Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 18 shots for the OT loss. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I can't really fault Ben on either goal.
5:20 TB Paquette (11), (Killorn, Drouin)
16:50 STL Tarasenko (26), (Stastny)
1:16 STL Schwartz (18), (Butler, Elliott)
That hurt bad. That hurt really bad. The Lightning absolutely dominated almost the entire game. They outshop St. Louis 31-17 in regulation, and the chances were about that lopsided. Elliot made about a half dozen sparkling saves for the Blues and the Lightning continued to sputter on the PP, going 0-for-3 on the game. They just could not get the insurance marker and allowed the Blues to tie it off a clean faceoff loss by Brian Boyle, and in OT the defense just got out of sorts trying to stop a 2-on-2 rush situation, and in the end they left 1 point they should've gotten on the rink.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 15:42. He also set up Cedric Paquette with a long stretch pass in the Third Period that nearly became the key insurance marker, but Elliot stood up to the task. Tonight's game marks Drouin's graduation from prospect status on the website.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 14:20. He plays like a guy who understands his athletic limitations and plays efficiently within his boundaries. He moves the puck quickly to make sure he doesn't put himself in bad spots. He'll give a guy a pop if its there, but he won't go running out of position to do it because he knows he doesn't necessarily have the recovery speed to get away with it. He's just played like a smart, lower pair stay-at-homer so far.
Bishop saves the day.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 35 shots for the victory. With the Lightning playing flat as a pancake in front of him, Bishop made a handful of key stops to give his club the time to pull away in the Third Period. Make no mistake, though, Bishop was the margin in this one and the game was closer than the scoreboard indicates.
19:36 TB Connolly (9), (Morrow, Garrison)
10:02 TB Paquette (10), (Drouin, Killorn)
11:43 TB Filppula (10), (unassisted)
16:34 CBJ Johansen (19), (Savard, Murray)
I can't help but be a little alarmed at how flat the Lightning have played recently going into games against lower-tier opponents like Carolina, Columbus, etc. There's some bad habits and a little bit of laziness/lack of focus (particularly on their continually awful PP) that crops up in these games that you don't see as much of against the big boys like Detroit. The mark of the really elite clubs is that they play their game regardless of who they're lining it up against, but that hasn't been the case lately for the Lightning. They'll need to get over that if they want to progress to the next level on their way to becoming a championship caliber team. Finding some sort of identity/concept on the PP would be a nice addition, too.
Cedric Paquette had a goal (GWG), 3 shots, and 1 hit in 13:53. He was also 67% on draws. That's 5 goals in the last 3 games. Tonight was Cedric's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from prospect status here on the website. We've been online (officially) since the '05-'06 season, and in 9.5 seasons of hockey I can't recall a prospect hitting their graduation threshold with this kind of flair. You can't help but feel wonderful for the young man who was an overage 4th rounder who got passed over completely in his first draft year and had to work so hard to improve his skating to make it to the league, where he's now flourishing.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:29. It's lost in the meteoric rise of Cedric Paquette, but Drouin's got 4 helpers and is +4 in the last 3 games, as well. He's got 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website, too, and he's showing signs of finally starting to settle into the league now.
Luke Witkowski was +2 with 1 shot in 12:33. Not noticable = very good for a rookie defenseman.
On a night of farcical officiating, Espo's Rule holds true.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He made a couple of really key saves on the PK that allowed the Lightning to keep the game even and eventually pull away with the win.
13:32 TB Filppula (9), (Stamkos, Callahan)
0:11 TB Killorn (10), (Hedman, Filppula)
4:16 TB Boyle (9), (Connolly, Morrow)
8:09 VAN Corrado (1), (Burrows, Higgins)
17:34 TB Killorn (11), (Paquette, Hedman)(EN)
Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and Jason Garrison were the game's three stars. I'm shocked to see that neither Paul Devorski or Dan O'Halloran got tapped for the honor, because they clearly are the ones people buy tickets and show up to see (or so they appeared to think so, tonight).
The last 40 minutes of that game were an abomination, officiating-wise, from start to finish. I think the refs got paid by the call tonight, because they made a slew of ticky tack bookings that ultimately chopped the game up and made it less enjoyable. When you sprinkle in an icing call on the Boyle goal that probably shouldn't have been waved off and a couple of bad calls resulting in Canucks 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities, neither side can feel good about their treatment by the zebras tonight. Everybody has a hard night on the job, but those two periods were just B-A-D for the zebras.
Ultimately, though, Espo's Rule held up. Espo's Rule, simply stated, is that the team that fails to convert a 5-on-3 nearly always loses. Vancouver had a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities in this game and thanks to Bishop's goaltending on the first and some Radim Vrbata lumberjack-ery on the second, the Lightning got the kills and won the game. It's a good thing, too, because they did zippo with the power play opportunities they had, making this a much closer game than it should've been given the possession advantage the team mostly enjoyed.
Cedric Paquette had a helper and 2 penalty minutes to go with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 14:12. He was also 56% on draws and continues to be entrusted by Cooper when it comes to key shifts late in games.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 10:22.
Luke Witkowski had 2 blocked shots in 14:29 in his NHL debut. He wasn't terribly noticeable, which is a good thing for a rookie defenseman. If you did focus in on him, though, he did a good job of moving the puck quickly and not putting himself in bad positions where he'd have to make plays under duress. Smart man.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:39. He ended up having to be fitted for a full shield after taking a high stick.
All in all, between Witkowski, Nesterov, and Sustr, I thought this younger D-corps did well in their first sans-Carle, sans-Gudas test run. They held Vancouver to 1 goal and under 30 SOG's, and you can't complain to much about that result.
So ends Evgeny Nabokov's NHL career?
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 13 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 3 on 12 shots the rest of the way. The fact Cooper didn't put Nabokov back in for the Third Period seems a bit telling, like perhaps this is the end of the road. Nabokov appeared to earn the start after playing reasonably well in his last outing, but he once again proved the Lightning just can't rely on him for even a mediocre start in back-to-back situations. Were it me, I'd highly consider calling up Kristers Gudlevskis to assume day-to-day practice duties as a waiver-exempt placeholder and then swap him with Andrei Vasilevskiy for planned starts, such as in upcoming back-to-backs. It could be a sad ending for Nabokov, who is probably one of the 4 or 5 best Russian goaltenders ever. The bottom dropped out quickly for him, though, a la Dwayne Roloson several years back.
6:12 PHI VandeVelde (3), (Schenn, Giroux)
10:26 TB Stamkos (23), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
16:15 PHI Umberger (7), (Read, Coburn)
1:45 PHI Voracek (17), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
2:36 PHI Bellemare (4), (VandeVelde, Del Zotto)
7:02 PHI Streit (5), (Schenn, Simmonds)(PP)
8:37 PHI Schenn (10), (Streit, Voracek)(PP)
15:01 PHI Raffl (11), (Laughton, Simmonds)
15:23 TB Boyle (8), (Paquette, Stralman)
1:20 TB Callahan (13), (Drouin, Filppula)(PP)
Adding injury to insult, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson left the game with lower body injuries, the former of which meant that Brian Boyle ended up having to take shifts on defense. Johnson's injury, which looked like a potential twisted knee, is particularly troubling. So, in addition to whatever happens (if anything) with the goaltending situation, you could see Vladislav Namestnikov called up to fill for Johnson and on defense, I'll guess Luke Witkowski would get the call and the coaching staff might try to slide one of their lefties playing the right side over to the left side.
This was a case where the Lightning got caught peeking ahead to Boston, didn't come out with their best effort, saw some soft goaltending, and allowed it to snowball out of control. Now they'll go into a place they seemingly never win with a depleted lineup after Bishop had to nearly play 2 periods of hockey in the back-to-back situation. So, a minor lapse of mental focus may snowball beyond a single hockey game, which is a lesson Cooper should stress to his team.
Cedric Paquette had a helper with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:32, as he got to fill some of Johnson's minutes. He was also 40% on draws. To his credit, he was still throwing checks and playing hard in garbage time on the Third Period, which isn't unexpected given his well-respected effort level.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 with 1 hit in 15:56. Zero shot attempts. None. The kid sneezes out assists, which is amazing for a guy who rarely even attempts to shoot the puck, and tells you how big a point producer he could be if he actually did.
Luke Witkowski isn't sitting idly by waiting for the phone to ring.
The Syracuse defenseman, one of the last players cut from Tampa Bay Lightning training camp who earned a short call-up in October but didn't play, isn't worried about when he will have the opportunity to make his NHL debut. Even with the Lightning's blueline being banged up, Witkowski is focused on his game and doing what he can to help the Crunch.
"I'm not really worried about that right now," Witkowski said of the possibility of a promotion.
Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler has seen progress in Witkowski's second professional season.