Tampa Bay Lightning
Another workmanlike effort puts the Lightning into a 1st place tie in the Atlantic.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the victory. After struggling to find the right formula for keeping Vasiy sharp and developing earlier in the year, the Lightning organization appears to have figured it out. His spot starts with Syracuse have been working and he was sharp as a Ginsu again this evening.
4:53 TB Johnson(10), (Kucherov, Coburn)
15:28 TB Johnson(11), (unassisted)
17:45 TOR Kadri(12), (Rielly, Gardiner)
Tyler Johnson and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and second stars.
The Lightning played a pretty strong road First Period and probably deserved to have a 1-2 goal lead coming out of the opening frame. But, with Garret Sparks playing well and getting plenty of luck from his friend the iron, the Lightning couldn't quite build up the big margin through 40 minutes, and come the Third Period they were running on fumes against a younger, fresher team. But, at no point did they panic. They played a poised game and they protected the lead and got the 2 points.
The Lightning's big playoff acquisition: the healthy return of Jason Garrison. It was not a moment too soon, either, with Andrej Sustr leaving the game in the Second Period with an unspecified malady.
With the victory, the Lightning have tied the Panthers at 78 points for the top spot in the Atlantic, with the Panthers holding a game in hand. The Lightning also have picked up 6 points so far in this 10-game segment of the season, meaning they have 7 more games to pick up the remaining 6 points they need to hit that minimum target of 12 points. In other words, they've set themselves up nicely to potentially build some padding in the standings for the first time this year. And, now that the calendar is flipping over to March, that's exactly what you want.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 3 hits in 15:03. That's Nikita's 40th game of the season, meaning his next appearance will graduate him from prospect status on the website. Marchessault's still got a decent chance to get to graduation this year, but that's about it. It's a far cry from where the Lightning were three years ago with rookies becoming NHL'ers left and right.
Jack Edwards' tears are sweet.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory.
6:01 BOS Miller(5), (Kemppainen, Ferraro)
11:19 TB Killorn(12), (Stralman, Callahan)(PP)
14:39 TB Callahan(9), (Killorn)
8:18 TB Callahan(10), (Stamkos, Stralman)(PP)
10:04 TB Stamkos(28), (unassisted)(PS)
Right now, the Lightning are playing fairly tight defense and they're pretty ruthless in capitalizing on their chances. The combination is absolutely potent, and these laughers where they build a 3 goal lead at the end of 40 minutes never get old. They're also really helpful on the front end of back-to-backs where you can conserve energy for the back end by playing an efficient Third Period. It's amazing how easy they made it look tonight given how close the two teams are in the standings, what was at stake, and the fact that Boston has been hell on earth for the Lightning over the past couple of decades.
With 20 games left to go in the season, the Lightning are 2 points back of the Panthers for the division lead. They're also 1 ahead in the win column and 4 ahead in ROW. Florida's margin is purely built on loser points, and I suspect Florida's recent flurry of trade acquisitions was prompted by the realization they're a paper tiger. Go get your banner, Lightning.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:56.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 15:17.
Making it look easy.
Ben Bishop stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout victory. He made a strong handful of situational saves in the Second Period when it was still a 1 goal game that allowed the Lightning to eventually pull away and make it a laugher. U of Maine Justice was served.
15:36 TB Killorn(11), (Stamkos, Callahan)
13:02 TB Palat(7), (Johnson)
18:54 TB Stamkos(27), (Stralman, Callahan)
11:12 TB Carle(2), (Palat, Sustr)
If the win against Arizona was workmanlike, this win was almost like a walk in the park. New Jersey had a little fight in them for about 30 minutes, but once they made that miscue with Henrique picking off his own d-man to produce the Palat goal to make it 2-0, it was over. From that point on the Lightning just put it in cruise control. Looked smooth and comfortable all the way to the finish line. Rarely has Bishop had to do so little in the last half of a game to keep a clean sheet. And, the Lightning did it with balance, with 2 goals a piece from the Stamkos and Palat lines.
The Stamkos line is such an interesting case. The TV guys have been throwing roses at Cooper for putting that line together, but it's the same trio that was the dog's breakfast most of the first half of the season. Their recent successes, to me, come down to Stamkos and Callahan simply playing a lot better. Stamkos, in this game, was as good as I've seen him in a long, long time. His goal on the long deflection was the kind of goal that's been notoriously absent from his repertoire this season, and I was really pleased to see it tonight. He used to get a ton of those long deflection goals with his hand eye coordination flashing through the edges of the high traffic areas.
I'm admittedly a little unsure and scared of living in a world where Matt Carle is both scoring and racking up pluses. It'd be an unmitigated positive thing if I didn't have a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me it was a sign of a coming apocalypse.
It wasn't all positives in the game, but close. The road power play continues to be quite stinky and Victor Hedman got dinged up in the Third Period with what appeared to be a hand/wrist injury. That bears watching because with Garrison already out, the Lightning really can't afford to lose another regular.
Jonathan Marchessault had 4 shots and 2 hits in 16:17. My feeling is tonight was right around the sweet spot for Jonathan, minutes-wise, to be effective.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots in 15:28. A quiet game is a good thing for Nikita right now. He's now 3 games from graduation from prospect status on the site. Marchessault is 8 games out, if anyone is counting.
Workmanlike effort keeps the Lightning on pace.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. His lone goal against was a little unlucky deflection on a point shot off a faceoff loss, otherwise this would've been a shutout. This was his sharpest performance in his past several starts, in my opinion.
12:38 TB Stamkos(26), (Callahan, Killorn)
19:55 TB Paquette(4), (unassisted)(PS)
4:06 AZ Martinook(8), (Stone, Doan)
Paquette's smooth finish on the penalty shot at the end of the Second Period was crucial to helping the Lightning fend off the smash and grab attempt by the Coyotes. Domingue played really well in net for Arizona and I think it's always tough for shooters when they have to go against a goaltender who catches righty. You tend to be hard wired to shoot for rebounds stick side from distance, especially coming off the right wing, and those shots get swallowed up easily by a wrong-handed netminder. Domingue had to be that good because the Lightning came out storming in the First Period and had a possession advantage they maintained for pretty much the entire game.
The victory caps this sixth 10-game segment of the season with a 4-game winning streak to put the Lightning at exactly the 12 points you ask for out of the set. So, while it looked more than dicey just a week ago, the Lightning remain exactly on the number they need to be on to make the playoffs comfortably. So, they advance on: 12 in 10, do it again.
Jonathan Marchessault played 12:54 and saw his 3-game point streak snapped.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 14:59. He looked so good tonight in the offensive zone, especially in the 4-on-4 situation. But, man alive, he looked so bad with the puck in his own end. He had a critical turnover in the Third Period passing blindly out of his corner that he's very fortunate Arizona didn't make more of. He's now 4 games shy of graduation from prospect status on the site, by my count.
Lightning come up big at winning time.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. He got fooled badly on Jordan's wraparound goal, but more than made up for it with a handful of amazing situational saves with under 3 minutes to go to preserve the win, punctuated by a rock solid right pad robbery in tight on Skinner with everything on the line. He was the difference in the game tonight, in my opinion.
11:10 Nordstrom(7). (J. Staal, Slavin)(SH)
4:41 TB Brown(8), (Paquette, Sustr)
8:27 TB Callahan(7), (Stamkos, Nesterov)
12:59 CAR Jordan(1), (Skinner, Rask)
14:17 TB Stamkos(25), (Johnson, Marchessault)(PP)
19:50 TB Callahan(8), (Palat, Paquette)(EN)
Steven Stamkos was the game's first star. How in the blue hell Bishop didn't get a star is worthy of a Congressional investigation.
Heading into the waning days of the month of February, the Lightning seem to recognize they're getting into the winning time of the season. In the last 48 hours, I think you're starting to see a level of focus up and down the lineup that hasn't quite been there all season. It's like they realized the season was on the line and they only barely slipped the noose against Winnipeg. The power play is still a hot mess, having allowed a SH goal in three straight games, but it produced the winner when the game was in the balance. Even better, you're starting to see the vets start to carry their weight more consistently with Callahan, in particular, finding the scoresheet again tonight. It's nice to have all the young guys like Kucherov and Palat producing, but the team will go as far as the likes of Stamkos, Callahan, and Filppula can take them by balancing out the scoring and giving them multiple lines to make teams worry about.
With one game left to go in this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning have earned 10 of 18 points. That means a win against Arizona on Tuesday night will clinch a successful segment and keep them on track for the playoffs despite their stumbles early in this 10-game set. That would be a huge accomplishment.
Jonathan Marchessault had a helper and was -1 with 4 hits in 17:30. He was also 33% on 6 draws. With Nikita Kucherov a surprise injury scratch, Marchessault went up on the top line with Palat and Johnson and he didn't look out of place. True, he made a poor play or two, including on the Jordan goal, but he figured mightily in the game winner and several other prime scoring chances.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and 2 penalty minutes with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:23. He was a train wreck in the turnover department early in the game, but thankfully settled down as things wore on and he actually got involved physically with a few good pops. All that said... get well soon Jason Garrison.
Vengeance of the Blind Squirrel
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 39 shots for the victory.
9:08 TB Stralman(9), (Namestnikov, Marchessault)
11:20 TB Stamkos(24), (Killorn, Carle)
3:14 TB Carle(1), (unassisted)
5:35 PIT Kuhnhackl(1), (unassisted)(SH)
11:53 TB Johnson(9), (Palat, Marchessault)
16:01 PIT Wilson(2), (Rust, Letang)
Matt Carle was the game's first star! Yes, Matt Carle. I referred to the fable of the blind squirrel in the last game after Carle had a solid +2 night. Today, I can't dismiss Carle's game so easily. Mind you, it'll take a lot more games like that to justify Carle's salary, but you celebrate the good games Carle has on the rare occasions they come. In lesser news, Steven Stamkos was the game's second star and scored his 300th career NHL goal. Yawn.
Kudos to the Lightning for responding well to their near debacle against Winnipeg. They got the advantage today with the spot start of Pittsburgh's backup, and they jumped all over Zatkoff in the First Period and made sure they got the knockout early in the Second Period when they established the 3 goal advantage.
The win is gigantic. Tampa Bay jumped to 2nd in the Atlantic and opened a 3 point lead on the last team out of the Wild Card with the win. They also kept hope alive they might be able to run the table for the rest of this 10-game segment of the season and get back on track to make the playoffs comfortably.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:27.
Jonathan Marchessault had a pair of helpers and was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:08. Someone's making the case to be a regular in the lineup and make Condra a semi-permanent scratch.
Lightning manage to snatch their season from the jaws of an epic collapse.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 41 shots before stopping 4 of 5 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. I thought he was generally good on first shots in this game, but looked a little out of sorts on second opportunities. He made several key situational saves in Overtime to help keep the team alive. In the Shootout, I tend to have a lot of faith with Vasiy in net because he does tend to be so strong facing down first opportunities.
15:38 TB Hedman(6), (Brown)
17:52 TB Marchessault(7), (Killorn)
19:39 TB Stamkos(23), (Callahan, Sustr)
13:45 WPG Myers(6), (Peluso, Lowry)
2:00 TB Killorn(10), (Callahan)
6:01 WPG Shiefele(13), (Trouba)(PP)
7:33 WPG Ladd(14), (Armia)(SH)
12:44 WPG Ladd(15), (Schiefele)
14:40 WPG Perrault(9), (Wheeler, Byfuglien)
15:04 TB Kucherov(24), (unassisted)
TB- Callahan, Stamkos
The Lightning ultimately got the result they needed out of tonight's game, but they hardly cloaked themselves in glory doing so. True, they opportunistically built a pair of 3 goals leads, including the all-important 3 goal lead in the Third Period, despite being on the wrong end of a shot disparity all night. That should've been enough, even despite a very poor power play night that included a blown Second Period 5-on-3 and a blown Overtime 4-on-3 opportunity. Only bad teams blow 3 goals leads in the Third Period, right? Well, the Lightning very nearly lost the game allowing 4 straight before a great individual effort shooting off the rush by Kucherov may have saved the season. Lucky, lucky, lucky, too. Lucky Winnipeg looks completely disorganized defensively and lucky Ondrej Pavelec brought his bullfighting cape to the crease tonight. The Lightning defense, in particular, looked like the completely took their foot off the gas in the Third Period with some very weak work leading to a pair of goals where they were manhandled physically by the bigger Jets. Was that because the Jets started running at the Lightning after Anton Stralman nearly beheaded Bryan Little on a neutral zone hit late in the Second Period? Hard to say. I do know this: I really hope Stralman doesn't face discipline for that head shot because I do not want to watch this team attempt to win a game with both he and Garrison unavailable.
Bottom line: I didn't see anything tonight that developed a wellspring of trust in this team. They still look to be teetering on the edge of disaster.
If any Matt Carle apologists trumpet his +2 to you tonight, remind them of the fable of the blind squirrel. Callahan, on the other hand, had a pair of nice finishes in regulation and OT, as if trying to earn his way out of membership in the imaginary Dead Money Trio. We shall see.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:59. Winnipeg's a rough matchup for a rookie because of their combination of size/speed. He didn't make any huge mistakes, but he also didn't get the amount of open ice he gets against other teams to utilize his skating ability. Mind you, had the Lightning not decided to implode in the Third Period, there might've been a lot of good developmental garbage time for Slater to eat up, but it was not to be. Lost opportunities.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 in 9:03. Winnipeg's a really bad matchup for Nikita. That's all I'll say.
If the goat horns fit, make him wear them.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss. Partial breakaways and completely uncovered guys in the slot. Not his fault.
17:51 TB Callahan(6), (Killorn, Sustr)
1:43 SJ Ward(16), (Vlasic, Nieto)
6:34 SJ Pavelski(26), (Thornton, Hertl)
8:46 TB Paquette(3), (Brown)
1:17 SJ Nieto(8), (Marleau, Ward)
18:17 SJ Karlsson(7), (Thornton)
Ryan Callahan was the game's third star. He did, after all, score his second goal in the last 42 or 43 games, so it was a big deal. Between Matt Carle's -3 in 11:07 of ice time and Val Filppula's rally-stifling late game penalty, it was truly a banner night for the Dead Money Trio. $17.9 million in combined salary for that trio this season, and most of it is money that's absolutely being stolen from the organization.
Matt Carle is not an NHL defenseman anymore, and no team in the league is going to take him in a trade. It's time for Yzerman to suck it up and either send him to Syracuse or send him home. It's Carle's choice, but he can't be in the lineup anymore. He's killing the team. Killing them. He was -3 tonight, and he earned that -3 by playing a pretty significant hand in all 3 goals against. The most important of the three was an ill-advised whiff of a pinch on the eventual GWG. Bottom line, it's time for the Lightning to cut their losses and to use the ice time they've been wasting on Carle to give Slater Koekkoek NHL seasoning for the future.
Tonight's loss puts the Lightning back in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. After getting 18 points in the last 10-game segment of the season, the team had finally worked its way back onto a solid playoff pace. Now, unless they go on a 4 game winning streak, they'll be behind the 8-ball by the end of this 10-game segment of the season and in the unenviable position of having to make up ground when the calendar rolls over into March. That's exactly where a team doesn't want to be.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot in 7:58. He generated two good scoring chances in his limited ice time and his skating is just too good an asset to hold out of the lineup for someone like Matt Carle.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:34. He played inspired high-energy hockey in limited ice time. But, he also took an offensive zone penalty, so I expect him to be flogged by Cooper and press-boxed for another 9 games.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 hit in 15:39. It was a quiet night where he didn't make any Carle-esque mistakes at the offensive blueline.
Toronto throws love St. Louis' way on controversial Valentine's Day goal review.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the loss. The GWG came on a Berglund goal where Bishop made the initial stop and Berglund pushed his heel out to kick the puck into the net. Originally waved off by the official on the ice, Toronto reversed the call to give the Blues what turned out to be the margin of victory. Yeah.
0:36 STL Fabbri(13), (Stastny)
17:41 STL Berglund(4), (unassisted)
19:08 TB Kucherov(23), (Johnson, Hedman)
Bishop was the game's second star.
I'm torn about this game. I don't think the Lightning played as well as their 38-21 shot advantage might suggest, but I suspect a lot of that had to do with the fact St. Louis was tackling the Lightning's skill players at every opportunity in true Hitchcock fashion. The Blues looked completely unprepared for the Lightning's speed and puck handling ability in the First Period, but Tampa Bay failed to get on the board when they had the decisive advantage in possession and the Blues started to turn things by playing more of a grinding, clutch and grab style in the Second Period. Joel Edmundson, in particular, had a couple of NFL caliber tackles trying to handle the Lightning on the rush. It's just a shame St. Louis doesn't have an NFL team anymore... but I digress.
Ultimately the Lightning needed to get one of three things done tonight, and they didn't: 1.) Get a power play goal. 2.) Get a goal off an offensive zone faceoff. 3.) Fight through the gauntlet of clutching and grabbing to pot a second chance on the initial shot. That was the formula they struggled with in their opening round series against Detroit in the playoffs last season. I saw something similar tonight.
Another aside: The Lightning passed on Robby Fabbri to select thrice-in-a-row scratched (in Syracuse) Anthony DeAngelo. Things that haunt me when I'm both awake and asleep.
The loss puts the Lightning in a precarious position in the standings. Just when it looked like things were getting safe, a 2-3-0 start to this 10-game segment of the season means the Lightning have to get 8 of 10 remaining points to stay on pace. Not good, and you don't want to be fishing for make-up points once the calendar rolls over into March.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:08. His bad pinch to start the Second Period resulted in the 2-on-0 that became Fabbri's goal. This comes just a few games after he hammered an ill advised shot into a shot blocker that also became a goal. You have to be sure at the other team's blueline when you're the last line of defense. D-Man 101.
Lightning snatch hope from the jaws of despair.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the OT victory. I suspect he wants the opening goal by Fisher back, but it's hard to fault him for the turnstile quality defense in front of him in the Third Period.
9:40 NSH Fisher(8), (Arvidsson, Ekholm)
8:22 TB Brown(7), (Filppula, Sustr)
10:07 TB Kucherov(22), (Nesterov, Bishop)
4:01 NSH Neal(20), (Josi, Jackman)
7:46 NSH Forsberg(18), (Ribeiro, Josi)
19:33 TB Stamkos(22), (Hedman, Kucherov)(PP)
1:04 TB Johnson(8), (Hedman, Stamkos)
It's remarkable the difference between the Lightning road power play and the home power play of late, and you won't get a bigger power play goal than the tying marker by Steven Stamkos late in regulation. It may have saved the Lightning from digging another hole late in the season. More on that later.
Matt Carle was -2 and had a nice view of the James Neal breakaway to tie the game in the Third Period. Bottom line: the guy's not an NHL player anymore. His skating, which was his calling card when he came into the league, is shot and his hands/dexterity seem to be deteriorating too. In my opinion, this call up of Slater Koekkoek for the injured Jason Garrison isn't just a call up. If he plays well, I have a feeling it will be the call up. It was clear the coaching staff had lost faith in Carle prior to the Garrison injure, as he pretty much became a regular scratch. Last year, in the Stanley Cup Final, they learned a pretty serious lesson about defensive depth, as Carle's pairing with Sustr seemed to drag the team under, routinely. Because of that, and Brayden Coburn's impending free agency, I always suspected Koekkoek would be up in the second half of the season. Now, I wouldn't be shocked if he outright takes Carle's roster spot and sends the veteran home or to Syracuse once Garrison returns in 3-5 weeks. I expect Koekkoek in next time out, and I expect to see flashes of his Hedman-lite play.
The Lightning's win was critical, because it gives them a chance to stay on pace for this 10-game segment of the year at the halfway point of 5 games. They couldn't afford a 3-game losing streak at this time of the season with another quality opponent coming up next.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with a helper, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:57. Nesterov's now 9 games away from graduation from prospect status on the website.