush, and that gave the Lightning the chance to end it on a Kucherov breakaway sprung by a good stretch pass by Vladislav Namestnikov.
You're going to see a lot of deceptively positive stuff about the Lightning climbing back into the second Wild Card spot with the win tonight. I really hope the team doesn't actually think they've made it all the way back, though, because they're still in a Grand Canyon sized hole and they still have no margin for error. Let's put it this way: to be on target at 60 points in our 12-in-10 model by the end of this 5th 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning would have to win 7 of their next 8. So please, let's pump the brakes on any celebrations because there's still a ton of work to be done and this team still is not playing anywhere close to their best hockey. You can be happy, though, that winning a couple in a row probably forestalls any thoughts of an early sell off by the Lightning. Mind you, I doubt Yzerman would act that rashly even with the pressure of the Stamkos and Drouin situations upon him.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 hits in 15:18.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 32 shots before stopping 3 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Andrei didn't have a lot of work early and then really stepped in it on the puckhandling mistake that led to Minnesota's first goal. He looked shaky after that goal but got much, much stronger as the game progressed. And, in the Shootout, there's simply a different vibe with Vasiy in the crease. I'm going to make a bold suggestion to Jon Cooper: make Vasiy your designated SO goaltender from here on out regardless if Bishop is in net for OT. The fact of the matter is Bishop's five hole is a soul-destroying liability in the SO, whereas Vasiy's technique and newness is a big-time strategic advantage. I would use it, because with him in net you may only need to score 1 at the other end to get the second point.
11:40 TB Filppula (4), (Killorn, Stamkos)
15:39 MIN Coyle (10), (unassisted)
1:03 TB Kucherov (14), (Palat, Stralman)
17:21 MIN Spurgeon (6), (Coyle, Niederreiter)
Vasilevskiy and Victor Hedman were the game's first and third stars.
The first 40 minutes of this game were the closest to real Tampa Bay Lightning hockey we've seen all year. Finally at full strength with Palat returning to the lineup and backs squarely against the wall, they dominated the first two frames in all aspects of the game and should've been up 2-0 except for the Vasilevskiy puckhandling gaffe. It's frustrating to me the Lightning had to be this close to standings death to finally display this level of urgency, but at least it finally came out of them tonight. Very key: they HAVE to play with that same level of urgency in Calgary to start their road trip or nothing they did tonight will matter an iota anyway.
The Third Period was a case of a team simply not handling the pressure of a one goal lead well. Paquette started it off by taking a bad tripping call and they were back on their heels almost the entire period thereafter. Vasilevskiy made some dazzling saves and got aided by a video review challenge that went Cooper's way, but in the end they just sagged way too much to possibly preserve that lead and they were lucky not to lose the game in regulation.
3-on-3 OT continues to be a strength for the Lightning, in my opinion. After the jail break of their first couple of 3-on-3's of the season, they've figured out the tactical game of managing possession and wearing down an opponent to free up chances. Hedman could've easily won it with a dazzling move that was only denied by a (lucky) stop by Dubnyk with the paddle of the stick. They had the momentum coming out of OT, and with Vasiy in net, Callahan got the forehand deke stash the team needed to get that crucial second point.
So here's where we're at with 1 game left to go in Segment Four of the season nearing the halfway point of the campaign: 11 points in the last 9 games. The next contest against Calgary will be the margin. Win and they have their best segment of the year and cut their overall season deficit to 4 points. Lose and they have their second failed segment and the deficit goes up to 6 points. You don't want to have to play .675 hockey the rest of the way to make the playoffs comfortably. To put it in perspective, .675 hockey is what Dallas has played to stake their club to the best record in the Western Conference in their first 40 games. That's just a bridge too far to expect a team to turn on a light switch and do that the second half of the year. .650 hockey is still a hellacious clip, mind you, but you're not putting yourself in a position where you have to have one of the top two records in your conference just to make it in without sweating bullets. And, quite frankly, at a certain point the team just needs to make the psychological break through where they're doing more than just treading water and they're starting to make a charge in the standings.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 hits in 9:33. With Drouin heading down to Syracuse, Marchessault's spot on the team seems secure from here on out. He's a good 19 games from graduation from prospect status on the site, but from the looks of it he'll be racing Nesterov the rest of the way to become the next Bolt Prospects Alumni.