Tampa Bay Lightning
KHL Western Conference Finals
(6)St. Petersburg 0 vs. (1)CSKA 1 (OT)
CSKA Leads the Series 3-0
Nikita Gusev, St. Petersburg, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff totals: 14 GP, 5-9-14, -1, 0 PIM
Regular season totals: 56 GP, 20-29-49, +15, 14 PIM
Ex-Syracuse Crunch Geoff Platt scored 11:12 into Triple OT to deliver CSKA a tremendous 1-0 Game Three win that puts them on the brink of advancing to the Gagarin Cup Final. Islanders third rounder Ilya Sorokin stopped all 52 shots he faced for the shutout victory while ex-Isles second rounder Mikko Koskinen allowed 1 goal on 52 shots for the hard luck loss. Nikita Gusev was scoreless in a sizable 35:18 in the match, which was third among SKA forwards in ice time.
Victory... at a price.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the win. He was not at his best, but thankfully the team in front of him, more or less, was, as he drank again from the cool waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
8:54 NYI Nelson(25), (Strome, Bailey)
13:42 TB Kucherov(29), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:51 TB Namestnikov(14), (unassisted)
5:02 TB Stamkos(35), (Garrison, Kucherov)
5:25 NYI Prince(5), (unassisted)
16:18 NYI Boychuk(8), (Tavares, Bailey)
6:03 TB Sustr(3), (Garrison)
6:22 NYI Kulemin(7), (Nielsen, Hamonic)
10:09 TB Johnson(13), (Palat, Marchessault)
10:32 TB Garrison(5), (Palat, Marchessault)
18:35 TB Hedman(7), (Carle, Palat)(EN)
That was a wild game where the Lightning were dominant offensively, outshooting the Islanders 42-31 and probably outchancing them by an even greater margin, but never pulling away because of some defensive let downs and soft goaltending. In the end they deserved the 2 points for the night, and they got it. That's the good news.
The price was steep, however. Anton Stralman left the game in the First Period with what appeared to be a significant leg injury. Post game we've learned that Stralman has a broken leg, which barring an extremely deep playoff run may pretty much end Stralman's season. This team looked pretty bad just missing Jason Garrison from the lineup. They're ill-equipped to handle losing any of their top-4 defenseman, and losing Stralman will be an extra strain. And no, there isn't a callup from Syracuse who can help fill those shoes. That's a blow that may ultimately torpedo Cup hopes.
With the victory, the Lightning's magic number is cut to 5 points now with 6 games left to play in this segment. They've got a really tough draw tomorrow, though, having to face a rested Panthers team with first place in the division on the line in the wake of the Stralman injury. Maybe they just turn it over to Vasilevskiy tomorrow and hope the kid just does his thing and stands on his head. He's capable of it.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 assists, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 13:24. He was, in my opinion, the key man in the Johnson goal in the Third Period that gave the Lightning the breathing room to pull away in this one. His addition to the line with Johnson and Palat has been productive, and by freeing Kucherov to go play on Stamkos' line it's given the Lightning the scoring balance they have struggled to find over the past two years. Note how well this team has played offensively the past two games despite having veterans Filppula and Callahan out of the lineup due to injury. This is important for Cooper to understand: playing 51 and 24 as much as he has costs the Lightning possession and goals, and their identity is to have possession and be a potent offensive team. So, when Filppula and Callahan come back, one has to live in hope that Cooper uses them in more targeted roles as opposed to lavishing ice time in them in all situations, because it ends up being dead minutes. Either way, Marchessault's next NHL game this regular season will graduate him from prospect status on the website, and he appears to be peaking just ahead of that milestone.
Erik Condra obliterates everything you thought you knew about this team...
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the win. Honestly, I thought he was fighting it hard tonight and got the benefit of two posts early on. He may need to go back into five-hole rehab after that Helm goal, in fact. Fortunately, the puck luck early on went the Lightning's way and allowed them to settle into a pretty good defensive game that protected Ben while allowing him to drink from the waters of sweet, sweet goal support.
1:47 TB Condra(4), (Palat, Boyle)
9:55 TB Namestnikov(13), (Brown)
0:33 TB Stamkos(34), (Kucherov, Hedman)
8:08 DET Abdelkader(18), (Zetterberg, Kronwall)(PP)
15:25 DET Helm(12), (Datsyuk, Mantha)
17:42 TB Kucherov(28), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
1:03 TB Palat(14), (Johnson, Hedman)
16:56 TB Condra(5), (Boyle)
Erik Condra, Victor Hedman, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars. Yes, Erik Condra. And, what should terrify you more about the face that Condra had 2 goals is that he probably should've had 1-2 more. Try to think what a Condra hat trick would've done to the laws of time and space... and then thank your lucky stars tragedy was averted tonight.
Tonight's game was a convergence of them being on their possession game and getting the benefit of a lot of the puck luck. It wasn't a perfect game. They were sloppy at times with turnovers. Bishop was a little off, as noted. Alex Killorn looked like he was Magnus ver Magnussen in one of those strongman competitions pulling a semi truck behind him all game. But, on balance, they were on their possession game forechecking hard, their power play was actually not a liability tonight, and they got some breaks. That's a good formula for beating down a team 6-2, and one you'd hope will be repeated a few more times before all is said and done in the 2015-2016 campaign.
The win vaults the Lightning into a tie with the Panthers atop the Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay holding the big advantage in ROW. More importantly, with 7 games to go in the final 10 game set of the year, the Lightning have a magic number of 7 points to ease into the playoff comfortably. That's what you want. You want to be in comfortably at the end of 80 games with the chance to either go for a banner or rest some guys in the final 2 games of the regular season. The Lightning look to be back on track to do that, only needing to go .500 the next 7 games to hit the season target of 96 points.
Jonathan Marchessault was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:22. By my count he's now 2 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Ben Thomas to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Thomas, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, began the 2015-16 season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He recorded three assists in 14 games with Calgary prior to being traded to the Vancouver Giants, also of the WHL, on October 27. Thomas skated in 60 games with the Giants, registering eight goals and 25 points with 40 penalty minutes. He led all Vancouver defensemen for goals and ranked second for assists and points.
The Calgary native has appeared in 213 career WHL games with the Hitmen and Giants, recording 22 goals and 90 points. He also played for Team Canada at the 2014 Under-18 World Championships, tallying one assist in seven games en route to earning the Bronze Medal.
Thomas was drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round, 119th overall, of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Bishop outlasts Domingue in goaltending duel to set franchise SO record.
Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout, handing down U of Maine Justice for a franchise record 15th time in a Lightning uniform. Arizona didn't have a ton of A chances, and he had some long stretches of inactivity, but he stood on his head in the Third Period and on two 5-on-3's in the Second Period to get his team with win tonight.
19:03 TB Palat(13), (Hedman, Killorn)
19:10 TB Kucherov(27), (Stamkos)(EN)
Bishop and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue was the third star. True, his soft goal allowed to Palat ended up being the difference in the game, but he can stay in the Western Conference, thank you very much. He's looked like Tony Esposito reincarnate the two times the Lightning have had to play him this season.
All-in-all, the Lightning put forth the effort they needed to tonight at even strength and especially on the penalty kill where they were masterful against an extremely good Arizona power play. Espo's Rule about not scoring on 5-on-3's held up. The Coyotes squandered a pair of them and, sure enough, they lost. In the half empty portion of the glass, the Lightning absolutely wet the bed on a 4 minute power play in the Third Period that begged to deliver the put away goal, but only delivered disappointment instead.
The Lightning pulled to within 2 points of the Atlantic Division lead, but more importantly, they cut their target number to 9 points. 9 points in the next 8 games and they should be in solid shape to make the playoffs comfortably. Get that and I'll be happy. Anything above that is gourmet gravy.
Jonathan Marchessault had 6 shots and 1 hit in 15:23 and was even pretty good when pressed into service on 3 faceoffs, going 67%. Tonight was a night where he played his game. Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. Shoot the puck. If he keeps doing that, good things will happen. He needs 3 more games to reach graduation from prospect status on the website. I doubt Cooper can sit him next time out with the way he played tonight.
Third Period collapse in Big D.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss.
12:15 TB Kucherov(26), (Killorn, Sustr)
14:08 DAL Spezza(29), (Nichushkin)
3:15 TB Stamkos(32), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
5:42 DAL Benn(35), (Eakin)
17:19 TB Stamkos(33), (Killorn, Hedman)
9:42 DAL Johns(1), (Eakin, Benn)
11:50 DAL Benn(36), (Eakin, Seguin)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
That Third Period just wasn't good enough. The Lightning played a good (not perfect) first 40 minutes. Sans a few mistakes like that gross turnover by Stamkos on Dallas' second goal, they could've had a multi-goal lead after the Second Period. As it was, they played the road game well weathering Dallas' early storm and staying ahead or even most of the first two periods. But, getting outshot 17-4 in the Third Period just isn't going to get it done. Dallas pushed and the Lightning had no answer, and I don't get why. I really don't. It wasn't complacency, but perhaps they're guilty of trying to sit on a lead, if anything.
Back-to-back losses may make winning the Atlantic Division an impossibility and puts the Lightning in a position where they need to right the ship quickly here or put themselves at risk for the playoffs. With 9 games to go in this 10 game set of the year, they still have a magic number to get of 11 points. What they don't want is to scuttle through those 9 games and only collect, say, 8 points, and find themselves in the high-pressure position of needing points in the last 2 games of the year just to get into the postseason. That would be bad, so the team needs to tighten up quickly. I'd much rather see them sew up a spot and be able to give Ben Bishop a little rest the last couple of games of the regular season before the postseason marathon begins.
Lightning take 40 minutes off... face the consequences.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for a fairly hard luck loss. He made several high-difficulty saves, but got precious little in the way of goal support.
13:34 TOR Carrick(1), (Holland, Greening)
6:33 TB Boyle(11), (Stralman)
9:07 TOR Smith(1), (Grabner, Michalek)
18:27 TOR Hyman(3), (Smith, Marincin)(EN)
19:47 TOR Parenteau(17), (unassisted)(EN)
This team is so bad, particularly on offense, when they try to get by just going through the motions. I thought they were flat the first 40 minutes tonight and tried to come back and win the game in one period, and that just can't cut it at the NHL level. 11 shots, total, through two periods is just awful. The only thing you'll win is a dog show with numbers like that.
Tampa Bay will now enter the final 10 game segment of the season needing at least 11 points to reach the season target at the end of 80 games. It's certainly do-able, but the team needs more consistent urgency and focus than it has shown the past week or two to close the deal.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 penalty minutes and 4 hits in 11:40. One shot attempt. One. I applaud the young man for having some abrasiveness to his game despite his small size, but that's not his game. If I had Jonathan Marchessault's shot, I'd start shooting from the team hotel and I wouldn't stop until they had to wrap my wrists in ice. Just saying. With 12 games left in the Lightning's season, Marchessault needs 4 more appearances to graduate from prospect status on the site.
Lightning stare down adversity... and smack it in the mouth.
Ben Bishop stopped all 37 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Columbus' fans decided to make Bishop a target after he was interfered with on a goal that was waved off early in the game, and the Blue Jackets ran Ben several times, including a pretty wicked leg sweep by Foligno. All the sweeter for Bishop, who handed down some U of Maine Justice by blanking his would-be tormenters.
5:29 TB Stamkos(30), (Kucherov)
8:45 TB Namestnikov(12), (Johnson)
10:54 TB Stamkos(31), (Palat)(SH)
14:39 TB Palat(12), (Stamkos)(SH)
The Lightning entered this game pretty well needing a win, having dropped their last 3 with 2 of those being distinctive clunkers against Philly. That's why Bishop was in net today, when if all things were even I think this is a start Cooper might've slid Vasilevskiy's way. Columbus has learned to play a little tighter defensively under Tortorella and they're an extremely physical (goonish) team. They push the envelope of the rules. And, further complicating things, the Lightning ended up playing over half the game with 9 forwards after Valtteri Filppula and Nikita Kucherov had to leave the game with injury (the latter taking a sucker punch in a post whistle scrum from Prout that should be suspension-worthy, in my opinion, if the league gives a damn about protecting its stars).
Tired and sore, the Lightning answered the bell. They manufactured the goals they needed to get the 2-0 lead, they played tight enough defense, and they eventually broke it open on a couple of masterful shorthanded goals by Stamkos and Palat. Today wasn't a game that the Lightning would've circled on the calendar heading into it, but the way they handled adversity in a chippy game makes this a far more important victory than it may have looked on paper.
A little comment on Columbus before I move on: that team is an embarrassment. Let me reiterate: that team is an embarrassment. God bless Tortorella for getting them to play hard, but the fine line between playing hard and playing dirty got obliterated this afternoon. You had Foligno low-bridging a goaltender and body-slamming Namestnikov. You had Prout sucker-punching a Russian goal scorer in a post-whistle scrum that may have concussed Kucherov. You had Bourque slashing Tyler Johnson across the hands with the game well out of hand. You had Calvert slashing another Lightning player right at the final buzzer. That says nothing about all the other stick infractions, clutching and grabbing, and sucker punches and slashes the Blue Jackets got away with as the game wore on. They started to look like a glorified Central Hockey League team as things wore on, and the NHL out to seriously be ashamed there's a product like that anywhere on the league's ice. I wish John Tortorella all the best in taking a book of matches and a gallon or two of lighter fluid to that roster in the offseason in the pursuit of building a team that isn't an appalling laughing stock for anyone who cares about seeing the game played the right way.
With Valtteri Filppula hurt, I wouldn't be shocked to see a Tanner Richard recall, as he was held out of Syracuse's lineup today.
With 1 game left to play in Segment Seven of the season, the Lightning have cleared the minimum 12 points they needed from the 10-game set by 1 point. That means the next contest against Toronto on Tuesday will be an opportunity to pick up 2 more insurance points and drive the magic number they need in Segment Eight of the season to comfortably make the playoffs down even further from 11, which is where it currently stands.
Lightning should be held in contempt for failure to appear.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss. I have a hard time complaining about a goaltender who has gotten a whopping 1 goal of support in the last 120 minutes (and 10 seconds!) of hockey.
8:57 PHI Gagner(7), (unassisted)(PP)
3:34 PHI Read(11), (MacDonald, Couturier)(PP)
7:56 PHI Schenn(23), (Simmonds, Manning)
17:18 TB Boyle(10), (Stralman, Killorn)
The Lightning just never showed up tonight. Having failed to get the payoff for such a spirited effort against Boston, they just never mentally bought into playing tonight, or at least it appeared that way, and they just were lifeless. When they're second to pucks they're a bad, bad team.
Sidebar: I have a feeling Cooper could put all 12 Lightning forwards on the power play and they'd still struggle. We'll see how that experiment goes, though. 0-for-1 is certainly a small sample size to draw conclusions from.
The scary thing is the Lightning appear to the naked eye to be playing the same brand of hockey they were in their disastrous first half of the season. In other words, disinterest mixed with mistakes and the distinct absence of goal scoring. That needs to change in a hurry if the Lightning want to win the division and if they want to make sure they don't put themselves back in a little jeopardy of missing the playoff cut.
One bad shift costs the Lightning a signature win.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the OT loss. He was excellent in the game, and it was a difficult game to be excellent in because it had long stretches of inactivity after which Bishop would have to make a Grade A save on a high quality chance. He deserved better than the finish.
0:10 BOS Marchand(34), (Bergeron, Krug)
Bishop was the game's second star.
Considering the setup to this game, with the clunker in Philly last night and Stralman missing the game, this was a strong, strong effort by the Lightning. They got everything but the result, which robs them of a richly deserved signature moment. This felt like a playoff game. "Playoff atmosphere" is an overused cliche in the regular season, but it would've actually been applied correctly tonight. Unfortunately, the Lightning just couldn't get anything past Gustavsson and one flat shift by the 4-man unit to start OT cost them, big time.
With 3 games left to play in this 10-game segment of the season, Tampa Bay needs just 1 more point to stay on minimum playoff pace. They also retain a lead in the Atlantic Division title chase based on the ROW tiebreaker and their game in hand on Boston.
There are just 15 games left to go in the regular season, and they'll be gone in the blink of an eye.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot in 11:05. Rookie defender in a 0-0 game all the way through regulation? He simply wasn't getting the ice time tonight under those circumstances.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot in 12:02. He had 5 other attempts on goal, though, that were either missed or blocked. So he was active in limited IT.