Definitive proof the Tampa Bay Lightning is for real.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. Bishop's biggest contribution tonight was heading up one of the greatest penalty killing sequences for the Lightning in recent memory where they killed, cumulatively, 7 minutes in penalties including nearly 40 seconds of 5-on-3 in the Second Period. The penalty killers were great in limiting the quality of chances allowed to Detroit, and Bishop made sure the 9 shots that got through were all denied.
3:51 DET Zetterberg (9), (unassisted)
10:11 TB Malone (2), (Carle, Thompson)
12:50 TB Stamkos (14), (Hedman)
15:48 DET Zetterberg (10), (DeKeyser)
3:51 TB Purcell (5), (Panik)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.
Winning on the road against a top divisional opponent was impressive enough. But, more than that, it should be noted how the Lightning won this game. They were clearly the better of the two teams tonight. It wasn't close. Shots were 34-27 Lightning and the chances were even more lopsided than that. Only Jimmy Howard kept this from being a 4-2 or 5-2 Lightning squash in regulation. They just looked, athletically, to be a cut above Detroit. Think about that! They were the faster team. They were the more skilled team. And, despite the heroics of Howard (who was outstanding), the Lightning eventually got the result. Kudos to motivational genius Jon Cooper for getting these young men to shake off that disgusting effort in the Edmonton game and get them ready to roll tonight in Detroit.
6 games into this second 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning already have 10 points. Remember, the key is to get at least 12 points out of each 10 game segment. The Lightning are 2 shy of that with 4 games left to play in the set.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:44. It might be too early to declare him, unequivocally, a top-two pair NHL defenseman, but the evidence is strongly leaning that way. Tonight, I'd like to praise Radko's work on the second PP unit. He hasn't really had that role prominently represented in his experience portfolio in the past, but he looks pretty darn good in it. When you add that in along with everything else that he's accomplishing, it all adds up to a guy who is playing like a stud NHL blue liner.
Mark Barberio had 1 blocked shot in 7:04. I would say Barberio "stunk" tonight, but I fear the attorneys for the word "stunk" would sue me for libel. Early in the game, he was his typical Barberio self getting pushed out of the way with minimal effort along the wall on a 1-on-1 puck battle that led to a long Wings foray in the offensive zone. Later, Barberio mishandled a d-to-d pass that nearly resulted in a Wings 2-on-1 were it not for a Herculean back check by Barberio's teammates. And, then, Barberio made one of the worst "pivots" (if you can call it that) you'll ever see, nailing the double lutz (and looking like a klutz) while Justin Abdelkader easily went straight past him and in on Bishop for a breakaway. Barberio leads a charmed life that none of those three mistakes led to goals, but I don't think I saw Mark on the ice after that. Dumpster fire. Much like the opener against Boston, Barberio was again a dumpster fire tonight. There's no way to sugar coat it.
Tyler Johnson had 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 18:06 and was 40% on draws. He did EVERYTHING tonight you could want offensive EXCEPT bury a goal. He used his speed to generate a breakaway. He was a factor in odd man rushes. He picked off an errant Wings pass and generated another golden chance late in the Third Period. He looked dynamic offensively.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots and 1 hit in 17:49. This much I know about Alex Killorn: he never cheats you on effort on a forecheck, does he?
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot and 2 hits in 17:32. Though not to quite the same extent as Johnson, Palat also did darned near everything you would want him to do tonight EXCEPT bury that key goal. He had a great chance where he beat a Wings defender around the corner and muscled his way to the front of the cage only to be robbed by an amazing Howard save and he missed a one-timer chance late in the Third Period that was nearly the insurance goal the Lightning were looking for to seal the game in regulation.
Andrej Sustr had 2 penalty minutes (on a pretty bogus, ticky tack call), 1 shot, and 2 hits in 12:47. He, rightfully, sat a couple of games after getting a little too big for his britches offensively the last time he was in the lineup. Tonight, he was back to the quality he had been showing prior to that game. There's a clear, obvious difference in poise between Sustr and Barberio. Crystal clear.
Richard Panik had a helper (THE helper) and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:43. Tonight might've been his best game in a Lightning uniform. My biggest critique of Panik so far this season is that he's seemingly had a hole in his stick and hasn't been able to be as strong on the puck as I would expect Richard to be. He was extremely strong on the puck in the First Period tonight, didn't see much ice time in the Second Period because of all the penalties in that frame, started to come on with the rest of the kid line in the Third. And, then, he made it happen in Overtime. He swooped in on an unsuspecting Wings defender. Ripped the puck off his stick cleanly. Immediately wheeled the puck in front directly onto Teddy Purcell's tape. Game. Set. Match. Panik attack! I thought Panik played really well tonight. I thought Brett Connolly played pretty well, too, showing a lot of confidence and handles on a line with Filppula and Purcell during regulation. It's good problems to have that all the youngsters (sans Barberio) had good nights tonight.
Bishop is the truth.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 38 points for the win. He absolutely stole the game for the Lightning, stopping multiple breakaways and robbing Boyd Gordon going post to post to stop a 2-on-1 chance late in the Third Period. As lousy as I thought the Lightning were in front of him, Bishop was that much more excellent.
7:37 TB Stamkos (12), (unassisted)
10:11 EDM Fedun (2), (Eberle, Hemsky)
19:07 TB Stamkos (13), (unassisted)
18:33 TB Johnson (4), (Panik, Gudas)
10:22 EDM Hall (4), (Eberle)(PP)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. It's a short list of Lightning players you could say had a good game after those two.
Maybe it's a function of the long layoff, but I'm disappointed by the effort from the team tonight coming off their best all-around game of the season against St. Louis. I get that you're going to have clunkers over the course of the year and good teams find ways to win games like these. But, to go from their best game of the year to one of their worst shows a level of inconsistency that is very worrying. That's not a recipe for sustainable success, and you worry about a hangover from this game. When you make that many mistakes and exhibit that many bad habits and get away with them, without the negative consequences, they have a way of lingering for a game or two afterwards. It happened after the game in Sunrise and I worry about it happening here.
On the bright side, the Lightning check into the midpoint of this second 10-game segment of the season at 8 points. That's a good spot to be, 4 points back of the minimum 12 you want them to get out of every segment. So, 5 games to get at least 4 points is good position, but I'll tell you: they'd be hard pressed to win a dog show most nights playing as poorly as they did against the Oilers.
Radko Gudas had a helper and was +4 with 3 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:42 to go with 2 PIMs. That's a hefty stat line, no doubt about it.
Mark Barberio had 1 blocked shot in 15:33. Probably his second best game of the season. He was very active offensively in the first and had some nice breakout passes throughout the game. The flip side is that he still is terrifyingly soft along the wall in 1-on-1 battles.
Tyler Johnson had the GWG, 2 shots, 1 hit, and was 45% on draws in 17:43. He's on pace for about 22 goals now, which is pretty darned good. That said, I'd like to see him shoot more.
Alex Killorn was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:10. He hit the post trying to score on a gaping cage on a First Period PP.
Ondrej Palat had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:32. And, he had at least 2 really good defensive plays that I noted that cancelled out Edmonton scoring chances. He's on that short list of guys I'd say had a good game.
Richard Panik had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:43. Skill. He's got it. He had a very quiet night and then all of a sudden he breaks an Edmonton defender down scientifically 1-on-1 and dishes to TJ for the game winning goal. Was it a good game for Panik? Maybe not, but they don't win tonight without that single individual effort.
The Lightning are becoming more than the sum of their parts.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 30 shots in another masterful performance. He makes big saves when the team needs them, and he made sure he kept the Lightning tied long enough for them to take over the game in the Third Period.
7:50 STL Pietrangelo (4), (Backes, Steen)
10:44 TB Killorn (4), (unassisted)
1:43 TB Stamkos (11), (Killorn, Barberio)
03:45 STL Schwartz (3), (Shattenkirk, Berglund)
8:37 TB Connolly (1), (Gudas, Filppula)
16:01 TB Filppula (5), (Killorn, Brewer)
Alex Killorn and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
What a fantastically entertaining game between two of the better teams, record-wise, in the NHL. More to the point, the Lightning went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league in a real heavyweight match that was neck and neck through 40 minutes before absolutely pulling away in the Third Period. The Lightning probably were ahead 60/40 or 65/35 in scoring chances by night's end, and that's no small feat against a really great Blues team that has a fantastic record so far this year. In the Third Period, it really appeared that the Lightning's ability to skate and crisply pass the puck was starting to wear out St. Louis. They clutched. They grabbed. The Lightning finally got a PP out of it, and although Connolly's goal came just after the PP expired, it was a goal where the Lightning made the Blues pay for the infraction.
I've talked about looking at this year in 10 game segments, and the Lightning really would benefit in not looking at where they are in the standings and just focusing on these little seasons within the season. 4 games into segment #2 of the season, they're 3-1-0 with 6 points, which is halfway to the minimum 12 you want in each of these sets. It's a good spot to be in heading into Thursday night's matchup against a struggling Edmonton club.
Radko Gudas had an assist, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:21. Nice, low, tip-able shot on the game winner. He made it easy for Connolly to get a stick on that one.
Mark Barberio had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:57. He also took an ill-advised tripping call after which it seemed like he got a lot less ice time. The same Barberio critiques apply. He looks great on O. He looks scary on D.
Tyler Johnson had 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:20 and was 43% on draws. He really seems to be settling into that third line utility role. If you need some offensive energy, he can do that. If you need a solid defensive shift, he can do that, too. Such a luxury for Cooper to have.
Killorn had 1 goal, 2 assists, and was +3 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:30. He could've easily had 2 goals as he posted an empty net attempt. For any of the remaining Ryan Malone dead-enders, it's over. He's your first line left winger. That line looks to have another gear or two with Killorn on it, and the puck handling and passing play he made to set up Filppula's insurance goal was the very definition of outstanding.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:48. You can more or less cut and paste my comments about Johnson here. The two players do seem to be joined at the hip.
Richard Panik had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:52. You'd almost like Panik to get as basic as getting pucks on net right now, and go up from there. He better be nervous Connolly had a goal and 3 shots in about the same ice time tonight. That's a mano a mano competition.
Lightning solve a dilemma en route to victory.
Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout. He didn't have much work until the last 5 minutes of the game when, inexplicably, the Lightning became sieve-like and were allowing the Canes to run Bishop. Shame on the skaters, and good on Bishop for keeping his goose egg in tact anyway. That there was some (U of) Maine Justice!
9:54 TB Hedman (2), (Thompson, Crombeen)
11:38 TB Stamkos (10), (Killorn, St Louis)
17:14 TB Killorn (3), (St Louis)
The Lightning managed to turn this from another clunker into something extremely positive to build on. They were flat as a pancake again in the First Period and half of the Second Period until Justin Peters decided to kick a Hedman shot that was wide off the end boards into his own net. And, then it was on, with the top line leading the way with the notable change of Alex Killorn running with the big guns instead of Ryan Malone. The impact of that change was obvious, and that should seal Malone's fate from here on out. He's too slow for the top line and that needs to be Killorn's spot. Malone needs to embrace what he is this season. I'd like to see him start to take on more of an Andreychuk-type spot with the team. Commit to being a strong checking liner. Try to get your points when you can on the PP. Let the young guys who have wheels get the big minutes.
Radko Gudas was +2 with 3 hits and 4 blocked shots in 21:08. He was much more under control in this game than against New Jersey and the results of that were obvious. He was solid as a rock tonight.
Mark Barberio had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:17. I liked the decision to spot him in this game. It gave Sustr the chance to settle down a little in the press box and Barberio a chance to get some playing time in a game where any mistakes he made weren't going to necessarily be fatal. There was bad and good. I thought the was excellent offensively in the first half of the game. Early in the Second Period, he was about the only Lightning player taking shots (had 4 blocked and 1 missed the net) and he nearly had an assist on one play in the First Period. The critique, though, is the same. He terrifies you in his own end because of how soft he is on the puck. A stiff breeze gets him off the puck clean. A stern look gets him off the puck clean. And, then, obviously there's the issue of the two penalties taken in a close game. It was his best game of the year so far, in my opinion, but there's still considerable room for improvement.
Tyler Johnson had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot and was 30% on draws in 15:26. He was guilty of overpassing in the First Period. It's just that simple. He's got one of the best shots on the team. If I had his shot, you couldn't stop me from shooting the puck. I'd start shooting the puck from the parking lot. I'd be shooting pucks from the bench. There's be pucks going on net from the restroom in the intermission. If I had a shot as good as Johnson's, there's nothing in the world that would make me give up a clean look and pass it off. He's got to get greedier.
Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 3 shots and 1 hit. 3 takeaways for Killorn, too. That spot on the top line needs to be his. Period. The discussion ended tonight.
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:04. That's a great stat line for a guy that didn't seem to do much other than squander a 2-on-1 shorthanded in the First Period with Johnson.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:01. My thought was Cooper's decision to put him on the fourth line was an attempt to get Panik to play chippier. One of the problems with Panik's game so far is he's not being the instigator he was at times in the AHL. Ultimately, it doesn't pay that Richard looks like a Bond villain if he plays like a Bond girl. Unfortunately, I didn't see that edge. He's lucky Connolly didn't set the world on fire tonight, but the Lightning have his spot under the microscope. They have to.
Lightning end the home stand with another two points the hard way.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory.
12:48 TB Johnson (3), (Filppula, Carle)(PP)
12:58 BUF Flynn (2), (McCormick, Leino)
12:46 BUF Vanek (4), (Foligno, Girgensons)
14:09 TB St Louis (6), (Stamkos, Gudas)
15:55 TB Palat (3), (Johnson)
I Tweeted (I have one of those now) Friday night that beating teams like Chicago is nice, but it doesn't do you any good if you drop points to teams like Buffalo and Florida. The Lightning responded really well in terms of effort tonight, but ran into a quality, experienced, franchise goaltender in Ryan Miller, who made them work hard for their win. The First Period was a clinic, and most of the Third Period was, as well, but Miller had the forcefield up and denied numerous quality chances by the Lightning. The Sabres capitalized by taking advantage of some sloppiness by the Lightning in the Second Period and an ill-advised Radko Gudas forecheck in the Third Period coupled with a sleepy Stamkos backcheck to build a 2-1 lead late in the Third Period.
What you had to like is that Gudas and Stamkos made great plays to atone for their mistake, setting up St. Louis for the tying goal. And, then, Jon Cooper decides, "What the hey?" He puts Palat/Johnson/Panik back together and they reply by getting the winning goal.
14 points in the first 10 game segment of the season is 2 more than what I thought they needed to set pace. It's wonderful. It should prove to them, athletically, they're capable of competing at this level. But, being athletically good enough doesn't get you to the playoffs. To get to the playoffs, you've got to consistently master the grind of the season and churn out those points. You got the minimum 12 you needed in the first segment? Awesome. Now you've got to do it seven more times to get to the tournament. And, that challenge starts immediately in South Florida tomorrow.
Gudas had a helper, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:11. Minutes were down a bit with the Lightning rotating 7 defenders.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:03. In the offensive third he looked dangerous. In the defensive third he looked... also dangerous (in a bad way). I saw improvement tonight and I'd be less scared to put him out the next game than I was after the Boston opener. He can be a useful player for the Lightning if he can just develop into an average player in the defensive zone. He showed the offensive instincts tonight.
Tyler Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist, 3 shots, 1 hit, and was 55% on draws in 21:09. I think that stat line and that ice time figure pretty much sums it up.
Alex Killorn played 17:33. I'm a little worried, given the nature of his game, that he's not getting shots although he's working very hard on the forecheck.
Palat had the game winning goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 3 hits in 15:25. He's magical with the puck. He's responsible without the puck. He's the straw that stirs the drink on whatever line he plays. You wonder if Cooper will start to creep his minutes up now that Palat seems to have his legs underneath him in the NHL.
Richard Panik had 4 shots and 1 hit in 13:39. He's become the man on PP2 in front of the net and showed good hands deflecting pucks all night. You get the sense his breakthrough could come at any time. I say, why not tomorrow?