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NHL Game Night: 1-23-18 Lightning at Predators

Everything is good, all of a sudden.

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NSH-3 (OT)

Louis Domingue allowed 3 goals* on 33 shots for the OT victory. Why the asterisk? Because he got hosed on an uncalled goaltender interference where a Preds forward launched himself into Domingue's shoulder as Subban's shot arrived, turning him around in the net. Despite this injustice, Domingue played well with several ten bell saves in a First Period where the Lightning could've easily allowed 4 or 5 goals were it not for the exploits of the Dominguenator.

First Period
6:24 TB Kunitz (7), (unassisted)
7:28 NSH Ellis (3), (Josi, Sissons)(PP)
9:11 NSH Arvidsson (14), (Aberg, Irwin)
10:48 TB Namestnikov (16), (Stamkos, Kunitz)

Second Period
19:10 NSH Subban (11), (Ekholm, Joahnsen)(PP)*

Third Period
17:48 TB Stamkos (18), (Koekkoek, Kunitz)

Overtime
1:45 TB Gourde (16), (Namestnikov)

Yanni Gourde was the game's first star.

Take away the first 10 minutes of this game, and the Lightning were the better team tonight and they deserved the two points. Even without Hedman, they came into this game against the reigning Western Conference champs and they took two points the hard way, even after the Predators got gifted that bogus lead goal* at the end of the Second Period. After suffering some embarrassing debacles the Lightning have seemingly started to figure out how to compete without their stud number one defenseman and they will be a much stronger team for the experience once he returns.

NFL: "We created this really confusing reception rule that the refs, media, and fans can't possibly comprehend and creates frustration that tarnishes our brand and makes us all look like fools. No one will ever top the ignominy of our rule."

NHL looks at the crease: "Hold my beer."

If the rationale behind allowing that goal really was something to do with the blue paint of the crease, it's a horrible rule and it needs to be rewritten. The goaltender should have the right to come out and challenge the shooter and cut down the angle on a long shot. Domingue established his position and he was leapt into and spun around before the puck arrived. Textbook goaltender interference (heck, probably should've been a 2 minute minor, to boot) and it's unfathomable how that goal was allowed to stand. If that's a goal then it's open season on goaltenders because nothing is interference. Just go hog wild and Darcy Tucker-style start running netminders to your heart's content.

Thankfully, the Lightning overcame.

Slater Koekkoek was +2 with a helper, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in a hefty 18:34 of ice time. It was a quiet 18:34, which is good, right up until Koekkoek swooped into the zone as the late man and made a heck of a long diagonal pass to Stamkos for the big one timer to equalize late in the Third Period. That's what everyone has to be hoping from with Koekkoek: the total package for all 200 feet.

Jake Dotchin had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 17:03.

Matthew Peca had 2 hits and was 50% on 10 draws in 13:03.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-22-18 Lightning at Blackhawks

Just when they need it the most, Vasiy delivers the kittens.

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CHI-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy snapped out of a little mini-slump with a 40 save shutout victory. Like a giant awaking from a slumber, Vasilevskiy just got stronger and stronger as the game wore on. Look out, he may go on another hot streak now.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
17:14 TB Kunitz (6), (Dotchin, Point)(SH)

Third Period
18:26 TB Gourde (15), (unassisted)

Vasilevskiy and Chris Kunitz were the game's first and second stars.

The Lightning rebounded from a couple of debacles with a team win that flowed from the goaltending brilliance of young Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy didn't look completely solid in the First Period but the Lightning PK really picked up the slack with a key kill of a 5-on-3 that invoked and once again validated the old Espo Rule. From the Second Period on it was all Vasilevskiy until Kunitz got a break on an uncalled hand pass that eventually ended up as a shorthanded goal down in the Chicago zone. Gourde pounds home a late insurance goal on a one timer on the back of more Vasilevskiy brilliance and it's a gigantic win for a team that's been limping toward the All Star break.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 5 hits and 1 blocked shot in 21:23. Big minutes. Big Jake is now just 5 games from graduation from prospect status on the website.

Matthew Peca was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:03 and he was also 67% on 6 draws. He won the faceoff on the sequence that led to Gourde's insurance goal and then made a strong play along the wall to pressure the defender to help the puck squirt to Gourde for the one time goal. He showed good speed. Slick hands at times. Good start to this callup.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-20-18 Lightning at Wild

Everything is bad, all of a sudden.

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MIN-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 34 shots on the loss. He might like the third Minnesota goal that wedged in short side back... but then again he might like the defense in front of him to show up, too.

First Period
10:07 MIN Spurgeon (6), (Staal)(PP)
17:24 MIN Parise (1), (Suter, Staal)

Second Period
7:11 MIN Prosser (2), (Eriksson Ek, Rau)
15:35 TB Point (18), (Sergachev, Johnson)

Third Period
3:10 MIN Foligno (4), (Cullen, Ennis)
6:37 TB Point (19), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
19:01 MIN Zucker (18), (Dubnyk)(EN)

This suddenly is taking on the feel of last season. Yes, Victor Hedman's injury has blown an undeniably large hole in the Lightning blueline, but that doesn't fully explain the recent futility. The same lack of intensity and attention to detail that marred the first 50 or so games of last season has crept back into Tampa Bay's game and their revamped leadership council has yet to be successful in pulling the club out of the funk. First goal: clean faceoff loss by Johnson. Back of the net. Second goal: blind, weak clear up the middle on a broken play by Koekkoek. Third goal: complete defensive zone coverage bust and the resulting shot gets in short side on Vasilevskiy. Fourth goal: Sergachev coasts behind his net on a 50/50 puck and is a bystander while Point whiffs trying to cut off the pass to yet another open Wild shooter in the slot. It's pathetic, and it's a virus that's effecting several different players, not just a handful of offenders. The defense isn't very good right now and Mikhail Sergachev is playing his worst hockey of the season at the moment. True. But, you know what? Vasilevskiy's not cloaking himself in glory either and, even more damning, the backchecking and defensive zone coverage by the forwards is completely and utterly unacceptable at the moment. Can't find the scoresheet and get the glory if you don't have the puck, boys. And you'll never have the puck if you don't work, and work smart, to get it back. This isn't difficult, conceptually.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 10:00 of ice time. Pretty much got his ice time cut off after the First Period turnover under duress.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 4 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 16:23. He might've been in the upper half of the Lightning d-men tonight in quality, but that was an awfully low bar to clear. You could roller skate over it.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-18-18 Golden Knights at Lightning

Hedman-less Lightning see Vegas manufacture a laugher.

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TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss. He hasn't been making the big situational saves necessary to help the team climb into games lately like he was earlier in the season. Case in point: tonight Vegas' second goal on the knuckler that handcuffed him from the point. That's a save he's got to make for his team in that spot.

First Period
0:56 LV Neal (19), (Engelland, Perron)
16:03 LV Schmidt (3), (McNabb, Haula)

Second Period
10:18 TB Palat (8), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
17:43 LV Perron (10), (Engelland, Theodore)

Third Period
0:18 LV Karlsson (24), (Marchessault)

Credit to Las Vegas, they manufactured an easy road win tonight in workmanlike fashion. The first goal of the game by Neal and the final goal of the game by Karlsson that salted it away both came in the opening minute of a period and both came off faceoff losses by Vladislav Namestnikov. So, they built two goals and that and one Vasiy might want back on the Schmidt goal turned this from a pretty even game (shots were 30-29, although the broader possession stats were uglier for Tampa Bay) into a laugher.

Slater Koekkoek was -2 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:31. Throw the minuses out, because they both came on the goals off the faceoff losses. I thought Slater played a decent game.

Jake Dotchin had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:24. The big test is obviously Koekkoek's to take with Hedman out, but Dotchin's got a little something to prove with Hedman out, too, and I don't think he did anything to hurt his stock tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-11-18 Flames at Lightning

Costly loss casts a pall on the Lightning.

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TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 24 shots for the loss in an uncharacteristic clunker for the young netminder.

First Period
0:29 CGY Ferland (19), (Monahan, Gaudreau)

Second Period
0:31 TB Point (17), (Johnson, Palat)
16:48 CGY Gaudreau (14), (Ferland, Hamilton)
18:43 CGY Bennett (8), (Brodie, Jankowski)(PP)

Third Period
2:19 CGY Jankowski (8), (Hathaway)
8:34 CGY Tkachuk (11), (Brouwer)

It was a game where I think the Lightning probably played better than the score indicates. Mike Smith really held Calgary into this game until the Flames got the two goals at the end of the Second Period against the run of play and things just snowballed against the Lightning from there. Ordinarily you'd just kind of shrug that one off considering it was against a Western Conference opponent and games like this happen.

But, at this hour, things are a little scary for the Lightning. After toughing out a leg injury in the Lightning's last game where Dotchin fell on his leg, Victor Hedman twisted his knee in the Second Period of this one and couldn't put weight on it as he left the action never to be seen again. The Lightning have a week off until their next game and the All-Star Break looming thereafter. The Lightning will almost certainly be hoping whatever Hedman has is minor and can be dealt with through the power of some rest and relaxation, because you simply don't replace a number one defenseman. You don't.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 3 shots, 3 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 22:55. Had a turnover on Calgary's first goal and struggled at times against pace in 5v5 play.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-9-18 Hurricanes at Lightning

Johnson and Lightning hold off 'Canes and shady refs.

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TB-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the victory. Goal support. Mmmmmm mmmmm!

First Period
3:23 CAR McGinn (7), (Williams, Slavin)(PP)
10:02 TB Hedman (6), (Kucherov, Stamkos)
12:10 CAR Aho (14), (unassisted)
16:26 TB Johnson (14), (Stralman, Point)

Second Period
1:58 TB Johnson (15), (Dotchin, Point)
10:36 CAR Faulk (4), (Teravainen, Staal)(PP)

Third Period
9:27 TB Dotchin (3), (Point)
14:54 TB Johnson (16), (Hedman)
18:42 CAR Lindholm (12), (Faulk, Teravainen)

Tyler Johnson, Brayden Point, and Jake Dotchin were the game's three stars.

Not a great performance by the Lightning on their first game back from a long road trip, which is lamentable but fairly typical. Still, the team grinded it out and systematically manufactured the goals they needed, overcoming a video review that went against them and the second straight game where the referees did not award the Lightning a power play. Seriously, for a team as good as the Lightning is possession-wise to not draw a penalty in two straight games is extremely suspect. As in, it's a practical impossibility. Jon Cooper should go ahead and take the fine and say something (yes, spending money is easy when it's someone else's).

The rebirth of Tyler Johnson is complete since his move to wing on Point's line. He had an amazing December and the hat trick tonight puts the punctuation at the end of the sentence. Tyler Johnson is back.

Dotchin had a goal and an assist and was +4 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 19:43. So good to see him rebound strongly after sitting down after the turnover debacle in Ottawa.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-7-18 Lightning at Red Wings

The Dominguenator drinks a tall glass of sweet, sweet Red Wing tears.

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DET-2

Louis Domingue allowed just 2 goals on 36 shots for this first victory in the Lightning uniform. Thought he played a simple, efficient game. He made some really important situational saves on a 2-on-0, on a partial breakaway, and on a pair of 5-on-3 scenarios and just bought time for the Lightning skaters to get some opportunistic goals.

First Period
8:56 TB Girardi (3), (Namestnikov, Gourde)
14:11 TB Johnson (13), (Girardi, Palat)

Second Period
3:10 DET Nyquist (14), (Bertuzzi, Zetterberg)
19:00 TB Gourde (13), (Killorn, Namestnikov)

Third Period
3:06 DET Abdelkader (7), (Mantha)
13:42 TB Kucherov (27), (Stamkos)
16:05 TB Gourde (14), (Palat)

Yanni Gourde and Dan Girardi were the game's first and third stars. Domingue was robbed.

That wasn't a Picasso. At times in the Second Period it wasn't even Dogs Playing Poker. But, under the circumstances, that's a big character win for the Lightning under some harsh circumstances. They'd been challenged by their coach after last night's debacle in Ottawa. They were playing the fresher team and were on the downside of a back-to-back. And, contrary to the crying from the Detroit side of the aisle, the refs in this game were borderline ridiculous giving the Wings a pair of 5-on-3's and ignoring a plethora of infractions by the Wings. Detroit also tried to goon this one up at times and were really taking runs and the Lightning and I thought Tampa Bay's smallish forwards showed a lot of bravery and really answered the bell when challenged. Brayden Point bloodied Dylan Larkin for boarding linemate Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde beat the tar out of Tomas Tatar and, I think, sent a message that while these weren't big heavyweight bouts these little guys are not going to be taken advantage of. And the Lightning were opportunistic, even scoring the big insurance marker on the rare clean offensive faceoff zone win. Ten straight wins over Detroit are sweet, really sweet.

Having been a captive to the Detroit broadcast tonight, I could write a novella about what I think about how they comported themselves tonight. Rather than do that though, I'll point something out to their producers. Your franchise's struggles against the Lightning began almost the exact moment you hired Darren Eliot off the Atlanta Thrasher-Jets bread line. Coincidence?

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:56.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-6-18 Lightning at Senators

Sloppy Lightning embarrass themselves in Ottawa.

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OTT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 33 shots for the loss. I was surprised Cooper didn't pull him to try to spark the team after a disgraceful First Period where they played so poorly in front of him. They finally ran into a night where Andrei didn't bail them out from their biggest mistakes.

First Period
4:48 OTT Dzingel (12), (Stone)
5:51 OTT Duchene (10), (Ryan)
17:04 OTT Smith (4), (Karlsson, Oduya)

Second Period
0:26 TB Hedman (5), (unassisted)
1:41 TB Koekkoek (4), (Kucherov, Killorn)
15:57 TB Gourde (12), (Sergachev, Johnson)(PP)

Third Period
10:44 OTT Stone (17), (Brassard, Chabot)
14:57 OTT Pageau (6), (Karlsson)
17:08 OTT Dzingel (13), (Karlsson, Stone)

When you gift a team, no matter how low they are in the standings, goals off of stupid mistakes, you can get embarrassed like this. The self-inflicted wounds tonight were numerous, including horrible turnovers that led to Ottawa's first goal and game winning goal and a clean faceoff loss that yielded Ottawa's back breaking insurance goal. There's your margin of victory right there. All things the Lightning could've controlled.

Slater Koekkoek had a goal, 4 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:19. Made a dynamite shot joining the play late to score the second goal for the Lightning. All-in-all did nothing to hurt the case for more games.

Yanni Gourde had a goal and was -1 with 2 shots in 16:31. He was only 14% on 7 draws, though. I don't think the Lightning are using Gourde to his highest and best by playing him at center, and if the Lightning could acquire a third line center and move Gourde back to wing, I think they'd get some nice results out of it. Tonight was Gourde's 41st game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status on the website.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 blocked shots in 20:51. Pretty awful start to the game with the turnover that immediately spotted Ottawa a goal. I'm thinking he might want to burn the tape of this one.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper on the goal that tied the game, but was an ugly -4 with 2 penalty minutes to go with 3 shots and 3 hits in 15:59. He also graduated from prospect status on the website in tonight's game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Opinion: Lightning at the Halfway Mark

Forty games into a historic 2017-2018 season, let's take a moment to pause, step out of the moment, and take stock of where the club is. Sitting halfway through the campaign expectations for the team, which missed the postseason just a year ago, are sky high for good reason. Not only is the Lightning atop the NHL standings a full 13 points ahead of the pace they need to be in order to make the postseason, but the team leads a bevy of organizational and individual statistical categories.

Let's pump the breaks on prematurely planning a Stanley Cup championship parade, though. There's still half of the regular season and the postseason left to play, and as good as the team is, it's not without blemishes. How General Manager Steve Yzerman addresses those blemishes (or doesn't) and how any potential changes alters team chemistry (or doesn't) will have a lot to say about whether the team lives up to its perceived potential. So, with all of that in mind, let's look at how the team got here, what its weaknesses are, and what might happen next.

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

The Canadian Vasilevskiy edges out the Russian Vasilevskiy.

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MTL-2 (SO)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 38 shots before allowed 1 of 3 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. He might've been the only Lightning player who was prepared to play a hockey game tonight from the opening faceoff and he shouldn't feel any shame for losing such a tightly contested goaltending duel against one of the world's best.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
0:20 MTL Pacioretty (9), (unassisted)
1:04 TB Kucherov (26), (Stamkos, Hedman)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- NONE
MTL- Byron

Vasilevskiy was the game's second star.

In general, this game just wasn't to the Lightning's standards. Montreal came to the rink treating this game like a measuring stick for their season and their last chance to turn their campaign around. The Lightning, with the exception of Vasilevskiy, came to the rink looking groggy and a little disinterested to start the game and frankly were just too loose defensively over the course of the contest. Way too many odd man rushes. Way too many chances and shots given up. True, the Lightning got more than their fair share too, putting 45 pucks on Price's net and nearly winning in OT when Palat was robbed by a cartwheel save, but this just wasn't good enough overall.

With the Vasilarceny of a single point, the Lightning close out the fourth 10-game segment of the year with a stylish 13 insurance points in the bank. The Lightning could play .438 hockey the rest of the way this year and probably still make the postseason, so the real challenge of the second half for this team will be refining their game and making sure they keep enforcing best practices and best habits. The last couple of games haven't been great ones in that "coaching against perfection" template.

Yanni Gourde had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 14:42. He was also 56% on 9 draws. After a sleepy start I thought he had a pretty good game. Gourde will graduate from prospect status on the website with one more game played this season.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 5 blocked shots in 18:43.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 21:37. Not an altogether consistent effort by Sergachev, whose horrific turnover in a 4-on-4 led to Montreal's only regulation goal. He'll also graduate from prospect status on the website with one more NHL game this season.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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