NHL Game Night: 1-25-14 Avalanche at Lightning

Did Tyler Johnson just take the lead in the Calder Trophy race?

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Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. He made one key stop in the Third Period when the Lightning were clinging to their 1 goal lead, and the team just pulled away from there. That's what good goaltenders do.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
7:15 TB Johnson (14), (Hedman, Palat)
8:48 TB Barberio (3), (Filppula, Killorn)
18:04 TB Filppula (19), (Brown, Kucherov)
18:33 COL Mitchell (5), (Landeskog, Barrie)
19:03 COL Barrie (6), (MacKinnon, Parenteau)

Third Period
14:38 TB Johnson (15), (St Louis, Hedman)
16:55 TB Johnson (16), (Hedman, Salo)

Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars. Much love to the Tampa media for their tip of the hat to Ondrej, who did not get enough credit on the SunSports broadcast for the play he made to create the game opening goal. People, just because Dr. Drej creeps to mic like a phantom does not mean you should treat his contributions as invisible.

Coming into this game, the NHL was just starting to warm up to the idea of Tyler Johnson being a legitimate foil to Nathan MacKinnon in the race for the Calder Trophy. Johnson was second in rookie scoring. MacKinnon was first. And, it didn't hurt that the two were about to play head-to-head, so a little manufactured heat was supplied. Now? Now there's real heat, because Johnson just whipped MacKinnon in the head-to-head with a hat trick. That's the kind of thing that rarely happens that cleanly in team sports and that you cannot ignore. Johnson just ran roughshod over MacKinnon and Colorado, and it's impossible now to argue he's not a serious Calder Trophy contender. In fact, he probably just edged out to a little lead.

That was meat and potatoes Lightning hockey, overall. Very north-south. Rebound goals. Tip in goals. Greasy goals off of deflections. It's the kind of win Jon Cooper's going to point to and say, "See, there? You don't have to tie a ribbon around everything to score 5." It's a beautiful thing. Beating the team Len Barrie's son plays for is also a beautiful thing. Dan Boyle and every Lightning fan around the world approve of the outcome.

Mark Barberio had a goal and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 15:32. It was one of those mixed bag games from Barberio. Offensively he was good, earning his goal off a shot that pinged in off an Avs defender's leg. Defensively, well, the PK bailed him out after he got beat like a drum off the wall and had to haul a man down. I look forward to the day those kind of mistakes don't happen, because it'll mean more ice time for Barberio and more opportunities for him to get on the offensive side of the puck, where he's useful and good.

J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 12:46. The stat line doesn't tell the tale. His line was en fuego tonight. He nearly completed a nifty deke for a goal in the First Period and nearly set up Valtterri Filppula for a breakaway on a heads up pass in the Third Period. As it was, his awareness led to Filppula's goal in the Second Period, with Brown hitting Filppula streaking off the bench for a one-on-one chance on the netminder.

Nikita Kucherov had a helper and was +1 in 13:45. How badly did he want to score tonight to get a measure of revenge on Patrick Roy, who traded him when the two were with Quebec in the QMJHL. Again, the stats don't tell the tale. Kucherov had 5 missed shots and one of his shots blocked. He just couldn't find the range, but he was creating deadly scoring chances all night. He just barely missed the icing on the cake goal late in the Third Period on a power play where he, frankly, just decided to take over the game. There was steam coming out of his ears by the end of the shift he wanted it so bad. I predict more classic confrontations against Roy down the road for Kucherov and the Lightning. By the way, as a side note, Roy may very well have shot himself in the foot inserting Varlamov in the Third Period, and I wonder if he regrets that decision considering his team had pulled within 1 goal already.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.