Witkowski, Luke

NHL Game Night: 3-18-17 Capitals at Lightning

Lightning run into a juggernaut, see playoff hopes harmed.

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TB-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 34 shots for the loss.

First Period
3:44 WSH Oshie (27), (Johansson, Backstrom)(PP)
11:52 WSH Oshie (28), (Ovechkin, Backstrom)
15:52 TB Kucherov (32), (Palat, Point)(PP)
16:08 TB Killorn (17), (Drouin)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
3:14 WSH Williams (20), (Niskanen, Burakovsky)
5:30 WSH Carlson (8), (Oshie, Backstrom)
18:30 TB Kucherov (33), (Point)
19:16 WSH Oshie (29), (Backstrom)(EN)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.

Valiant effort by the Lightning still playing with darn near all their centers out of the lineup and really testing the East's best team. Were it not for a bit of embellishment that led to the call in the Third Period that led to Williams' goal shortly after its conclusion, Tampa Bay might've well gotten points out of the evening.

Unfortunately, with the standings predicament the Lightning are in, there are no moral victories. They're running out of road quickly.

Luke Witkowski had 4 hits in 7:19

Gregg McKegg had 2 penalty minutes and was 60% on 10 draws in 8:44. McKegg is now a couple of games shy of graduation from prospect status on the website.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 3 hits in 19:40.

Gabriel Dumont had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:58.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot, 1 hit, and was 33% on 15 draws in 15:17.

Adam Erne had 1 shot and 4 hits in 11:19.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-14-17 Lightning at Senators

The stuff that dreams are made of.

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OTT-1 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 32 shots for the victory. It's overshadowed by the heroics at the other end by Condon, but what Vasilevskiy did again tonight was make every situational save asked of him to get the Lightning their chance at the winner's circle.

First Period
3:05 TB Point (12), (Dotchin, Coburn)

Second Period
2:35 OTT Wingels (7), (unassisted)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
4:05 TB Hedman (14), (Palat)

Victor Hedman was the game's second star.

Facing near impossible odds in their quest for a playoff spot, the Lightning look like a locked in team that is already playing postseason hockey. Tonight's challenges: 1.) Get road points in a back to back after a tough game against the Rangers last night, 2.) Again play short of centermen with Vlad Namestnikov back on the shelf, 3.) Solve a netminder in Mike Condon who decided to lose his mind tonight with ten bell save after ten bell save. Amazingly, the team never showed the effects of #1 or #2 and eventually they got the one they needed to solve #3. Now, after all the heavy lifting is done, they find themselves tied for the 8th spot in the East after being left for dead a month ago. The dream lives for the Lightning, with a lot of heavy lifting still left to do.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 7:51.

Greg McKegg had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 11:04. He was also 45% on 11 draws.

Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 19:13.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 11:22.

Yanni Gourde had 4 shots in 20:20. He's playing so well on this recall and he hasn't shown signs of hitting a wall yet.

Adam Erne had 3 shots and 7 hits in 8:30.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-11-17 Panthers at Lightning

No centers? No problem.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory. The good ones respond to giving up a couple of early goals by shutting the door the rest of the way. This is about the 3rd or 4th time I can recall this season that Vasiy showed that kind of resiliency and mettle.

First Period
16:32 FLA Jagr (14), (Barkov, Marchessault)
19:13 FLA Pysyk (4), (Smith, Barkov)

Second Period
3:43 TB Kucherov (31), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:11 TB Gourde (1), (unassisted)(SH)

Third Period
17:37 TB Palat (14), (Sustr)

Ondrej Palay, Vasilevskiy, and Yanni Gourde were the game's three stars.

Tampa Bay responded to bad luck and adversity with gutty brilliance tonight in a fashion that should make every Lightning fan proud of their team. They played a great First Period but found themselves on the unlucky end of a couple of greasy goals by the Panthers and some hot goaltending by Reimer (who actually played a whale of a game despite the loss). The Lightning didn't sag in the Second Period, as a lesser team would, and quickly cut the lead in half with the ubiquitous Nikita Kucherov power play goal. about 6 minutes later Gourde made one of the more fantastic individual plays you'll ever see to get the shorthanded goal with a defender draped all over him. Things got hairy almost immediately thereafter, though, when Andrey Sustr took a high sticking call that put the Lightning down 2 men and in danger of immediately surrendering the momentum. Remember, this is a team that dealt off two of its supposedly best PK'ers in Boyle and Filppula and has others like Paquette sitting on the shelf injured at the moment. To not allow a goal there set the tone for the rest of the game, and the Espo Rule victory pre-saged the eventual Lightning win in the Third Period, which was partially made possible by an amazing post to post save by Vasilevskiy on Sceviour late in the frame.

Tampa Bay sits at 73 points with 15 games left to go in the campaign. To reach a magic 96 points, they'll need 23 of a remaining 30 points or a .767 winning percentage. It may take a few less points than that to actually make the postseason, but you get the point about how steep the hill is. They've still got to play about .750 hockey the rest of the way to give themselves a chance.

Luke Witkowski had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:40.

Gregg McKegg was 63% on 8 draws in 7:38.

Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 2 hits in 19:30.

Gabriel Dumont had 5 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 9:24. He and Stralman lowered the boom to knock a couple of Panthers out of the game and set a physical tone tonight.

Matthew Peca was 0% on 7 draws in 10:39. Yikes.

Gourde had his first NHL goal and 2 shots in 17:09. He's been a completely different player in this callup. You wouldn't have known he was even in the lineup in his previous cups of coffee, but he's been a difference maker the past couple of outings.

Adam Erne had a clean sheet in 13:01. Might be hitting a wall in terms of his effectiveness on this recall.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-9-17 Wild at Lightning

Lightning dominance overshadowed by centerman attrition.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for a dominating victory. He gave Minnesota nothing. He was in absolute command and it took a goofy bounce for Minnesota to stave off his shutout bid. That's two straight games where Vasiy has only allowed a single goal. Hard to lose when you do that.

First Period
6:53 TB Kucherov (29), (Hedman, Palat)(PP)
11:01 TB Hedman (13), (Drouin, Dotchin)

Second Period
4:37 TB Sustr (2), (Kucherov, Johnson)

Third Period
16:02 MIN Scandella (4), (Brodin, Koivu)
18:51 TB Kucherov (30), (Gourde)(EN)

Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

That was probably the most dominant game the Lightning have played against a quality opponent all season. The end result was never really in doubt and even as the Lightning were seeing their players drop like flies, their lower liners stepped up and continued to keep the game under total control. Unfortunately, it's dubious whether that kind of "next man up" success is replicable over the rest of the course of the season. Vladislav Namestnikov was the first to go down after going skates first into the board on a play that could be anything from a broken ankle to a knee. To my eyes, that looked like a season ender. Tyler Johnson was the next to go on a knee to knee hit from Nino Niederreiter. Johnson when down like a dropped sack of potatoes, and I'm hopeful he's the one of the three that can get back faster, but it didn't look great. Third to go was Cedric Paquette, who appeared to give himself a high ankle sprain tackling a Wild forward in the slot on a defensive zone play. That may come pretty close to ending his season given the slim number of games the team has left on the schedule. So, the Lightning are going to have to scramble just to find bodies at that position. McKegg can go back into the lineup and they'll probably immediately recall Matthew Peca. Ultimately, though, it may take Steven Stamkos donning the Superman cape and coming back from IR in the next 2 weeks and playing well just to keep the team's slim playoff hopes alive. It's either that or get Brian Bradley off the buffet line.

Luke Witkowski had 4 hits in 9:11.

Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 16:33.

Gabriel Dumont had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 8:21. He was also 63% on 8 draws.

Yanni Gourde had a helper in 16:35 and was on the ice defending the 6 on 5 at the end of the contest.

Adam Erne had 2 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:20. He had a really strong First Period, drawing the penalty that led to Kucherov's opening goal, but once the carnage started in the Second Period, it seemed like the line shuffling hurt the continuity Erne was forming with his linemates.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-6-17 Rangers at Lightning

Lightning Raanta'ed again.

NYR-1
TB-0 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 34 shots for the painfully hard luck OT loss. He was overshadowed by Raanta at the other end, but Vasiy was equally brilliant in a high pressure goaltending duel.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
3:56 NYR Zibanejad (9), (McDonagh)

Vasilevskiy was the game's first star.

The Lightning played very hard wire to wire and just lost to a hot goaltender. You can complain about decision-making with the puck late in the Third Period and into Overtime, but many nights you blow doors off with a 3:2 shot attempt/possession advantage and Vasilevskiy playing that well. The shame is the Lightning are in a spot where they just can't surrender the odd point on a night like this and realistically stay alive for the playoffs.

Luke Witkowski had 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 7:54. That fight was an epic. We're talking about one that rightfully should go alongside some of those old Rudy Poeschek v. Paul Laus brawls.

Jake Dotchin had 3 shots and 2 hits in 20:25.

Gabriel Dumont had 2 penalty minutes for a nasty boarding call, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 7:15. He was also 43% on 7 draws.

Yanni Gourde played 10:09. Blank stat line doesn't tell the tale, because he was active at both ends of the rink. This was probably his best NHL game in his time in the Lightning organization.

Adam Erne had 2 penalty minutes, 6 shots, and 2 hits in 11:32. 6 shots in under 12 minutes tells you what you need to know. He was very active tonight. Looked really good.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-4-17 Lightning at Sabres

By any means necessary.

TB-2
BUF-1 (SO)

Andrei Vasilvskiy allowed 1 goal on 32 shots before stopping 2 of 2 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. I thought Vasilevskiy fought it a little at times in this game, but got stronger as it went on and really grinded out the W. He had to, because Lehner was standing on his head part of the night at the other end of the rink. That's another quality start now that he's "the man". Encouraging.

First Period
19:48 BUF O'Reilly (15), (Ristolainen, Eichel)(PP)

Second Period
2:37 TB Johnson (19), (Hedman, Kucherov[/b]

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Point, Kucherov
BUF- NONE

Vasilevskiy and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars.

It was another disappointingly flat First Period for the Lightning, their 3rd in the last 4 contests, but the team got stronger as it wore on. All in all, this was a classic road win where the team really grinded out the victory. Pretty? No. Effective? Yes. Brayden Point continues to be money in the Shootout and Nikita Kucherov sent the Buffalo faithful to the exits with a gutsy fake whiff on a deke that he slid harmlessly through Lehner's five hole to secure the second point. If you make a move like that, you either score or get choked out by Jon Cooper. There's probably no in between.

68 points now for Tampa Bay puts them 3 points out of the final wild card spot and 6 points out of the final divisional spot with a game in hand on Boston. They're 28 points shy of 96 with 36 points still available. That'd be a .778 win percentage to get there. Still a tough road to go with very little margin for error.

Luke Witkowski had 3 hits in 9:51... playing forward. My scouting report on Witkowski as a forward? Well, he's definitely a north-south kind of winger, that much is for sure.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 18:18. His night's work included accidentally knocking Kulikov out of the game when the two ran into each other inadvertently behind the net. That should give you an idea how big and strong Dotchin is. His upper body strength is pretty impressive. He barely had any time to brace himself and he did that.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot and 4 hits in 8:03. He was also 29% on 7 draws.

Adam Erne had 1 hit in 11:32. Mixed bag tonight, but he nearly set up a key goal with some creativity behind the Buffalo cage that got Namestnikov a wide open chance that Vladislav probably should've buried.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-7-17 Kings at Lightning

When Kucherov got his mojo back.

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Ben Bishop turned aside all 28 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Got help from his horseshoe to usher back in a night of U. of Maine Justice.

First Period
7:46 TB Drouin (16), (unassisted)

Second Period
6:55 TB Kucherov (20), (Namestnikov, Sustr)
11:02 TB Dumont (1), (Brown, Hedman)
18:18 TB Kucherov (21), (Namestnikov, Witkowski)

Third Period
13:08 TB Coburn (2), (Drouin, Vermin)

Nikita Kucherov, Bishop, and Vladislav Namestnikov were the game's three stars. After struggling to regain his usual form for more than a month, Kucherov showed signs of getting back to his hold self in the last game against Anaheim. I'm happy to say the indications from that game were real and that Kucherov looks like he might be ready for a strong stretch run. As for the much maligned Namestnikov, he needs more nights like this because he's playing for his job in Tampa Bay at this point.

Do these back to back wins mean the Lightning suddenly have a chance to stride back into the playoff chase? Well, to comfortably make it in at 96 points, they'd need 42 of a remaining 56 points. Is a .750 winning clip realistic? There's your answer.

Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:49. He was also 29% on 7 draws. Point's next game will be his 41st of the season and he will graduate from prospect status on the website.

Luke Witkowski had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 8:25.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 5 hits in 14:00.

Gabriel Dumont had his first goal in a Lightning jersey and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:42. He was also an uncharacteristic 17% on 6 draws.

Joel Vermin had a helper and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 10:29.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-2-17 Senators at Lightning

Dumpster fire continues to rage unchecked.

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TB-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the loss. He had one goal he probably needs back that went in off his glove. I can't fault him the rest, considering the drive by defense we saw most of the night. Still, it's a step backward after a string of quality starts by Vasilevskiy.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
3:39 TB Johnson (16), (Kucherov)
6:33 OTT Stone (17), (Smith, Ceci)
11:03 OTT Turris (18), (Hoffman, Karlsson)(PP)

Third Period
2:53 OTT Hoffman (18), (Turris, Stone)(PP)
7:46 TB Point (5), (Boyle, Palat)
9:22 OTT Stone (18), (Karlsson, Brassard)
19:35 OTT Kelly (4), (Karlsson)(EN)

Brayden Point was the game's third star. He's one of the players who needs the most vetting coming down the stretch of this lost season. He's responded well so far, and if he shows he's up to the task of playing center at the NHL level he may make Tyler Johnson expendable. Johnson, despite the goal he scored tonight, continues to make some very questionable decisions with the puck that are just infuriating to watch. He was a very good north-south player who has suddenly turned into an Old Marty St. Louis-style backward passing pain in the buttocks/liability, without the garbage time points.

At this point, we're watching the sad shell of a team that already appears to be going through the motions and anticipating their offseason tee times. I'm seeing players in position defensively but not making the extra effort to close out opposing shooters. I'm seeing board battles routinely lost by the team's best defenseman, Hedman. I'm seeing numerous mental mistakes at both bluelines with the puck by players who are just playing unfocused, careless hockey. At this point, it's clear the leadership of this team has evaporated and I've written off the chance of this team waking up until, maybe, Stamkos returns from injury. Get ready for a savagely bad next dozen or so games, at least.

Lay Down for Liljegren?

Make #2 for Makar?

Point had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:18. He was also 29% on 7 draws. He's been the silver lining in the past two very dreary games.

Luke Witkowski had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:58.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 19:09.

Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 8:14.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-21-17 Lightning at Coyotes

Lightning's season dies in the desert.

TB-3
ARI-5

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 17 shots for the loss before being pulled for Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy turned aside all 6 shots he faced the rest of the way.

First Period
8:05 ARI Reider (9), (Vrbata, Ekman-Larsson)
10:19 ARI Vrbata (11), (Hanzal, Reider)
18:39 TB Paquette (4), (Dumont, Bournival)

Second Period
14:56 ARI Stone (1), (Hanzal, Vrbata)(PP)
18:25 ARI Fischer (1), (McGinn, Burmistrov)
19:44 ARI Hanzal (10), (Vrbata, Reider)

Third Period
9:45 TB Namestnikov (6), (Filppula, Palat)
14:18 TB Palat (10), (Johnson, Nesterov)(PP)

Tampa Bay outshot Arizona by a very significant 48-23 margin, but that only underlines what a mess the team's goaltending has been this season. Bishop allowed two of the softest goals you'll see in your life in the First Period to put his team down 2-0, and lookee there, the team lost the game 5-3. Soft goals, as they often are, turn out to be the margin of error. Unfortunately, the Lightning have had a soft goal or questionable goaltending gaffe in each game of the current road trip, which is horribly demoralizing to a team. When you have to work twice as hard as the other team for a goal because your goaltending is faulty, it robs your team of its spirit. It really does.

The calculus now is pretty much impossible to overcome, to the extent that I'm ready to write the team's eulogy. They'd have to play about .750 hockey the rest of the way to get back on playoff pace, and that seems impossible given all the challenges the team is facing. The goaltending has been disappointing all season long. The center play has been steadily devolving since Steven Stamkos and subsequently Brayden Point got injured earlier in the season. Key forwards like "The Triplets" have suddenly gone missing on the scoresheet over the past several weeks. And, the defense continues to struggle to compensate for the team's inability to consistently play its possession style game and against the counters they routinely face when that style goes off the rails.

The Lightning have an excellent core of their hockey team, in general, and a rebuild is certainly not warranted. But, a serious in-season evaluation and a retooling is definitely in order. Bottom line, this team probably has one goaltending move, two or three moves on the blueline, and three or four moves at forward to make. Not big moves, in all cases, but necessary moves. If done shrewdly, and if the Lightning can get a little more luck with injuries in 2018-2019, there's little to suggest this year won't just be a little bump in the road and not a sinkhole.

Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:06.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 4 hits in 11:47 in his NHL debut.

Gabriel Dumont had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:53. He was also 71% on 7 draws. His game tonight was the continuation of a fantastic road trip by the line of Paquette/Dumont/Bournival, which along with the play of Jonathan Drouin has been the real bright spot of going out west.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-19-17 Lightning at Sharks

Soft goal and lack of finishing doom promising Lightning performance.

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SJ-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the loss. His soft goal to start the Third Period ultimately became the margin of losing, which soft goals often do. Ben Bishop got away with it against the Kings and managed to salvage a point against the Ducks with questionable mistakes, but it's not sustainable for any team to regularly be spotting teams a free goal.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
5:01 SJ Carpenter (2), (Martin, Burns)
6:51 TB Drouin (14), (Boyle, Kucherov)(PP)

Third Period
0:22 SJ Couture (15), (Labanc, Donskoi)

Jonathan Drouin was the game's second star. His highlight reel goal was the lone bright spot in another frustrating night at the office for the Lightning's finishers. They had some chances, but ultimately 25 shots and a correspondingly low number of overall scoring chances isn't enough. Better play is needed from the likes of Nikita Kucherov and the team's other big guns even as they start to get the defensive side of their game right.

The loss means Tampa Bay will again lose ground on playoff pacing in this 10-game segment of the season. How much? That remains to be seen. The team will be at least 7 points off pace by the end of the segment.

Luke Witkowski had 2 shots, 2 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:58.

Gabriel Dumont had 5 hits in 10:17.

Joel Vermin was -2 with 2 hits in 5:17.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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