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NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-12-18 Devils at Lightning

Lightning show off maturity, quality, and professionalism in Game One win.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

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TB-5

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 1-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. This wasn't the sharpest Vasilevskiy we've seen because he did seem to struggle a little at times with his rebound control, but he made the situational saves he needed to make and maintained focus despite some long stretches of inactivity in the game. Good performance with room to improve.

First Period
15:00 TB Palat (1), (Johnson, McDonagh)
19:31 TB Johnson (1), (Palat, Point)

Second Period
1:54 TB Gourde (1), (Palat, Sergachev)(PP)
13:55 NJ Hall (1), (unassisted)

Third Period
9:35 NJ Zajac (1), (Hall, Butcher)(PP)
12:14 TB Killorn (1), (Gourde)
18:48 TB Kucherov (1), (unassisted)(EN)

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

Wow. I'm pretty amazed at what we witnessed tonight. For 82 games the Lightning never really played a disciplined, professional, poised, mature 60 minute game. Tonight, this team just threw the switch from the opening drop tonight and played a nearly flawless, simple, highly mature game. It wasn't without blemishes, such as the Palat turnover on Hall goal that allowed the Devils back into the game, but that was incredible. We saw the high percentage, good habits all over the rink and an intense effort by the Lightning that saw them win an incredibly high percentage of 50/50 pucks.

I'd even say the mistake Palat let the Devils back into the game with a turnover might be a silver lining, because I think the fact the Lightning never really got into garbage time cruise mode should help stave off complacency and bad habits. That's important, because as nice as tonight's win is, if the Lightning come out flat and drop Game Two the Devils will have accomplished what they came to Tampa to do in the first couple of matchups in this series.

I'd say the one big key takeaway from the night is that the Lightning's depth really appeared to give them a tremendous advantage against New Jersey. Both teams were pretty successful in nullifying the other's top lines, so the game really came down to the fact the Lightning have three pretty decent scoring lines and the checking line was also solid tonight, whereas New Jersey didn't really have a lot depth-wise that looked threatening. So long as the Lightning manage the puck well and don't give away unearned scoring chances, that depth advantage should carry them to a series win.

Anthony Cirelli was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:20. He was also 56% on 9 draws. Cirelli continued to play like a young man with an old soul in this game and impressed in one encounter in the corner against ex-Lightning forward Brian Boyle where he used body position and guile to stay strong on the puck despite a significant size disadvantage. You get the feeling that with a summer of intense training to get his body even more NHL ready that Cirelli could become a quiet beast.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-7-18 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning can't grind out Atlantic Division title clincher.

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CAR-3 (OT)

Louis Domingue allowed 3 goals on 42 shots for the OT loss. I feel sick for him, because he played his bag off and deserved better. He allowed the first goal on a horribly unlucky deflection, the second goal should've been disallowed on goaltender interference, and the third goal was an odd man rush off a horrible line change in OT. He was fantastic and to get that strong a performance from your backup with as much as what was on the line in this game speaks highly of Domingue, in my opinion.

First Period
0:19 CAR Staal (19), (Williams, DiGiuseppe)
17:36 CAR Williams (16), (DiGiuseppe, Hanifin)

Second Period
3:30 TB Callahan (5), (Hedman, Kunitz)

Third Period
11:11 TB Palat (11), (Miller, Johnson)

Overtime
0:49 CAR Lindholm (16), (Teravainen, Fleury)

I feel a little sick, honestly. Tonight's a perfect illustration of why you don't want things to go down to game 82 when you need points. All it takes is some horrible puck luck or questionable officiating and next thing you know you're having to count of the Florida Panthers to travel to Boston and take at least a point off the Bruins to win the division and set up a much easier road, on paper, through the postseason. The heart was there in this Lightning team, overall. But, I think the breaks coupled with their having to empty out too much of the tank against Buffalo yesterday landed them in this predicament. Once Palat got the tying goal it really did appear to me the Lightning just didn't have much left in the reserve tanks to finish the job.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 7:06.

Anthony Cirelli had 4 shots and 1 hit in 16:35, but was just 24% on 17 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-6-18 Sabres at Lightning

Lightning move onto the cusp of clinching a division title... barely.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 32 shots for the win. Somehow.

First Period
0:30 TB Cirelli (4), (Gourde)
2:57 BUF Mittelstadt (1), (Scandella, Rodrigues)(PP)
4:35 TB Kucherov (39), (unassisted)
6:32 BUF Nylander (1), (Guhle, Ristolainen)
9:40 TB Gourde (25), (Killorn)

Second Period
1:04 TB Girardi (6), (Kucherov, Palat)
8:59 BUF Pominville (15), (Guhle, Rodrigues)
15:58 BUF Nolan (4), (Larsson)
18:45 BUF Okposo (15), (Eichel, O'Reilly)(PP)

Third Period
6:15 TB Cirelli (5), (Killorn, Sergachev)
7:02 TB Point (32), (Killorn, Gourde)
18:34 TB Hedman (17), (Vasilevskiy)(EN)

Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, and Anthony Cirelli were the game's three stars.

With Boston failing to keep pace in their tilt last night the Lightning came into this game just needing a regulation or OT win in each of their last two games in order to clinch the Atlantic Division and force Boston into a first round matchup against a Toronto team the Bruins have struggled mightily against in the regular season. Strategically, this was a must-win game and the Lightning seemed to bring the intensity necessary for the task... right up until they got a 4-2 lead. Then they let their foot off the gas and soon found themselves chasing the game down 5-4 heading into the Third Period. That the Lightning found a way to pull this one out is fantastic, but the unevenness of their intensity level is troubling (along with their awful penalty kill) and may be potentially costly if the energy they had to expend tonight costs them in their contest with Carolina in the regular season finale tomorrow.

Cirelli had 2 goals and was +4 with 3 shots in 13:33. He was also 63% on 16 draws including winning the draw against arguably the league's finest, Ryan O'Reilly, en route to manufacturing the critical goal that tied the game at 5-5. With Stamkos out hurt Cirelli's had to step up and you could make an argument he was Tampa Bay's best forward tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-3-18 Bruins at Lightning

The payoff and the payback.

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TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 33 shots he faced for the SO win and to release the kittens. That was early season Vasiy: made the early situational saves and allowed his team to build the big lead and then cruise to the finish line.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
5:01 TB Point (31), (Kucherov, Coburn)
10:59 TB Hedman (16), (Coburn, Callahan)
14:27 TB Kunitz (13), (Callahan, Girardi)

Third Period
2:34 TB Miller (23), (unassisted)

Vasilevskiy, Brayden Coburn, and Ryan Callahan were the game’s three stars.

You could see the Lightning coming along in the last week or two, but after losing 4 of 5 the team had reached a moment of truth tonight. A loss would’ve fueled a full-blown crisis of confidence heading into the postseason that, thankfully, we don’t have to worry about now. Even without Stamkos in the lineup the team turned in a gritty and swaggy performance that keeps their Atlantic Division title hopes alive with two more regular season tilts left on the schedule.

Anthony Cirelli had 1 shot and 2 hits and was 53% on 15 draws in 14:06. Played a smart, simple game stepping up to fill some of Stamkos’ vacated ice time.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-1-18 Predators at Lightning

Third Period collapse undermines Lightning effort.

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TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 25 shots for the loss. It just wasn't good enough. The second goal allowed was an unlucky double deflection, so I won't fault him for that, but he didn't make the situational saves needed in the Third Period. It feels like Vasilevskiy hasn't been on top of his game for at least the last month or two and he's due. It's needed.

First Period
7:50 NSH Johansen (14), (Forsberg)

Second Period
2:46 NSH Forsberg (22), (Subban, Saros)(PP)
7:32 TB Palat (10), (Stralman)

Third Period
6:24 NSH Forsberg (23), (unassisted)
9:29 NSH Smith (23), (Ekholm, Subban)

Ondrej Palat was the game's third star.

At some point, if the Lightning are going to turn this around, they've got to get the payoff. As with the confrontation with Boston, I can honestly say that on balance the Lightning played well enough to win. Hell, through 40 minutes the Lightning were outshooting Nashville 24-13 even with Steven Stamkos leaving the game early with a presumed injury. Situational saves? Situational goals? Puck luck? The Lightning aren't getting any of those things, and they've got to get a result soon to payoff the increased focus and intensity they really seem to be putting into these games now.

All Dan Girardi needed on that third goal against was a matador's cape to make the scene complete. Horrible.

Anthony Cirelli was +1 with 2 shots and 2 hits and he was 50% on 12 draws in 13:54. He's been playing really well over the last week or two.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-30-18 Lightning at Rangers

Lightning restore order to their world by crushing their farm team.

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NYR-3

Louis Domingue allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the win. Made a handful of timely saves and eventually got to bathe in the deep, cool waters of sweet, sweet goal support.

First Period
14:59 NYR Skej (4), (Buchenevich, Desharnais)

Second Period
3:15 TB Paquette (4), (Miller, Sergachev)
4:33 TB Killorn (15), (Cirelli, Hedman)

Third Period
0:35 TB Miller (22), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)
1:53 TB Paquette (5), (Conacher, Kunitz)
2:38 TB Point (29), (Gourde)
8:14 NYR Chytil (1), (Zuccarello, Hayes)
16:31 NYR Kreider (16), (Zibanejad, Fast)
18:16 TB Point (30), (Gourde)(EN)
19:26 TB Girardi (5), (Paquette, Kunitz)(PP)

Cedric by God Paquette, J.T. Miller, and Alex Killorn were the game's three stars.

After the tough outcome last night the team had a little hangover in the First Period, but ultimately pulled it together to have another strong effort that keeps things pointing in the right direction heading toward the postseason. They were facing an overmatched Rangers team that, on paper, they should've trounced and that's ultimately exactly what they did.

Anthony Cirelli had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:15 of ice time. He was also 60% on 20 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-29-18 Lightning at Bruins

Lightning can't overcome early mistakes and the referees to hold onto first place.

TB-2
BOS-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. Dropped a pretty bad rebound in his crease on the first goal. Otherwise I have no big complaints, but that's a big situational save he needed to make.

First Period
19:02 BOS Schaller (12), (Wingels)
19:34 BOS Pastrnak (32), (Krug, Bergeron)(PP)

Second Period
1:44 TB Miller (21), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
11:59 BOS Bergeron (28), (Krug, Marchand)
13:54 TB Hedman (15), (Gourde, Girardi)
19:04 BOS Marchand (34), (Bergeron, Pastrnak)(EN)

The result and the fallout in the standings stings, but this felt like a turning point tonight. After 2-3 months of playing unfocused pond hockey and struggling to realign the team to get ready for the postseason, tonight was the first time the Lightning looked like they had really put their playoff faces on. It was a tight checking, physical game and the Lightning began paying a price in a way that they were laughably failing to do in the debacle against Arizona. Had some questionable officiating not interceded, the score of this game could've easily been flipped. The injustice of that officiating and the bitter taste of not getting a better result than the team deserved should carry over to Tuesday's return match in Tampa Bay. So, there's silver linings in this game, although the PK still looks horrible. I've never seen a four man box for a NHL team collapse down into what almost looks like a three man triangle at times so often. It's the gravest concern heading down the stretch into the playoffs.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots, but he got abused in the faceoff circles going 10% on 10 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-26-18 Coyotes at Lightning

Upstart Coyotes humiliate Lightning.

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Louis Domingue allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
10:45 AZ Murphy (1), (Martinook, Cousins)
17:22 AZ Chychrun (3), (Panik, Keller)(PP)

Third Period
10:28 AZ Perlini (17), (Strome, Connauton)
14:37 TB Kucherov (38), (Miller, Hedman)(PP)
19:52 AZ Keller (23), (Goligoski)(EN)

The Lightning got outshot 35-20 in their own barn by a young team that had nothing to play for but pride. 35-20? Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. Yeah, I guess Stamkos out day-to-day hurts the continuity, but c'mon. 35-20?

Now the scene turns to a high-stakes battle for control of the division against Boston on Thursday with the Lightning looking extremely mortal over the past couple of weeks. Put up or shut up time is fast approaching.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 shots and 2 hits in 7:37.

Anthony Cirelli was 47% on 17 draws in 17:53.

Adam Erne had 1 shot in 3:52.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-24-18 Lightning at Devils

Gritty Devils outlast Lightning.

TB-1
NJ-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the loss. I thought he dropped a pretty bad rebound in his crease on the first goal allowed and that ultimately was the margin in this one.

First Period
17:51 NJ Hischier (18), (Butcher, Mueller)

Second Period
10:59 NJ Palmieri (21), (Zacha, Hall)

Third Period
4:22 TB Palat (9), (Sergachev, Point)(PP)

New Jersey played last night so this game, on paper, should've been a schedule loss on paper for them. But they're trying to hang onto playoff position and they played a really high intensity, gritty game that the Lightning didn't match up to for 40 minutes. Between that and the fact Kincaid outplayed Vasilevskiy, the Lightning ended up on the wrong side of this one despite outshooting, outchancing, and outpossessing New Jersey for several stretches, especially in the Third Period.

Anthony Cirelli had 2 shots and 1 hit and was 54% on 13 draws in 14:04.

Adam Erne had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 9:43.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-22-18 Lightning at Islanders

Eighties night all over again.

TB-7
NYI-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 41 shots and still got a win.

First Period
2:09 TB Cirelli (3), (Coburn, Gourde)
2:35 TB Johnson (21), (Kunitz, Sergachev)
10:24 NYI Pulock (8), (Eberle, Tavares)(PP)
14:17 TB Hedman (14), (Point, Palat)

Second Period
2:43 TB Point (28), (Cirelli, McDonagh)(SH)
3:20 NYI Pulock (9), (Beauvillier, Eberle)(PP)
5:15 NYI Lee (37), (Bailey)
8:27 TB Miller (19), (Stamkos, Coburn)
11:22 TB Sergachev (9), (Gourde, Point)(PP)
18:20 TB Miller (20), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
1:35 NYI Lee (38), (Bailey, Tavares)(PP)
3:21 NYI Beauvillier (15), (Eberle)
4:36 NYI Beauvillier (16), (Boychuk, Barzal)

Brayden Point and J.T. Miller were the game's first and third stars.

Some stretches of mental laziness and poor turnovers made this game way closer than it should have been. Cooper's going to be spitting mad. He should be.

Anthony Cirelli had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:14. He was also 31% on 13 draws.

Adam Erne played 9:45. Had a horrible turnover near his own blueline that led to an Islanders goal. He should feel shame for that one.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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