NHL Game Night: 12-2-17 Sharks at Lightning

Lightning get a measure of redemption after the Boston debacle.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. I honestly thought Vasiy wasn't as sharp as he normally was tonight. He got the benefit of a few posts and didn't have the greatest rebound control, but 85-90% Vasilevskiy's still good enough to get you wins if you play well in front of him, and that was the case tonight.

First Period
16:58 SJ Goodrow (1), (O'Regan, Carpenter)

Second Period
0:27 TB Kucherov (18), (Palat, Point)

Third Period
1:39 TB Johnson (5), (Palat, Sergachev)(PP)
5:49 TB Johnson (6), (unassisted)
11:01 TB Conacher (2), (Killorn, Gourde)
13:37 SJ Braun (1), (O'Regan)
15:37 TB Kucherov (19), (unassisted)

Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Great response by the Lightning tonight after sleepwalking their way through too much of the game in Boston. They used their speed to overwhelm San Jose for all 60 minutes en route to posting a 43-27 shot advantage and a 5-2 win. San Jose's goaltender, Martin Jones, was far better than in his last outing against the Lightning and managed to hold the Sharks in the game for 40 minutes, but the Lightning just had too much possession and eventually wore out the slower Sharks, with odd man rushes being the outcome as their defense crumbled in the final frame.

Tyler Johnson potted two goals on a long shoot in from Ondrej Palat off the corner boards timed to let Johnson use his speed to get the loose puck in front of the net for a jam in goal and on a rebound off a Victor Hedman scramble. The common thread in the two goals: Johnson playing a simpler game that is tailored to his strengths. I think his struggles over the past couple of years stem partly from him trying to play a style of game that isn't him. When you play with guys like Palat and Kucherov for so long, I think it's easy to get caught up and think you're some kind of dangling, creative playmaker with amazing handles. That's not Johnson. Johnson's gifts are that he has blazing speed and a great shot. That's two pretty boffo gifts if you're going to pick two out of the hockey hat, and that's why it's been frustrating to see Johnson pass out of shot opportunities or try to make an extra stickhandling move or toe drag for much of this season. When he plays a north-south, shoot-first style of game, he's a good NHL scoring line player. His speed scares the hell out of defenders and creates space for his linemates and his shot is heavy and hard to control. So, if he keeps playing the style he played tonight, the results will follow.

The underrated part of tonight's game was the disgustingly good passes by Palat on Johnson and Kucherov's first goals. Have mercy.

I'll be the guy to put some negative sauce out there: Braun's goal came off one of many faceoff losses. The Lightning only lost the faceoff battle tonight by a modest 49-51 margin, but the team is 28th out of 31 teams in faceoffs. It's not as big a deal right now, but it will be come playoff time. I still would contend to you the Lightning lost the Stanley Cup three years ago to Chicago largely because the Blackhawks were able to generate cheap possession and nullify the Lightning's athleticism advantage by winning a ton of offensive zone faceoffs. The fact that this hasn't been solved, along with the team's quixotic quest to find RHD seemingly since the day Dan Boyle dropped a skate on his wrist, might be the two most frustrating parts of being a Lightning fan over this last decade to decade and a half. This is a problem that the organization needs to remedy if the team is serious about winning a championship. I can't put it any more bluntly.

The Lightning's win tonight put them at 6 points after 6 games of this 10-game segment of the season. They still need 6 of a possible 8 points the rest of the way to clinch a successful segment and avoid dipping into their insurance points. Tough, but it looks a lot more do-able after tonight's effort.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:36. It was a quiet night for him, but a quiet night with 14+ minutes is a good thing. It shows he was steady and earning more shifts.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 1 blocked shot. He was also 57% on 7 draws. Still wish he'd get more shots for himself.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. I'd have to go back and look at his game logs, but I feel like that was a season high in ice time for Sergachev, and it came in a fairly quiet game for him. Again, that's a good thing. It means he was steady and earning those shifts, just like Koekkoek. Remember, it's really important for at least 2 of these 3 young prospect defensemen (Dotchin being the third) to develop into an ~18 minute a night player by the end of the regular season, thereby helping to regulate the minutes of older vets like Coburn and Girardi at more manageable levels. Tonight, on paper, was a welcome step toward that.

OK... I went back and checked, and indeed it's Sergachev's season high in ice time. It's only the second time so far he topped the 18 minute mark. Good on him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.