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

This time the Lightning finish the job.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals


Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory, and that 1 goal was on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. The sharpness is there and he made a big handful of situational saves. He's really rounded into form and feels on the verge of going on a patented Vasiy run.

First Period
8:23 NJ Palmieri (1), (Butcher, Hall)(PP)
11:30 TB Miller (1), (Kucherov, Stamkos)
15:02 TB Kucherov (3), (Coburn, Miller)

Second Period

Third Period
18:52 TB Kucherov (4), (Miller)(EN)

Vasilevskiy and J.T. Miller were the game's first and third stars. The spitefulness of the New Jersey media where Kucherov is concerned on full display there.

Despite a First Period hiccup to allow a 5-on-3 power play, the Lightning more or less learned the lessons of Game Three to put together the road win they needed to give them a chance to shorten this series. Tampa Bay managed the puck reasonably well throughout the game and played a simple possession game to outshoot New Jersey 37-28 in the contest. They did have some penalty troubles overall, but both teams were in the box too much and neither really gained a whole lot of advantage from it. My biggest takeaways: the penalty kill for the Lightning has looked a lot better in the postseason as have individual defenders like Brayden Coburn and the team put New Jersey on complete lockdown in the Third Period protecting the one goal lead. It was clinical. Bottom line the win proved what we should all know by now: New Jersey isn't winning without help from the Lightning in the form of stupid turnovers or penalties. They simply can't generate enough offense on their own at 5v5 to defeat the Lightning.

Now, one of the big deflection points in this game was the monstrous hit by Nikita Kucherov in the First Period that knocked Sami Vatanen out of the game. New Jersey going down to five defensemen almost assuredly contributed to their Third Period ineffectiveness as they were chasing the game down one. There's some thought that perhaps Kucherov could see a suspension for the hit. I didn't think he hit him in the head and it'd be a miscarriage of justice. I get you want to legislate head hunting out of the game, but that's not what Kucherov did on that play. Still, I could see the NHL putting their filthy fingers on the scales knowing Vatanen is the one real top flight puck moving defenseman the Devils have and his absence crushes their effectiveness as a team at both 5v5 and on the PP.

Either way the Lightning have a pretty glorious opportunity on Saturday to conclude this series in five games and conserve energy by ending this series early. The playoffs are a marathon and you want gas in the tank at the end. This team understands that lesson well and I expect them to bear down to finish the job and get this series out of the way efficiently.

Anthony Cirelli had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 16:05, but he was also just 29% on 17 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-16-18 Lightning at Devils

Lightning miss an opportunity to put the Devils firmly behind the eight ball.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals


Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 39 shots for the loss. Despite the outcome, I thought he played pretty well. He's rounding into form nicely in this series, in my opinion.

First Period

Second Period
0:42 TB Killorn (4), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)
12:24 NJ Hall (2), (unassisted)

Third Period
0:38 TB Stamkos (1), (Kucherov, Killorn)(PP)
4:03 NJ Butcher (1), (Hall, Palmieri)(PP)
12:55 NJ Noesen (1), (Hall, Greene)
19:02 NJ Coleman (2), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
19:22 NJ Lovejoy (1), (unassisted)(EN)

The Lightning played this game right along the lines of the blueprint they needed to all the way up until 2:39 into the Third Period when Cedric Paquette took a stupid slewfooting call that was promptly followed up by a too many men call on the PK. They threw New Jersey a lifeline with a 5-on-3 goal and the rest is history. This isn't complex: if the Lightning stay disciplined and manage the puck well New Jersey can't beat them. When you gift goals on weak clears (the first goal), take stupid penalties (the second goal), or fail to sort out coverage assignments despite having a numerical advantage defending the rush (the third goal), that's how you throw the Devils a lifeline and give them an upset opportunity.

With all that said, I think the Lightning controlled the balance of this game and are still perfectly capable of picking off Game Four to get the split they wanted out of this trip north before heading home for Game Five. They just have to stick to the formula and not get too preoccupied with New Jersey's fake tough guy shenanigans they tried to pull at the end of this game. The Lightning need to ignore that and stick to playing measured, cerebral hockey.

Speaking of which: perhaps someone at the league office can explain to me how Blake Coleman was allowed to act like he had a concussion late in the Third Period to draw a call on Mikhail Sergachev and yet didn't have to go to the quiet room. Can anyone explain that to me? Didn't miss a shift. So, either the New Jersey medical staff allowed a concussed player back on the rink immediately or he deserves an Academy Award for that acting performance. You make the call, folks. I found the whole affair to be pretty revealing of Coleman's character and the Devils organization's character, frankly.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 15:48. He was also 38% on 13 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from

NHL Playoff Game Day: 4-14-18 Devils at Lightning

Vasilevskiy carries injury fatigued Lightning to the pay window.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals


Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 44 shots for the victory. He made a fleet of big situational saves in the Third Period with a tired Lightning team having to play down a forward and a defenseman with Callahan and Girardi in the locker room.

First Period
12:15 TB Point (1), (Palat, McDonagh)
13:38 NJ Hiscier (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
3:14 TB Killorn (2), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)
4:36 TB Johnson (2), (McDonagh, Point)
6:01 TB Kucherov (2), (unassisted)
13:12 TB Killorn (3), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
19:34 NJ Vatanen (1), (Greene, Schneider)

Third Period
11:57 NJ Coleman (1), (Zajac, Moore)

Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars. Vasilevskiy got hosed by the media.

This was a tale of two games. The Lightning once again completely outclassed New Jersey with their depth and poise through the first 45 minutes of this contest en route to building a massive 5-1 lead. They managed the puck well, only conceding on a clean faceoff loss in their own zone that led to a bad clear off a rebound. I especially liked the second power play goal by Killorn to land the kill shot on New Jersey when the opportunity came to put the game effectively out of reach. What I did not like was how the team played to close out the Second Period thereafter as they lost focus and started turning over pucks and not closing out plays. Bad habit creep in during garbage time and that was starting to happen when things went from bad to worse with Callahan and Girardi going out of the game. Callahan looked to me to either have an issue with his ribs or his shoulder and I didn't see what happened to Girardi. The Lightning came out for the Third Period looking pretty good protecting the three goal lead but looked absolutely dragging tired the last ten minutes of the contest when Vasilevskiy had to sparkle to get it over the finish line.

Now the series shifts to New Jersey and there's still a lot of series left to go here, I think. We'll wait to see the fate of Callahan and Girardi. Girardi's injury could be particularly costly if it draws in Andrej Sustr for what appears on paper to be a terrible matchup against the quick Devils on the road where they have last change. The Lightning have done what they needed to do at home holding serve for the 2-0 lead, but the old wise men will tell you it's not a series until someone wins a road game. The Lightning need to lick their wounds and then play a sober, professional road style in hopes of stealing at least one in Newark to give themselves a shot to eventually close this series out early and prevent further attrition. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 15:22. He was also 70% on 10 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from

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

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

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals


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 Game Night: 4-7-18 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning can't grind out Atlantic Division title clincher.

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)

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 Game Night: 4-6-18 Sabres at Lightning

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


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 Game Night: 4-3-18 Bruins at Lightning

The payoff and the payback.


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

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 Game Night: 4-1-18 Predators at Lightning

Third Period collapse undermines Lightning effort.


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 Game Night: 3-30-18 Lightning at Rangers

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


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 Game Night: 3-29-18 Lightning at Bruins

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


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

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