Tampa Bay Lightning
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.
Lightning back at a crossroads after horrible road trip.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss. It's a bad stat line, but it doesn't tell the whole story. The defensive effort in front of Bishop tonight was putrid.
5:56 MTL Gallagher (14), (Plekanec)
0:40 TB Filppula (7), (Hedman)
6:40 MTL Plekanec (11), (Gallagher, Barberio)
19:52 MTL Smith-Pelly (5), (Subban, Eller)
6:17 MTL Plekanec (12), (Galchenyuk, Emelin)
9:03 TB Hedman (5), (Filppula, Callahan)
The effort was better tonight, and with some luck the Lightning might've gotten some points out of the game. They did generate a ton of shots and chances and they did hit three posts. So, this wasn't a total disaster. But, honestly, they got plenty of chances in Ottawa, too. That's not the issue. The issue is you're not seeing the intense focus in all three zones and the attention to detail you saw in the big 11-game stretch the Lightning had. Tonight you had a goal where Nesterov made a poor decision to try to shoot through a guy that led to an odd-man rush and a goal. You saw a faceoff loss eventually lead to a goal. You saw Alex Killorn fall down in defensive coverage and a goal. And then you saw another odd man rush with the trailer getting the goal. It's self-inflicted wounds. It's not applying the same back pressure from the forwards. It's about losing faceoffs. It's about losing your check in the defensive zone. In short, it's about getting preoccupied with offense and the grim reality that when you don't mind the details on defense you have the puck less and you end up scoring less goals anyway. That's what happened tonight, to a degree.
Time to get a little regroup, and head this 2 game losing streak off at the pass. As heavy a lift as it took for the Lightning to get themselves back into the playoff picture, they can't afford to relax and lose focus and blow it so quickly.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 2 hits in 10:45. It's just really hard for him to contribute as a fourth liner with spot power play duty. He doesn't get into the flow any and that makes it hard to produce offense.
Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 1 blocked shot in 16:30. His lone shot attempt was the one that was blocked leading to Montreal's opening goal.
Costly clunker in Canada's capital.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He wasn't at fault for the L, but his softie in the Second Period essentially ended the game by allowing Ottawa to build the 3 goal lead.
5:23 OTT Smith (11), (Stone)
16:51 OTT Prince (3), (unassisted)
17:25 TB Brown (6), (Coburn, Callahan)
4:41 OTT Stone (15), (Pageau, Zibanejad)(PP)
10:46 OTT Stone (16), (Ceci, Pageau)
15:22 OTT Pageau (13), (unassisted)
The Lightning came out flat tonight and never, ever got their legs underneath them. They were consistently beaten to loose pucks and they turned over the puck far too much. They deserved to be run out of the rink tonight, and they eventually were. When you fail to respect the game and your opponent, this is the end result. The bigger problem, though, is Jason Garrison missed the last two periods of the game with a lower body injury. Short of Ben Bishop getting injured, an injury to one of the team's top-four defensemen is one of the losses the team simply doesn't have the depth to cope with. It's pretty clear that the team doesn't have faith in Matt Carle anymore and they shouldn't have faith in Sustr and Nesterov moving up in minutes from the niches they're in, either. At a certain point, I really hope they start getting Slater Koekkoek more NHL experience for just this type of problem. I'd hate this to happen in the playoffs and Slater still be completely wet behind the ears.
Lightning weather flat start to double-up Pens.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. He made a handful of difficult saves in the First Period to keep the Lightning in the game, and once they had the lead he made the situational saves necessary to make sure they got the win.
4:53 PIT Hornqvist (11), (Kunitz, Pouliot)
11:50 TB Stralman (7), (Johnson, Killorn)
18:34 TB Killorn (9), (Johnson, Kucherov)
6:04 TB Palat (5), (Stamkos)(SH)
8:04 PIT Crosby (21), (Kunitz, Hornqvist)
9:15 TB Johnson (7), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
0:55 PIT Cullen (6), (Kessel)
15:55 TB Palat (6), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)
17:56 TB Stralman (8), (Callahan)
The Lightning came out in this game not matching Pittsburgh's intensity and were very lucky to get away with it. Make no mistake about it. The Pens needed this game more than the Lightning and they came out and played the First Period that way. They got the early 1-0 lead and could've racked up a big lead were it not for Ben Bishop. He made a handful of key saves that allowed the Lightning to hang around until the Pens defense made a coverage mistake on Stralman's first goal that allowed them to get their legs under them and tilt the game in their favor. The Lightning controlled the bulk of the play from there, but just couldn't seem to expand their leads out to the final 3-goal margin until they got the late EN goal by Stralman.
The way they tilted the game was the most impressive thing about the win. They got balanced scoring with 3 goals from Johnson's group, 2 goals from Stamkos', and then the EN goal. At no point last season did the Lightning have 2 balanced scoring lines. If they can establish that in the final ~30 games of the regular season, they'll be frightful to play against. And, of course, special teams was the huge difference tonight. Stamkos did outstanding work on his PK shift in the Second Period helping to repel multiple efforts by the Pens before eventually springing Palat for his sweet SH breakaway goal. That goal and Tyler Johnson's PP goal were obviously the margin tonight.
It's a good way to start this 10-game set of the season, and they're on to Ottawa.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 4 hits in 16:50. He had one shift where he pinched deep into the corner of the Pens zone to win a puck race and absolutely dominated Sidney Crosby once he was onto it. I admit, I was surprised he was that stout on the puck and that he was able to have those kind of handles against Crosby.
Back on schedule.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory. He didn't face a ton of great chances, but what he did do was handle the puck very well to help himself out and he was out on his angle well all night.
1:23 TB Brown (5), (Coburn)
5:06 DET Nyquist (14), (Tatar, Quincey)
6:30 TB Johnson (6), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
3:23 TB Kucherov (21), (Palat)(PP)
That was a remarkably workmanlike effort by the Lightning. Even in the First Period, where the Red Wings had a decent shot advantage, I didn't think the Lightning were on their heels or chasing the play. They seemed to be first on the puck a lot and their only problems were self-inflicted mistakes rather than the Wings asserting themselves. The Lightning ultimately took control of the game in the Second Period and built the margin they needed with two power play goals earned by the pressure they were putting on the Red Wings with their speed and possession. They got a little bit complacent for about a 5-6 minute span after a PK that followed the Kucherov goal, but all-in-all that was a pretty clinical effort against a Red Wings team that gave them all they could handle in the playoff last year.
As an aside, NBCSN can sell that line of Callahan/Filppula/Brown as "the best third line in hockey," all the want, but no one's buying. We're not blind. We can read a stat sheet, and the number of zeros behind Callahan and Filppula's salaries on the NHLPA's website, while we're at it. C'mon, guys.
The win puts the Lightning at 60 points through 50 games of the season, meaning that by virtue of their 9-1-0 record for this 10-game segment of the season they're back on track to make the playoffs comfortably. They fell behind the eight ball in the second 10-game segment of the year when they fell 5 points off the pace, and they eventually fell 6 points off after 40 games, but they're now back on track if you follow the goal of getting at least 12 points every 10 games. Now we'll see if the Lightning can stay ahead of the chains the rest of the way and into the postseason.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 16:57 of ice time. I give him credit for forcibly picking Nyquist up off of Bishop and making an example of him.
Box score from NHL.com (which has a new format that is AWFUL).