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NHL Game Night: 3-19-14 Lightning at Maple Leafs

Finish line coming into view.

TB-5
TOR-3

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 39 shots for the victory. He'll rightly regret the Kulemin deflection goal, but he closed out the game strong with 21 saves in the Third Period against a desperate Leafs team.

First Period
0:59 TB Gudas (3), (Filppula)
3:31 TOR Kessel (35), (Gunnarsson, Bozak)
10:32 TOR Kulemin (9), (Gleason, Rielly)
13:22 TB Stamkos (17), (Filppula)(PP)
15:39 TB Stamkos (18), (Johnson, Salo)

Second Period
5:55 TB Stamkos (19), (Malone, Brewer)

Third Period
8:20 TOR Gardiner (10), (Franson, Bozak)
12:56 TB Johnson (22), (Purcell)(PP)

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

Much like the Vancouver game, do you see the glass as half full or half empty? Half full, the Lightning again played a strong first 35 or so minutes and built a solid 2 goal lead going into the Third Period. As an added bonus, they showed new strength on special teams with 2 PP goals in this game and the kill of an Alex Killorn boarding major after knocking Paul Ranger out of the game. And, oh by the way, Steven Stamkos is back with the hat trick, which will take the Lightning from good to great offensively. Glass half empty? The last 25 minutes of the game were mentally lazy hockey, and lazy minds lead to lazy legs. They looked like they were coasting, possibly to try to save energy for Ottawa. Whatever that was, it was aggravating, and it took Bishop standing on his head to preserve the win. Being outshot 22-8 in the final frame was a bad joke, and speaks to the Lightning still having problems closing out victories.

With all that said, the Lightning move up to 83 points in 69 games played. With 1 more game to go in this 10-game segment of the season, they need 2 points to hit the segment goal or 1 point to stay on the 12 points per segment pace for the season. They're also now 13 points shy of the 96 point goal I set at the start of the season with 13 games to go, meaning they could go .500 the rest of the way and hit the season target. That's a good feeling. The finish line is coming into view.

Mike Kostka was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:15. He played well in front of the home town. I wasn't too happy he missed the net on a couple of wide open looks, but he was much more active offensively than against Vancouver and he had some really good chances.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 3-19-14

Nadezhda Cup
Omsk 5 vs. Khanty-Mansiysk 1
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansisysk, 0-1-1, -2, 0 PIM, 8 SOG
Regular season totals: 44 GP, 8-6-14, -6, 10 PIM
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 3-3-6, -3, 0 PIM

Happy trails to Nikita Gusev and Yugra, who dropped the fourth and final game of their second round Nadezhda Cup matchup with Omsk 5-1. Gusev played 16:02 in the match and had a power play assist on his club's only goal. Omsk got a hat trick from former Montreal forward Sergei Kostitsyn as well as 1 goal and 3 points from former Flyers draft pick Stefan Ruzicka in victory.

Despite his team's setback, Gusev can feel good about a fine final couple of months in KHL regular season and in the Nadezhda Cup after playing very sparingly the first 2/3 of the season. His point a game pace in this year's Nadezhda Cup bested his production in last year's Nadezhda Cup with Khabarovsk (5 points) in half the games. Recall, Gusev played much of his junior hockey in CSKA's organization and with Team Russia on a line with current Lightning rookie forward Nikita Kucherov. The end of Gusev's year gives us some optimism he may be able to continue to develop and one day play again with Kucherov in the NHL.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 3-18-14

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
(4)Ufa 2 vs. (5)Novgorod 1
Ufa Wins the Series 4-3
Andrey Vasilevskiy, Ufa, Win, 34/35, 1.00 GAA, .971 sv%
Regular season totals: 28 GP, 14-8-5, 3 SO, 2.21 GAA, .923 sv%
Playoff totals: 7 GP, 4-3-0, 0 SO, 1.95 GAA, .934 sv%

Andrey Vasilevskiy helped burnish his credentials as a big game goaltender, turning aside 34 shots to help Ufa overcome a 35-21 shot disparity in the team's Game Seven, 2-1, opening round triumph over Novgorod. Ufa built a 2-0 lead in the contest thanks in part to a goal by former Senators second rounder Igor Mirnov and held on for the 2-1 win. Defenseman Sergei Bernatsky had Novgorod's lone goal.

The 4 seed Ufa moves on to face 2nd seeded Barys Astana in the Eastern Conference Semifinals round starting Friday.

Nadezhda Cup
Omsk 8 vs. Khanty-Mansiysk 2
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansiysk, 1-1-2, -1, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Regular season totals: 44 GP, 8-6-14, -6, 10 PIM
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 3-2-5, -1, 0 PIM

Ouch. Trailing by 2 goals in aggregate coming into the game, Omsk took a 2-1 series lead and a 4 goal lead in aggregate by pummeling Yugra 8-2. The two teams will square off again tomorrow in the final game of their second round set, but Yugra will have to win by a staggering 5 goals to move on in the Nadezhda Cup on aggregate. Good luck. Valiantly, Nikita Gusev had a multi-point effort in 15:57 of ice time in defeat. Omsk got a hat trick from former Flyers draft pick Stefan Ruzicka and 4 helpers from former Montreal Canadien Sergei Kostitsyn in the win.

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

Good win tainted by lackluster garbage time performance.

VAN-3
TB-4

Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. For the longest it looked like he was going to get his second straight shutout, but then the Lightning decided to dog it a bit in garbage time. They'll learn. Eventually.

First Period
17:56 TB Stamkos (16), (Palat, Callahan)(PP)

Second Period
6:54 TB Palat (18), (Carle)
19:51 TB Filppula (22), (Stamkos)

Third Period
5:44 VAN Burrows (4), (Bieksa, Edler)(PP)
8:47 TB Pyatt (3), (Brown, Hedman)
11:44 VAN Burrows (5), (Jensen, Sedin)
15:16 VAN Hansen (11), (Burrows)(SH)

Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars.

Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full person? A glass half full person notes that the Lightning controlled the first 40+ minutes of play in this game and looked like a very polished, well-structured team in the process. A glass half empty person will note that their garbage time stumbles could've easily cost them 2 points were it not for the team getting 2 greasy goal deflections off Canucks defensemen and that absolute gift of a soft goal Lack gave Pyatt. I'm feeling like more of a glass half full person tonight, with the caveat that these garbage time SH goals need to stop. Now. They're the root of a lot of the recent late game drama, and very easy to avoid/correct.

The victory puts the Lightning at 81 points with 14 games to go, now tied with Montreal for 2nd in the Atlantic Division, vaulting over their next opponent, which is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Needless to say, that's a big game. Through 8 games of this 10-game segment of the season, the team has 8 points. They'll need to win the next 2 to hit the 12 point segment goal or earn 3 of the next 4 available points to stay on the season pace to comfortably make the playoffs given the 1 insurance point they had coming into the segment.

My target for the season has always been not less than 96 points, so the magic number of points they need is 15 to hit that goal. Yes, they would likely make the postseason with 94 or 95 points, but 96 is the comfortable target that avoids last minute drama. Keeping this winning streak going at least another couple of games would go a long way to making sure that target goal is achieved.

Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 shot in 15:41. This was the most inactive I've seen him in a game since his first game coming over from the Blackhawks. He might've opened the door for Barberio to get back in the lineup. We'll see.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Bolt Prospect of the Week: March 17, 2014

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for March 17, 2014 is … Jonathan Drouin, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL – Canada).

He did it again.

Jonathan Drouin had a six-point game a week ago, earning him our Bolt Prospect of the Week. We jokingly said it was because the previous week’s winner, Matt Peca, had a six-point game and Drouin had never hit six points in a regular season game.

Not only did Drouin do it again, but he topped it.

In the final regular season game of his junior career, Drouin had seven points on Saturday vs Cape Breton – the same team he scored six against a week earlier. With 13 points in his last two games against the Screaming Eagles, Drouin is probably banned from visiting Sydney, Nova Scotia, for life.

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