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NHL Game Night: 10-24-18 Lightning at Avalanche

Kittens in Colorado.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 22 shots he faced for the victory. He had to play really well in the First Period and then saw his workload curtailed the final 40 minutes as the defense stepped up.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
6:24 TB Kucherov (3), (Stamkos)(PP)

Nikita Kucherov and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and third stars.

Tampa Bay weathered Colorado's best punch in the First Period, with an assist from the video coaches spotting an offside that led to a reversal of a potential goal. They got outshot 11-4 in the opening frame, but rebounded to outshoot Colorado 20-11 the rest of the way. That's impressive given Colorado's offensive firepower and how they've become somewhat of a stylish team for pundits looking at the Western Conference.

The victory moved Tampa Bay to 13 points collected in their first 8 games, clinching a successful opening 10-game segment of the campaign with at least one insurance point to spare and a couple of more games to pick up additional insurance points. What you gain now counts as much as what you gain in March, and the games in March tend to be a lot more difficult to win. So, early season success is always a good recipe for punching your postseason ticket.

Mathiru Joseph had 1 shot in 10:44. Nearly had his first NHL goal drawing iron in the opening frame.

Anthony Cirelli had 1 hit in 12:15 and was oddly 0-for-4 on faceoffs.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-21-18 Lightning at Blackhawks

The result doesn't fully describe the dominance.

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CHI-3

Louis Domingue allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. He made a handful of amazing saves in the First Period to keep the Lightning in good shape, and could've read a novel most of the rest of the game for how little work he had to do.

First Period
3:21 TB Kucherov (2), (Hedman)
11:40 CHI Fortin (1), (Rutta, Keith)

Second Period
4:22 TB Cirelli (2), (Point, McDonagh)
12:07 TB Gourde (4), (Palat, Point)(PP)
14:01 TB Point (5), (Kucherov)

Third Period
9:40 TB Hedman (2), (Miller, Girardi)
15:17 CHI Kampf (1), (Rutta, Davidson)
16:12 CHI Schmaltz (1), (Kane, Seabrook)(PP)
17:55 TB Callahan (2), (Miller)(EN)

The Lightning came out with a very good push in the first five minutes of the First Period only to get a solid pushback from Chicago the rest of the frame. Going into the locker room at 1-1, Lightning fans had to be thinking this was going to be a challenging contest on the tail of the back-to-back. And then, Chicago crumbled into the shape of a minor league team and the Lightning just stomped the life out of them. 33 shots for the Lightning in the Second Period isn't just a team record, it's some sort of NHL record. 55 shots for the game does set the Lightning team record and without some good goaltending from 500-year old Cam Ward, the Blackhawks probably would've lost this game by double digits. That's not hyperbole, either. The shear volume of ten bell saves that man had to make to keep this from being a record breaking rout should not go unspoken of.

Somewhere a fancy stat person is outlining the face of Jesus in the Corsi or Fenwick stats of the Second Period for Tampa Bay, with a tear rolling down their cheek at the beauty they've been blessed to gaze upon.

Mathieu Joseph was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:51.

Anthony Cirelli had a goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 9(!) shots, and 1 blocked shot in 11:32. He was also 38% on 8 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-20-18 Lightning at Wild

Inconsistent Lightning stub their toe on a night Vasilevskiy isn't Superman.

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MIN-5 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 34 shots for the loss. He had some bright spots in this game that helped the Lightning at least steal a point, but there were multiple goals that leaked through him, including the putrid OT winner, as well as a First Period puckhandling gaffe that threw Minnesota a life line at a time they were in danger of being run out of the barn early on. Vasilevskiy can't and won't be standing on his head every night, so the Lightning skaters would do well to stay on their game for longer than 20 minutes at a time to help him on those nights.

First Period
2:23 TB Callahan (1), (Stralman, Miller)
10:50 TB Gourde (3), (McDonagh, Stamkos)
13:23 MIN Coyle (2), (Nieddereiter)

Second Period
3:49 MIN Foligno (1), (Fehr, Brown)

Third Period
10:45 MIN Parise (3), (Koivu, Spurgeon)
13:13 MIN Zucker (4), (Dumba)
15:02 TB Stralman (1), (Gourde, Palat)

Overtime
3:43 MIN Granlund (3), (Coyle, Stalock)

I don't want to put this all on the goaltender. The fact is the Lightning came out a house of fire and played their best period of the season to stake themselves to a 3-1 lead that could've easily been a 3-0 lead. The problem is, this Lightning team simply doesn't put two strong periods like that back-to-back and so they played a fairly mediocre Second Period while Minnesota stepped up to match their intensity level to get within a goal. The team was still in good position to win given how well they've protected leads, for the most part, early in this season. But, a puck leaks through Vasilevskiy and you're in danger of repeating the loss at Vancouver which only a goal against the run of play by Stralman ultimately prevented. The Lightning did absolutely dominate 3-on-3 play in Overtime, but Minnesota at least limited them to less quality chances with the possession advantage they had and then Vasilevskiy's night went from bad to worse on the winning goal. That's at least three goals you can probably easily put the goat horns on Vasiy for.

It's nice to get a point out of a night the goaltending backfired that badly, I suppose.

Mathieu Joseph had 1 shot in 13:20.

Anthony Cirelli had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:18 and was 45% on 11 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-18-18 Red Wings at Lightning

Lightning win ugly... but they do win.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. Played really well in the Second Period, in particular, while the team in front of him slumbered.

First Period
7:33 TB Point (4), (Gourde, Palat)

Second Period
6:20 DET Glendening (1), (Daley, Abdelkader)
15:19 TB Stamkos (1), (Kucherov, Sergachev)

Third Period
18:53 TB Killorn (2), (McDonagh)(EN)

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

That game was not artistic, and at times had the feel of the debacle against Vancouver. The team came out and played an assertive 20 minutes to get the 1-0 lead and then took their foot off the gas in the Second Period. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard and the Lightning were very lucky to emerge from the middle frame with a lead. My guess is Jon Cooper may have made his team aware of that fact, because the first ten minutes of the Third Period they came out a house of fire and only Howard's goaltending kept the game close. In the end, the Lightning get out of the barn with the W against an inferior club. It's a result-oriented business, so that's good, especially considering the team finished this season-opening homestand 4-1-0. But, there's room for improvement in terms of consistency of effort, suffice it to say.

I think the Monstars have stolen Nikita Kucherov's game, but I'm not 100% certain.

Mathieu Joseph was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 11:52.

Anthony Cirelli was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 12:21 and a gaudy 77% on 13 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Lightning Extend Conacher; Place Him on Waivers

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Cory Conacher to a one-year, one-way contract for the 2019-20 season worth $700,000 AAV, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced today.

Conacher, 28, has skated in one game with the Lightning this season, the Bolts’ 2-1 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers on opening night. He appeared in 36 games with the Lightning during the 2017-18 season, notching eight goals and 12 points to go along with 24 penalty minutes. The Burlington, Ontario native also played in 18 games with the Crunch last season, recording seven goals and 15 points.

The 5-foot-8, 182-pound forward has skated in 189 NHL games, posting 28 goals and 74 points to go along with 114 penalty minutes. Conacher’s eight goals last season were the most he’s notched since the 2012-13 season when he recorded 11 while splitting time between the Lightning and Ottawa Senators. Conacher has also skated in 240 AHL games, registering 91 goals and 228 points.

Conacher was undrafted out of Canisius College and was originally signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay on July 5, 2011.

Note: According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, the Lighting placed Conacher on waivers today although he was at practice today which means a reassignment to Syracuse (AHL) might not be imminent.

NHL Game Night: 10-16-18 Hurricanes at Lightning

Opportunistic Lightning edge upstart 'Canes.

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Louis Domingue shined, allowing 2 goals on 40 shots for the victory. There was no dropoff with Vasilevskiy getting the night off, and just like Vasilevskiy the Dominguenator was the team's best penalty killer tonight.

First Period
10:25 CAR Ferland (4), (Teravainen, Aho)
12:42 TB Johnson (1), (Joseph, Girardi)(SH)

Second Period
6:07 TB Johnson (2), (Erne, Miller)
12:48 CAR Necas (1), (Foegele, Zykov)

Third Period
7:02 TB Gourde (2), (Palat)(PP)
18:04 TB Johnson (3), (Kucherov, Girardi)(EN)

Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, and Domingue were the game's three stars.

Make no mistake, the Lightning were not as sharp as their opponent. Carolina looks in March form, particularly in their transition game, and they gave the Lightning fits for much of this game. Tampa Bay manufactured a win with excellent goaltending and by capitalizing on their lone power play of the night in which they cashed in on a blown Calvin DeHaan clearing attempt. Once they got the lead, they put the stranglehold on the young Canes to keep it, defensively, and that's how an elite team staves off a team like Carolina when they aren't exactly in midseason form.

Four games into the schedule the Lightning have six points, meaning they need six points in the next six games to hit the initial ten game segment goal.

Mathieu Joseph had a helper, his first NHL point, in 12:15. Blew past old man Justin Williams like he was standing still to create a shorthanded 2-on-1.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:50. He was also 47% on 15 draws.

Adam Erne had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 9:37. Feathered a nice pass in transition to spring Johnson on Tyler's second goal. It was probably Erne's most impactful game of the season thus far.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-13-18 Blue Jackets at Lightning

An imperfect snowman built by a resurgent power play.

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TB-8

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. The team's PK, in particular, is not passing the eye test right now, but Vasilevskiy's been so sharp he's smoothing out the imperfections.

First Period
1:00 TB Hedman (1), (Johnson, Kucherov)
11:17 TB Paquette (1), (Gourde)
18:37 TB Gourde (1), (Sergachev, Johnson)(PP)

Second Period
8:14 CBJ Anderson (3), (Wennberg, Murray)
15:51 CBJ Bjorkstrand (1), (unassisted)
19:15 TB Point (1), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:40 TB Point (2), (Miller, Sergachev)(PP)
7:12 TB Killorn (1), (Stamkos, Miller)(PP)
13:02 TB Kucherov (1), (Palat, Coburn)
19:59 TB Miller (1), (Point, Stralman)(PP)

Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and J.T. Miller were the game's three stars.

After a couple of less than inspired efforts, the Lightning looked like they knew something had to change going into a game against Columbus. You better play hard against a John Tortorella coached team because you know they will out of fear of going to the hospital for having a fine Italian loafer removed from their nether-regions if they don't. Jon Cooper pulled the right strings with reconstituted lines that included re-assembling the old Triplets line, and with a little luck and some strong work by Vasilevskiy when called upon the team built a big 3-0 lead.

Unfortunately, the team reverted to sleep walking in the Second Period and were dominated by Columbus much of the frame. Thanks to Vasilevskiy, they were still clinging to a lead with under a minute before intermission when Brayden Point got a big breakthrough to re-establish a little breathing room. A Point power play goal after the intermission re-established the three goal cushion, and it was on to garbage time. In the end, the bulk of the Lightning's fireworks came from a power play that finally showed the needed urgency and ended up with four power play markers to show. Several Lightning players got some feel-good stats in this game, including Gourde, Point, Kucherov, and Miller all breaking the goal scoring tape on their 2018-2019 seasons.

Still plenty to work on as the team continues to strive toward a full sixty minute effort, but pinning a snowman on a team beats a punch in the face... or a backdoor 4-1 loss.

Mathieu Joseph was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 13:06.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 3 hits and he was 33% on 12 draws in 13:53.

Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:23.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-11-18 Canucks at Lightning

Lightning see the script flipped on them from opening night.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the loss. I've got no complaints about Vasiy's sharpness through two games.

First Period
16:36 TB Point (1), (Gourde, Coburn)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
11:07 VAN Pettersson (4), (Pouliot, Stecher)
12:17 VAN Boeser (1), (unassisted)
18:48 VAN Virtanen (2), (unassisted)(EN)
19:52 VAN Granlund (1), (Virtanen)(EN)

Mathieu Joseph was the game's third star.

The Lightning had a much better effort overall in this one relative to opening night as far as their possession game goes, but they paid the price for letting a team hang around. The urgency they showed at even strength early in the game subsided to some very complacent efforts on the power play and their failure to put the game away when they had chances to with the man advantage bit them. Vancouver gets a puck luck goal off a guy's leg and another goal off a Killorn turnover and a game that should've been a win evaporates into an ugly loss. It's a frustrating reversal of what happened against the Panthers.

Someone put an APB out for Stamkos and Kucherov. Stick their mugs on a milk carton. There's no excuse for players that talented to have done so little in the first two games of the season. Indeed, tonight I thought the bottom two lines were generally much better than the top two lines, and that's not a sustainable formula. Complacency is poison, and going through the motions, especially on the power play, is intolerable.

Joseph was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 1 hit in 13:53. He was all over the rink tonight and it feels like once he gets one point, the dam is going to break and he's going to get a handful pretty quickly thereafter.

Anthony Cirelli was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 14:01. He was also 50% on 14 draws. His line with Joseph was the best Lightning line tonight and unfortunately, it wasn't reflected in the ending stat line.

Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:16. The fourth line was skating and hitting pretty well. Just couldn't get enough pucks into the blender in front of Nilsson to generate more scoring chances.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-6-18 Panthers at Lightning

Opening night Vasilarceny as the Lightning continue to torment PantherNation.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 43 shots and 2 of 2 shooters in the penalty shot session for the SO victory. The Lightning could've easily been down 3 or 4 goals coming out of a particularly terrible looking opening frame were it not for how sharp Andrei was from the word "go".

First Period
5:58 FLA MacDonald (1), (Trocheck, Huburdeau)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
10:45 TB Cirelli (1), (McDonagh)(SH)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
FLA- NONE
TB- Miller, Kucherov

Vasilevskiy and Anthony Cirelli were the game's first and second stars.

That was ugly as sin, but I'll take it. The Lightning looked rusty, out of sync, and just plain bad for the first 20 minutes of tonight's contest and were frankly lucky not to get blown out of their own barn. Vasilevskiy held them in it and they got progressively better over the course of the contest, but there were still far too many mental errors and old Lightning bugaboos for my taste. Turnovers. Players passing out of shooting opportunities in prime real estate around the slot and circles. Penalties in bad situations. It wasn't good. Chalk it up to the weirdness of opening night, but unless you're wearing #88, you shouldn't be happy with how you played tonight. They'll be no shortage of film for Jon Cooper to point to to teach them up after tonight's near debacle that thankfully wasn't.

If there was one silver lining, I think it was the team's response coming out of the First Intermission. I'm a little squeamish about the lack of changes to this roster and the potential for staleness that plagued this team two seasons ago when they missed the playoffs. I didn't get that complacency vibe from the team tonight. They knew they stepped in it in the First Period and they showed some resolve to try to correct their habits immediately. That's good to see from a team that now has to get back to the regular season grind of systematically trying to get 12 points every 10 game segment of the season. It's a grind that requires leadership and mental toughness, and they showed some of that tonight even though they didn't have their A (or even their C) game for a good portion of the night.

Mathieu Joseph was -1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:50. Looked a hot runny mess in the First Period, like most of his teammates, and then got a lot better from there on out. Thought for sure he was going to score on one shift in the Second Period.

Anthony Cirelli had the big SH goal and 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:15 and was 57% on 14 draws. Played a good game and got rewarded for it with some puck luck on his goal.

Adam Erne had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 8:32. Mixed it up physically at times, but didn't have a ton of ice time to be more impactful with.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Lightning Set Opening Night Roster: Four Prospects Make Squad

Tampa Bay trimmed down their training camp roster to twenty-four on Sunday, and with forward Ryan Callahan expected to start the season on injured reserved, this should be the team's final cuts. Four Bolt prospects, all forwards, will start the 2018-19 campaign with the big club, including camp standouts Adam Erne and Mathieu Joseph. Joining those two include Anthony Cirelli and Danick Martel, the latter being a waiver wire claim during camp by the Lightning. Cirelli was an in-season call up from the Crunch during the 2017-18 season, and played 18 regular season games and 17 playoff games for the Lightning totaling seven goals and seven assists in those 25 contests. Erne has played 49 NHL games over the past two seasons for the Bolts, while Martel notched four games for the Flyers last season.

Forwards Alexander Volkov and Mitchell Stephens, along with defenseman Erik Cernak were the team's final three cuts, and all had very strong camps in their own rights. They were reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch and are expected to play pivotal roles for Tampa Bay's top minor league affiliate.

The Lightning open the 2018-19 season at home on October 6 against the Florida Panthers.

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