NHL Game Night: 12-31-18 Lightning at Ducks

Lightning outlast clutch-n-grab Ducks to complete 2018.

TB-2
ANA-1 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 36 shots to win a pretty pitched goaltending duel with Gibson at the other end.

First Period
6:06 TB Kucherov (19), (Cernak, Point)
17:08 ANA Ritchie (5), (Kase, Mahura)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
0:35 TB Point (23), (Kucherov, Hedman)

Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.

That win wasn't a Picasso, but after a couple of ridiculous wide open games, there were some things to build on in tonight's win. The opening frame was a troubling thing to watch, with the Lightning's passing a shambolic mess. But, from the midway point of the game on, I thought the Lightning's speed advantage started to turn the run of play in Tampa Bay's favor as they started winning the 50/50 puck battles and they started generating more and better scoring chances than the Ducks. By the time OT rolled around, it was advantage Lightning because their speed and skill superiority was on full display in the 3-on-3. It's not just that Tampa Bay ran the Ducks off the ice in 35 seconds in OT... it's that the Ducks never once possessed the puck in OT. Not once. Tampa Bay won the faceoff. Controlled it. Took Anaheim for a skate. Opened them up, and then surgically completed the deal with a laser stretch pass that gave Point the half step he needed for the partial breakaway goal. Clinical. Cold blooded.

May I just also say how farcical Western Conference hockey is? It feels like every time the Lightning jump in a plane west they might as well be hopping into a time machine back to the early 90's with the amount of obstruction that goes uncalled out there. It's like the two conferences are playing in different leagues by different rule books, like the MLB. Heck, why not just reinstate the red line over there in the Western Conference? Might as well. The AL has the DH in baseball. The Western Conference showcases the finest in skill-deficient lumberjack hockey. What's even funnier is that they think it's some kind of virtue to play that style. I shake my head.

The Lightning complete the fourth 10-game segment of the campaign with 64 points, putting them a full 16 points ahead of the minimum pace they'd need to make the postseason. Put another way: The Lightning probably need just 32 of a possible 84 points the rest of the way to make the playoffs (.381 hockey). The hellacious pace this team has put together in the first half have left them in an enviable position where they can spend the second half perfecting their craft, keeping veteran players fresh, and possibly even working in some additional reinforcements from Syracuse if they decide to do some diagnostic cups of coffee on some youngsters. They've got that house money to play with from hereon out.

Mathieu Joseph was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:06. In the Third Period, it felt like his game started to turn the corner after a rough first 5 periods of hockey since returning from injury.

Anthony Cirelli had a blocked shot in 17:13 and he was 53% on 15 draws.

Adam Erne had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:40. I would've hoped he could string two nice impactful games back-to-back after starring down the stretch of the Montreal win, but he wasn't quite threatening in this contest.

Erik Cernak had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:51. Yet another strong performance for Cernak.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.