Poised Lightning handle adversity with ease.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory. He was extremely important in the First Period while the Lightning looked a little out of sorts 5 on 5 trying to sort out their new lines. Overall, with a couple of near disaster puck handling gaffes aside, it was a pretty typical Ben Bishop effort as he tries to round into form from a disjointed start to the year.
8:15 TB Nesterov (2), (Filppula, Drouin)
7:39 TB Killorn (7), (Filppula, Point)(PP)
12:50 BUF Franson (1), (Kane, Fedun)(PP)
19:42 TB Kucherov (9), (Killorn)
18:00 TB Point (2), (Johnson)(PP)
So, the Lightning found out today they will lose Steven Stamkos for approximately 4 months to knee surgery. Now, granted, it was Buffalo they were playing tonight. But, it's not like the Lightning haven't played without Stamkos and Stralman before, and they looked unphased by it tonight. Indeed, if you want to grab some silver linings from the Stamkos injury: 1.) It probably forces the team to play a more honest, well-rounded game knowing they have to win games 3-1/3-2 or so rather than 4-2/4-3, and 2.) It gives Yzerman a lot of cap room to play with if he wants to add a piece to put the club over the top. If they survive this, it'll make them stronger, and they know how to survive this. Now it's just a matter of grinding out the 10-game segments of the season and making sure they get into the postseason tournament.
Speaking of which, the victory moves the Lightning to 23 points through 18 games, meaning they need just 1 point in the final 2 games of the road trip to stay on our 12-in-10 pace. The response from the team in these three straight road wins after the debacle against San Jose has been solid.
Brayden Point had 1 goal and 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:28. Interesting to see his minutes go down and his production go up.
Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 3 blocked shots in 16:15. I like the idea of slowly raising Koekkoek's ice time. Athletically, he can take what you feed him.
St. Petersburg 1 vs. Ekaterinburg 2
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 1-0-1, -1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Season totals: 30 GP, 14-27-41, +29, 6 PIM
Nikita Gusev had SKA's lone goal, a power play marker, in their 2-1 loss to Ekaterinburg. It was just the second regulation loss in 32 games this season for St. Petersburg. Gusev played 17:21 in the match. His 41 points are now 3 off the pace of the league leaders Sergei Mozyakin of Magnitogorsk and teammate Ilya Kovalchuk.
Ontario Hockey League
Oshawa Generals 2 @ Mississauga Steelheads 1 (SO)
C Anthony Cirelli, OSH: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 7/20 FO
Season Totals: 18 GP, 11-15-26, +15, 8 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 62 GP, 21-38-59, -15 27 PIM
Cirelli scored as the first shootout option for the Gens, bobbling the puck then roofing a wrist shot over the goalie’s shoulder. The Gens went 3/3 in the shootout, compared to the Steelheads, who went 2/3. That was enough for the second point.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 5 @ Saginaw Spirit 3
W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Season: 19 GP, 6-8-14, +2, 8 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 44 GP, 13-28-41, -10 19 PIM
W Mitchell Stephens, SAG: 1-0-1, -2, 0 PIM, 5 SOG, 13/23 FO
Season Totals: 15 GP, 8-7-15, +5, 14 PIM
2015-2016 Totals: 39 GP, 20-18-38, -3, 14 PIM
Katchouk and the Soo scored a 5-3 win over Stephens and Saginaw Wednesday afternoon. Stephens had the game-opening goal.
Peterborough Petes 0 @ Ottawa 67’s 2
D Matt Spencer, PBO: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Season Totals: 12 GP, 1-5-6, E, 8 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 60 GP, 5-19-24, -4, 46 PIM
W Jonne Tammela, PBO: Did not play
Season Totals: 2 GP, 1-0-1, +1, 2 PIM
2015-2016 (Finland): 37 GP, 5-8-13, +10, 16 PIM
Tammela remains out again with an undisclosed injury.
Western Hockey League
Everett Silvertips 1 @ Kamloops Blazers 2 (OT)
G Connor Ingram, KAM: Win, 33 saves on 34 shots, *First Star*
Season Totals: 18 GP, 10-7-1-0, 2.10 GAA, .934 sv%, 1 SO
2015-2016 Season: 61 GP, 34-15-5-4, 2.61 GAA, .922 sv%, 4 SO
A game after getting the mercy hook at the end of the second period Ingram bounced back with a 1-GAA ovetime win vs Everett. This was a match-up of the top two goalies in the WHL statistically. Carter Hart of Everett (Flyers 2016 second rounder) leads the league in GAA (1.85) over No. 2 Ingram, and Ingram leads in save percentage over No. 2 Hart (.929). Hart was the CHL Goaltender of the Year last season.
Lukko 1 vs. SaiPa 3
Saku Salminen, SaiPa, DNP
Season totals: 16 GP, 1-2-3, -6, 39 PIM
Ex-NHL'er Brett Carson had a goal for SaiPa in their 3-1 win over Lukko. SaiPa moved up to 11th in the 15 team Liiga with the win.
Dartmouth Big Green 2 @ Vermont Catamounts 5
C Ross Colton, UVM: 2-1-3, +2, 0 PIM, 7 SOG, *First Star*
Season Totals: 10 GP, 3-3-6, +3, 4 PIM
Colton was first star Tuesday, leading the Catamounts to a 6-2 win over Dartmouth. We could be seeing the beginning of the expected offensive breakout for Colton, who’s in his first NCAA season. He has the ability to be a solid collegiate point producer in his Vermont career.
Kalamazoo Wings 3 at Cincinnati Cyclones 1
W Brian Hart, KAL, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIMS, 5 SOG
Season Totals: 10 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIMs, 13 SOG
G Nic Riopel, KAL, W, 60:00 MINS, 26/27, *THIRD STAR*
Season Totals: 6 GP, 3-3-0-0, 2.18 GAA, 0.924 SV%, 1 SO
A five-game road trip is typically not the prescription to break a four-game slide that included over 200 minutes of scoreless hockey. Instead, Nic Riopel turned away 26 shots Tuesday night to help the K-Wings even their record at 6-6-0-1 while earning 3rd Star honors. The K-Wings break their winless streak in front of 7200+ Cyclones fans at the US Bank Arena for a weird Tuesday 10:30 AM start. Goaltending hasn't been the issue in Kalamazoo as Riopel checks in at 7th in the league in GAA and teammate Joel Martin is 6th in the league in SV%. The K-Wings travel on to Toledo for an important set of back-to-back games Friday and Saturday night.
Lightning get a big win, but possibly at a terrible price.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. Obviously it would've been nice if he could've maintained the lead in the Third Period by himself, but that 4-on-3 opportunity against was just a tough scramble play to defend. I can find no fault with either goal.
3:30 TB Kucherov (7), (Nesterov, Namestnikov)
6:09 TB Stamkos (9), (Hedman, Kucherov)
18:41 DET Nielsen (3), (Glendening)
1:29 TB Nesterov (1), (Filppula, Namestnikov)(PP)
7:12 DET Sproul (1), (Green, Nyquist)(PP)
9:38 DET Zetterberg (3), (Mantha, Sproul)(PP)
18:50 TB Kucherov (8), (Coburn, Johnson)
The Lightning got a crucial point in a tough game on the back end of a back-to-back situation and generally did it the right way. They were opportunistic and made sure they jumped out to the fast start. They got a big assist from Petr Mrazek on a puck handling miscue that led to the first goal. That soft goal ended up being the margin of victory, as soft goals usually are. The Lightning then used the power play in the Third Period when King Chicken, Justin Abdelkader, took an undisciplined call at the end of the Second Period that Nesterov cashed in for the two goal lead. If there's a critique to be made in this game, it's getting undisciplined while trying to protect the lead and eventually letting Detroit tie it on two power play goals. I thought the Lightning were generally good 5 on 5 until their legs got heavy in the Third Period, so giving Detroit man advantages (albeit because the game was getting out of hand because the refs failed to throw Ott out for a clear charge where Ott left his feet and elbowed Paquette in the head in the Second Period) gave them a lifeline the Lightning didn't need to be giving them. Still, you have to be proud of the response by the Lightning to dig deep and get a couple of decent forechecking shifts late that led to Kucherov's game winning greasy goal.
These back-to-back wins were absolutely critical in the standings calculus. The Lightning now need just 3 points the remainder of this road trip to hit their quota of 12 points every 10 game segment to stay on playoff pace. Sneaking out of Detroit with 2 points is a fantastic result because of that.
But... it came at a price. Late in the First Period, while battling for a loose puck, Steven Stamkos appeared to twist his leg slightly and left the ice grabbing the back of his right knee. It didn't look like a particularly awful or awkward movement that he got hurt on, but it doesn't have to be to cause a serious injury. I'm not a doctor, but I'll play one on the internet right now: I'm hoping this is just a knee sprain and Stamkos just needs a week or two off to heal. Obviously, some sort of tear will be a far more significant blow to the team. Either way, it takes Stamkos off the ice at a time where he was starting to form one of the best lines in hockey with Kucherov and Namestnikov. If you're trying to find a silver lining, it's not like the Lightning don't have a clue how to win with Stamkos and Stralman out of the lineup. However, part of the reason the Lightning weathered that storm the last time was a healthy Jonathan Drouin, who needs to return from his (presumed) concussion soon, please.
My apologies to the entire Tampa Bay Lightning fan base for having to watch the game on NBCSN tonight. The play-by-play and color was fine, but the studio crew of Mike Milbury and Keith Jones continues to prove they are, collectively, dumb as a stone. How do I hate thee, Mike Milbury? Let me count the ways. Was it the condescending way you remarked in pregame that somehow Steven Stamkos must like playing in Tampa Bay, as if that somehow makes him a strange dude? No, you're right, Mike, Stamkos is totally wrong to want to play for a now perennial Stanley Cup contender in a town where the average temperature in January is approximately 75 degrees and his effective tax rate is pennies on the dollar. He's clearly the wrong one, not you, Mike Milbury. Was it Tappen then asking Milbury what the Edmonton Oilers need to do to turn their season around? As if Milbury has a clue!? Folks, there's two things Mike Milbury is an expert on: beating people with shoes (not tying his own, though), and burning down a once proud franchise like he did to the Islanders as GM (big ups to you, Alexei Yashin). If you need advice about that, turn to Milbury. If you need advice about anything else, including basic arithmetic, you're better off consulting a trained monkey.
Then, oh how I enjoyed the NBCSN lionizing of King Chicken Justin Abdelkader. Yes, NBCSN, it truly takes a warrior to needlessly spear Alex Killorn at the end of the Second Period and eventually give Tampa Bay a critical power play goal. If I'm starting a Zaxby's franchise, I'd love me some Justin Abdelkader. For my hockey team, not so much. The capper was, of course, the snap reaction to the game praising Detroit's heart after they got stomped by Montreal in their last game. Wait, WHAT? They give trophies for trying now on NBCSN!?!? Are you kidding? And, you're going to praise DETROIT'S heart? Not the team that dug down to pull out a win on the downside of a back-to-back? Not the team playing without it's #2 defenseman already and that saw it's captain and best goal scorer leave the game late in the First Period to a potentially scary knee injury? No, you're right, the Detroit Red Wings, possessors of plenty of chickens and no nuggets, are the ones with HEART! Because Milbury and Jones proclaim it!
I pray for a day when the NHL grows enough in prominence the United States that people take more notice of this buffoonery and demand these fools be swept off the airwaves. In the meantime, their sole utility is to remind us that maybe Paul Kennedy and Brian Engblom aren't so bad on the local broadcasts after all. Maybe.
Brayden Point was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot on goal in 13:14. Very brave move by King Chicken Abdelkader to decide to thug it up on young Point after the whistle in the Second Period. Truly, that was a moment of bravery that was worthy of NBCSN's praise. It takes a real manly man to pick on a 20 year old rookie who is listed at 166 pounds. Heck, Abdelkader probably lays eggs that weigh more than Point. Is this really the guy you want to hitch your hype machine up to NBCSN? Really? Care to rethink that?
Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 13:29.
St. Petersburg Jr. 2 vs. Yaroslavl Jr. 0
Oleg Sosunov, Yaroslavl Jr., 0-0-0, E, 6 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 16 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 34 PIM
Oleg Sosunov had a minor for interference and a four minute double minor for roughing in Loko Jr.'s 2-0 loss to St. Petersburg Jr.
St. Petersburg 9 vs. Astana 0
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 1-4-5, +4, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 29 GP, 13-27-40, +30, 6 PIM
Nikita Gusev had an even strength goal and four helpers, two of which came with the man advantage, as SKA destroyed Barys Astana 9-0. Gusev, amazingly, played just 12:50 in the match. He is still third in the KHL in scoring, but is now just 3 points back of Sergei Mozyakin and Ilya Kovalchuk for the top spot and is tied with ex-Oilers pick Linus Omark for first in the league in helpers. Gusev's linemate, ex-Pather Evgeny Dadonov, had the big game for SKA with 4 goals and 5 points in the win. Just as a reminder, 31 games into the season, St. Petersburg has just one loss in regulation thus far. One.
UNLEASH THE KITTENS!
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout win. He looked about as solid as the security around Fort Knox all night. He didn't face a ton of chances in the middle frame, in particular, but even if he had, the Isles were getting nothing from Vasiy tonight. Vasilevskiy's next decision will graduate him from prospect status on the website.
18:58 TB Brown (2), (Paquette, Coburn)
19:40 TB Callahan (1), (Sustr, Hedman)
14:24 TB Kucherov (6), (Stamkos)(PP)
17:02 TB Namestnikov (3), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
Steven Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Nesterov were the game's three stars. Why Nesterov? 19:24 of ice time filling in for the injured Anton Stralman. Nesterov played almost 20 minutes and the Lightning got a shutout? You'd have gotten good odds in Vegas against that, I'm sure.
The Lightning should just petition the league to play the Isles every single game. They'll go 82-0. The Islanders really tried in this game, unlike how they folded like a cheap tent in the first of the three encounters against Tampa Bay. But, with two quick strikes at the end of the First Period, the Lightning again took the heart of the allegedly rough, tough, and gritty Islanders. The Lightning then put on an absolute clinic in the Second Period before garbage time in the Third Period when Vasilevskiy raised the force fields to preserve his shutout.
Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot in 16:07.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:16.