Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay's ownership of the Atlantic Division version of the Red Wings continues unabated.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Again, with a playoff-type atmosphere and caliber of opponent, Bishop laid down a marker that he's going to be a serious postseason player.
1:22 TB Stralman (7), (Hedman, Palat)
6:57 DET Tatar (26), (unassisted)(PP)
10:31 TB Killorn (15), (Hedman, Drouin)
19:32 TB Stamkos (40), (Boyle, Palat)(EN)
Bishop and Victor Hedman were the game's first and second stars.
Hedman was a beast, and was the best player on the rink, in my opinion. Very active diffusing plays at the defensive end of the rink and showed a lot of speed and savvy on the rush all game long. He probably should've had a goal on a 2-on-1 with Drouin early in the game that would've made his stat line even more impressive. As it was, he settled for two helpers. Steven Stamkos wasn't as dominant as Hedman all game long, but he dominated Kronwall to get the insurance goal at the end. Don't you wish you had the talent to be a "little off" most of the season, and still hit 40 goals with 10 games left to play? Just to make sure I fully and thoroughly beat the horse to death: when those two are the Lightning's best players, the Lightning can't be defeated.
Meanwhile, Drej Palat emerged from the hyperbaric chamber and sneezed out a couple of helpers of his own. Just chill, until the next episode.
The Lightning are now 1 point shy of the preseason target of 96 points to comfortably make the playoffs. The victory also pulled Tampa Bay to within 2 points of Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with neither team holding a game in hand. Remember, a tie almost certainly goes to the Lightning on ROW.
Vladislav Namestnikov played 12:51 in the match. I'm shocked how blank his scoresheet looks, because he was noticable on the rink tonight.
Lightning's regular season ownership of Montreal continues unabated.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory. After a so-so outing against Boston, he was sparkling against Montreal. Now, mind you, he did make it a lot harder on himself with his puckhandling gaffe to start the Third Period, but he made that 1 goal lead stand up the rest of the way, too. He seems to savor these duel opportunities against Price, and he's been getting the better end of them.
10:07 TB Filppula (12), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
15:58 TB Stamkos (38), (unassisted)
2:45 TB Hedman (10), (Killorn, Callahan)
11:10 MTL Plekanec (21), (Subban, Markov)(PP)
0:34 MTL Parenteau (7), (Plekanec)
18:55 TB Stamkos (39), (Namestnikov, Garrison)(PP)(EN)
Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were the game's first and third stars. I've said it constantly over the course of the second half: the franchise cornerstones need to be the team's best players for the Lightning to go anywhere in the playoffs this year. Tonight, in a playoff atmosphere against a hated opponent with division title supremacy up for grabs, the Lightning got 3 goals and 2 assists out of the duo. That's great to see, especially after the Hedman turnover in his last outing against Winnipeg.
The Lightning are 3 points shy of the 96 points we target at the start of the season to comfortably make the playoffs, but the focus is starting to shift at this juncture of the season. The Lightning needed this win tonight to keep their Atlantic Division title aspirations in good shape, and they got it done. The teams are back to all square at 93 points each with the Habs holding a game in hand. But, the Lightning have a 4 game ROW lead right now, so the tie will likely go to Tampa Bay if it comes to that.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with a helper and 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 11:06. After taking several cross checks in the neutral zone from Brendan Gallagher, who thought he was safe by jumping on a baby-faced Russian rookie, Namestnikov swiftly took the initiative and relieved Gallagher of any sinus congestion he might be having by beating the snot out of the veteran with 3-4 quick rights. My goodness. Peckaham dubbed him "Baby Faced Killer" on the SunSports broadcast. A legend was born. If you're wondering, he's 9 games shy of graduation from prospect status on the website, so he's got a realistic opportunity to wrap that up before the regular season expires and join Drouin and Paquette as this year's Bolt Prospects Alumni class.
Flat Lightning done in by late mistakes.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the loss. He deserved better. He was the only reason the team had a chance in this game at all.
4:13 TB Kucherov (26), (Drouin, Carle)
10:00 WPG Stafford (14), (Stempniak, Tlusty)(PP)
12:44 WPG Wheeler (20), (unassisted)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
This was a trap game, and the Lightning fell right into it. You look at the opposition over this 4 game stretch: Montreal, Boston, Winnipeg, Montreal. Yep, one of those things is not like the others, and the Lightning didn't have their intensity tonight. They worked themselves into pretty strong position to get 1-2 points, though, thanks to Vasilevskiy's goaltending and Kucherov's Third Period snipe. Even with the Jets tying it after Kucherov got kicked out of the game for face planting Enstron they were in ok shape. Riiight before Hedman decided to essentially hand Wheeler the GWG. A worse turnover you will not see in this league, and it's completely unacceptable from your franchise cornerstone defenseman.
Through 70 games the Lightning have 91 points, having once again met the 12-in-10 threshold in segment 7 of the season. They actually got 13 points, meaning they've got 7 insurance points in hand heading into the final segment of the year. 5 points should tie up playoff position comfortably, but it's the banner the Lightning are looking for, and they did themselves no favors tonight with that endeavor.
Mike Angelidis had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:05. He was also 17% on 6 draws.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 15:09.
Bruised but unbroken.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 30 shots before allowing 2 of 3 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. He looked like he was battling it a bit at times tonight, but 2 goals in 65 minutes is strong, even if the Bruins' second goal was a bit soft.
7:57 BOS Pastrnak (9), (Spooner, Lucic)
15:29 TB Stamkos (37), (unassisted)
2:20 BOS Bergeron (19), (Seidenberg)
8:04 TB Namestnikov (5), (Barberio, Sustr)
BOS- Bergeron, Marchand
Boston's media, bastions of class and taste that they are, decided to award all three stars to Bruins players in a game that went to the shootout and where the Lightning outshot and outchanced the B's. Quite scum baggy on their part.
Everything was going against the Lightning going into this game as they found out they'll be facing extended absences by Palat, Coburn, and Paquette due to injury and they were heading into a barn where they simply have been cursed. They had a pretty poor First Period adjusting to the shuffled lines and pairings, but from the Second Period on they dominated, eventually outshooting the Bruins 37-30 for the game. That's an impressive show of strength from the Lightning's depth players, especially given how much Boston traps. Honestly, the two goals Boston got tonight were a goal that could've easily been waved off for being kicked in and a point shot softie that Bishop didn't get. If anything, these close games against Montreal and Boston have been very good stress tests heading toward the playoffs, and for the most part the team has responded impressively.
With Montreal going down to Ottawa tonight, all is now square at 91 points stop the Atlantic Division with Montreal holding just 1 game in hand. The Canadiens hardly look like world beaters right now, though, so the Lightning are in good shape to take this at the finish line even with the injuries.
Mike Angelidis had 1 hit in 7:36.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:11. I thought he was pretty heady with the puck, for the most part, but it was clear he had some struggles with the size and physicality of the Bruins' forwards. So, the coaching staff had to be careful about usage with Nikita tonight.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a goal and was -1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 12:29. He very quickly moved up to take the Palat spot on the line with Johnson and Kucherov and performed admirably. His goal was a pretty nice display of skill to quickly get the puck up to his stick after a point shot hit some traffic in front. He's looking like a guy who will be very hard to send down to Syracuse ever again.
Not even Carey Price could deny the Lightning tonight.
Ben Bishop stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout, and handed down some U of Maine Justice in the process. He didn't face many quality chances, but his rebound stop off the rush in the Second Period was the most important stop of the contest, bar none.
1:03 TB Johnson (25), (Garrison, Coburn)
Just a masterful individual effort by Johnson swooping around the net and feeding a puck through a defender's legs on the way to set up his own winning goal in OT. Kucherov made 1-2 moves like that too, tonight. All-in-all, the Lightning just took their game to another level tonight, out-attempting the Canadiens by about a 2-to-1 margin. Carey Price's superhuman effort was the only thing that kept Montreal from getting blown out, and in the end, even that wasn't enough. There's one more game between these two teams on the schedule and just one point separating them atop the division, and the Habs have to be looking over their shoulder after getting dominated in all three head-to-heads so far this season.
The Lightning sit at 90 points through 68 games played, so they've already hit 12 points for this 10 game segment and they're sitting on at least 6 insurance points for a playoff pace with 2 games to hit 70 games played. The Lightning have hit 12 points in every 10 game segment so far this season except one, when they just missed with 11 points. At this pace, they'll more or less clinch a safe number of points for a playoff berth some time around game 72 or 73 of the season, meaning the focus shifts toward the possibility of hanging banner(s) and positioning themselves advantageously for the playoffs.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 shots and 3 hits in 14:12 tonight. He was really strong tonight, and could've had a couple of goals easily with a little luck. He's really played well since his recall, and is giving off every indication he's got the potential to be a real force in the Lightning lineup next season when he gets up to the NHL full time.