Tampa Bay Lightning
Another opportunity slips away.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 34 shots before allowing 2 of 3 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. The 5-hole goal he gave up to Flynn in the SO was abysmal.
15:58 MTL Plekanec (8), (Subban, Andrighetto)
5:40 TB Kucherov (13), (Filppula, Stralman)(PP)
9:57 MTL Galchenyuk (9), (Markov, Petry)
13:21 TB Garrison (4), (Killorn)
13:42 TB Callahan (5), (Filppula, Sustr)
14:14 MTL Weise (11), (Desharnais, Pacioretty)
MTL- Flynn, Pacioretty
I would call tonight's contest another bizarre and regrettable exercise that the Lightning may live to regret when they're scratching for points in the standings later this year. The First Period was awful. The effort level was unacceptable and the team looked completely flat and unprepared to play a hockey game. They disrespected an opponent on a losing streak and they surrendered an early power play opportunity to them to allow them to build a ton of early momentum. They almost weathered it, but then Nesterov and Johnson got abused by two of Montreal's stars and the Lightning found themselves down 1-0 at the intermission. They probably deserved to be down 1-0 at the intermission, mind you, but it still hurts because they nearly got away with the flat start.
The Second Period was a case study in sheer frustration as the Lightning outshot Montreal 16-8 and outchanced them by an even wider ratio. Unfortunately, Condon was somehow making ten bell saves despite using the unorthodix thrashing around his crease like a dying fish technique. Kucherov was able to tie the game early in the frame on a greasy goal on the PP, but a temporary loss of coverage by Condra (one mistake) allowed Galchenyuk to quickly re-establish Montreal's margin.
The Third Period was one of the sloppiest displays of passing you'll ever see the Lightning put on the ice this season, and for the bulk of the final frame it looked like Montreal would coast to victory. Tampa Bay couldn't hit a break out pass to save their lives and Montreal was more than content to work the play below the Lightning goal line. Then, somehow, Garrison scored a wraparound goal on the rush and 20 seconds later a broken play led to Callahan potting one in an open side, and it looked like the Lightning might snatch victory for the jaws of defeat. Not so fast, as they came out flat the shift after the goal and lost coverage on Weise on a bang-bang goal in tight that was put on the board by replay. Oof. We head to Overtime.
The first half of Overtime was a textbook display of possession by the Lightning. They held onto the puck for nearly all of 2:30 seconds and developed some chances from the slot but couldn't finish. It could've easily been all over in that first half of OT, but the Lightning just couldn't find that moment to bear down and finish. Montreal then managed to surge at the end of OT where the Lightning had to survive some goal mouth scrambles before it headed to the Shootout where the Lightning suffer from a significant handicap.
That handicap: Ben Bishop's 5-hole. The book's out around the league. Galchenyuk nearly scored on Bishop's 5-hole on the Habs' first attempt and Flynn scored a laughably lazy shot through Bishop's 5-hole on the second attempt. It puts the Lightning in a situation where they're spotting opponents 1-2 goals in the SO every time. It's bad.
Like the Vancouver game, a big opportunity to grab points and set themselves up to cut into their overall season deficit goes by the board. Tampa Bay sits at 9 points through 7 games of Segment Four of the season. If they go .500 the rest of the way in the segment, they won't dig the hole any deeper, but the time is running out to slice into that 5 point season deficit and get firmly back in playoff position. That makes this next game against the Rangers, a really tough opponent, doubly huge.
Jonathan Marchessault was -2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:53. Johnson's return is going to seriously curtail Marchessault's ice time and role, and I don't know that the Lightning got quality for the trade off tonight, although it is obviously hugely important to knock the rust off Johnson.
Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:31. He was God awful against the rush tonight. Simply God awful. He was directly responsible for Montreal's opening goal and there were times tonight he looked more like a bullfighter (a really good one!) than a NHL defenseman. All he needed was the red cape. Ole!
Apocalypse in Tampa.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory.
5:34 TB Blunden (2), (Sustr, Condra)
9:44 CBJ Bourque (1), (Jenner, Johansen)
3:07 CBJ Hartnell (14), (Wennberg, Prout)
6:21 TB Stamkos (15), (Kucherov, Marchessault)(PP)
6:53 TB Stamkos (16), (Marchessault, Kucherov)(PP)
14:17 TB Nesterov (2), (Callahan, Stamkos)(PP)
4:39 TB Garrison (3), (Blunden)
Let it be noted that Nikita Nesterov brought about the apocalypse at 14:17 of the Second Period. One game removed from a tear stained 1 for 10 effort in defeat against the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored 3 power play goals in the Second Period tonight to break open a must-win game against Columbus. It also likely turned Tampa Bay into a lake of fire, because I'm pretty sure 3 power play goals by the Lightning is one of the signs of the end of days. Columbus opened the door by getting in severe penalty trouble with back-to-back 5-on-3's and later a major penalty on Scott Hartnell for running Ben Bishop, and lo and behold the Lightning power play actually made them pay for it. Good thing, too, because trailing 2-1 in the Second Period and being outshot by a decent margin, it looked like the Lightning needed the help.
Mind you, as exciting as the Lightning PP showing a pulse tonight was, nothing will beat the thrill of watching Vladislav Namestnikov beat the living daylights out of a man twice his size in Ryan Johansen. People forget Namestnikov had a rep as an instigator in junior, and they tend to sleep on him because of the Russian last name. He'll surprise you with his ability with the fisticuffs though, and he embarrassed the much bigger Johansen tonight.
Mike Angelidis was +1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 7:57. He was also 13% on 8 draws.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 helpers and was -1 with 2 shots in 15:25. He looked very comfortable running the center point position on the 5-on-3's where he got his two apples.
Nesterov released the 4 Horsemen with his PP goal and had 2 shots and 2 hits in 16:57. Tonight was a night where he started to look like the same Nikita Nesterov who was such a positive story for the Lightning last season, and his goal celebration was flavorful.
Lightning waste an opportunity to climb in the standings.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for the loss. I can't be mad at him. He gave them a chance with 2-3 really important saves in the Second Period.
15:57 VAN Baertschi (5), (Vrbata, Biega)
19:38 TB Marchessault (5), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
11:09 VAN D. Sedin (16), (H. Sedin)
First, the Lightning came out with a flat as a pancake First Period that they simply cannot have in the standings situation they're in. They only played energetic hockey for 40 minutes tonight and that just isn't good enough. Second, and most obviously, the power play went 1-for-10. There's the game right there. The first 6 chances on the PP were pretty putrid by the Lightning. They got the goal from Marchessault on the 7th and the 8th and 9th really fed on that and created the chances that the Lightning just couldn't bury, punctuated by one Stamkos crossbar. There's some good tape to study there, though. Marchessault, as a sniper in the slot/RW circle, helps the team develop a pressure point on the strong side of the ice and allows Stamkos to drift to the open area away from the play. That's how the Lightning power play needs to start to work. They can do that with Marchessault in that spot and they can do it with Tyler Johnson in that spot when he returns from injury. So, even though it's small solace right now, there's something to build off of despite how statistically ugly that performance was.
The kick in the pants is this game was a nice opportunity for the Lightning to close out this half of Segment Four of the season in great shape. They already had 6 points through the first 4 games and even 1 point would've put them in good shape to start to cut into their season deficit and get them back into playoff position. It's been a recurring pattern over the last 15 games: they've had their chances to do more than just tread water in the standings, and they just haven't been able to pull that one more win out to start to get their heads up above water. At some point, those chances will run out, though.
The Lightning, at least, will now take the holiday break to hopefully get a handful of their forwards out of the tub and back with the club with a must-win against Columbus coming up on Saturday.
Mike Angelidis had a 5 minute fighting major and 1 hit in 5:56. He was also 50% on 6 draws.
Marchessault had a goal and was -1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 19:03. He was also 67% on 6 draws. He played really well and displayed his best quality again: he's a pure sniper.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:03.
Lightning show no signs of a Washington hangover.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the victory. It wasn't one of Bishop's more dominant performances, because it didn't have to be. That said, he made 1-2 key situational saves in the Third Period that allowed his club to eventually pull away at the end.
4:20 OTT Smith (8), (Lazar)(SH)
5:23 TB Nesterov (1), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)
7:16 TB Stamkos (13), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)(PP)
2:45 TB Angelidis (1), (Blunden, Marchessault)
14:28 OTT Karlsson (9), (Hoffman, Pageau)
18:27 TB Killorn (6), (unassisted)(EN)
18:40 TB Stamkos (14), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)(EN)
Tonight was a battle of a couple of injury depleted teams. With Brian Boyle leaving the game with an apparent concussion, the Lightning were depleted to 10 forwards, seemingly half of which were fresh up from Syracuse. Meanwhile, injuries and a match penalty shortened Ottawa's bench to about 11 forwards and 4 defensemen. The ensuing test of team depth was one the Lightning appeared to pass with flying colors. The Lightning power play continued to show the same signs of improvement it's teased over the past week and the Lightning had the lion's share of possession throughout the contest. More importantly, they cleared some psychological hurdles by getting through the Third Period protecting a 1 goal lead after melting down against the Capitals last time out. I thought they may have been a little guilty of playing not to lose in the first half of the final frame, but they got on their forecheck in the back half of the Third and eventually pulled away for the big victory.
With Brian Boyle, I imagine, out for the Canucks game to rest his head until after the Christmas break, I'd expect Tanner Richard to make his NHL debut on Tuesday.
With two more goals tonight, Steven Stamkos seems to be awakening from his slumber. A lot of the credit, in my opinion, goes to the less publicized play of Vladislav Namestnikov, whose heroics tonight included springing Val Filppula for a penalty shot-enducing breakaway and a clever backhand up-pass that eventually led to a Kucherov breakaway and a Stamkos chance dead in the mid slot after Kucherov missed. Even with those two near-misses, he had a couple of helpers tonight as he is starting to look like a real nice NHL scoring liner. He's been as important to the success of that line with Stamkos and Kucherov as Kucherov, in my opinion, and that's no small statement when you think about it.
The win was huge as far as the playoff pursuit goes. On a macro-level, which I caution you not to get too caught up in during the month of December, the Lightning moved to within 2 points of 3rd in the Atlantic Division and 1 point of the second Wild Card spot. On the micro-level, which the Lightning need to be more concerned with, they got to 6 points for this 10-game segment through 4 games. A win against Vancouver next time out would set them up nicely to get more than the minimum 12 points in 10 games you try to get and start to cut into the 5 point deficit they have for the season because of that terrible Segment Two of the season. You'd love to see them get 14-15 points out of this segment somehow and cut that deficit down to 2-3 points by the mid-season mark.
Angelidis had his second NHL goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 14:10. He was also 31% on 13 draws. Strong night for the Crunch line of Blunden, Angelidis, and Marchessault with Angelidis getting the payoff on the greasy goal on a play Blunden brought to the high traffic area. Blunden's been a pleasant surprise with how he's played over the past 3 games and Angelidis' game tonight was just par for the course for anyone who has seen him play for Syracuse. Just an honest, grinding forward.
Jonathan Marchessault had a helper, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 10:13.
Nesterov had a PP goal, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 13:10. His goal was extremely important after the deflating shorthanded goal against.
Third Period meltdown tarnishes solid Lightning effort.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss. Situational saves matter. The Oshie goal off the wing high short side cannot be allowed in that situation. It's got to be a higher caliber scoring chance that beats you there. That, among other things, opened the door to the meltdown that happened.
8:18 TB Killorn (5), (Marchessault, Coburn)
6:54 TB Sustr (1), (Kucherov)
9:04 TB Stamkos (12), (Hedman, Stralman)
13:49 WSH Ovechkin (15), (Oshie, Carlson)(PP)
7:54 WSH Oshie (11), (unassisted)
10:02 WSH Ovechkin (16), (Chimera, Williams)(PP)
14:16 WSH Johansson (6), (Oshie, Ovechkin)(PP)
19:35 WSH Oshie (12), (Backstrom, Ovechkin)(EN)
That's a tough one. It's not that the Lightning lost to a really good team like the Capitals, it's that they looked like they were going to post a watershed victory only to see it implode right before their eyes. Add it to the list of similar losses the Lightning have suffered this season.
Part of the Lightning's undoing tonight has to be attributed to the officials. The refs giftwrapped a pair of highly questionable phantom calls on a slash to Stamkos off a faceoff that ended up cutting the Lightning lead to 3-1 and a ticky tack interference call at the bench on Hedman that allowed Washington to tie the game. Take that phantom slash on Stamkos away, and the Lightning likely take a 3-0 game into the locker room and the outcome is pretty much in the bag. Mind you, the PK has to do better than go 1-for-4, but I'm more than a little bitter about the night the zebras had.
There's plenty of silver linings from the night, the biggest of which was Stamkos snapping out of his goal scoring slump. It's amazing how he looked like he was shot out of a cannon in the Third Period with that weight lifted from his shoulders. It wouldn't be all that surprising if he went on a tear over the coming few weeks. But, you know, that's not going to take the sour taste out of this one.
Mike Angelidis had 3 hits in 7:57. Hard working night on the fourth line.
Jonathan Marchessault had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots in 14:25. He had a strong game, including hitting a post that was nearly a key goal in the Third Period that might've allowed the Lightning to stave off the coming disaster.
Yanni Gourde had 2 hits in 7:43.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 14:06. I thought he played one of his better games in a while tonight.
We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Bolt Prospect of the Week for the week ending December 16 is … Jonathan Marchessault, W, Tampa Bay (NHL).
Where would the 2015-2016 Tampa Bay Lightning be without Jonathan Marchessault?
To say injuries have affected the Lightning this year would be as understating as saying a school of rabid sharks with lasers affects where you can swim.
Character building victory for the weary Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the OT victory. None of his goals were brutally soft tonight, mind you, but you had goals resulting from rebound control in tight, sliding too far out of position to challenge a first shot, and another going through him under his arm. Point being: he can play better. And, for everyone who was ready to usher Ben Bishop out of town to anoint Vasilevskiy just a couple months ago: slow down.
2:59 TB Kucherov (12), (Namestnikov)
10:40 TOR Bozak (5), (van Riemsdyk, Parenteau)(PP)
18:03 TOR van Riemsdyk (9), (Bozak, Parenteau)
11:34 TOR Rielly (4), (Komarov)
19:24 TB Stralman (3), (Kucherov)
5:56 TB Blunden (1), (Gourde, Sustr)
6:32 TB Marchessault (4), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:28 TOR Winnik (3), (Polak, Spaling)
2:01 TB Namestnikov (6), (unassisted)
Vladislav Namestnikov was the game's first star. Well deserved because he was excellent from start to finish. He's now got double the goals of Valtteri Filppula and has edged ahead of Filppula in points despite playing fewer minutes. Oh, and one is +7 this year and the other is -9, too. I feel like Vladislav's clearly on the cusp of stardom and Filppula is borderline stealing money, which points to some difficult moves that Yzerman really needs to make happen.
Overall the game was 39 minutes of some of the worst hockey the Lightning have played all season followed by the kind of character-building moments that could allow the Lightning to come out a much better team by the end of the year if they can keep manufacturing points. The Lightning looked dead tired and flat as a pancake for most of the first two periods after playing on the tail end of a back-to-back and their 3rd game in 4 nights while also dealing with the clown show that is the Toronto media whenever Stamkos is in town. They looked dead late in the Second Period when the Toronto defense decided to revert to the norm and the Red Sea parted for Anton Stralman to cut the lead to 3-2. Game changing moment.
From that point on, the Lightning took control of the tenor of the game with two key strikes brought by fresh legs from the Syracuse Crunch. Toronto managed to get a seeing eye goal off a faceoff to salvage a point, but it's an absolutely amazing thing to see the Lightning athletically dominating a Toronto team late even after Toronto had a week off heading into this one. Namestnikov punctuated it by scorching past the Toronto 3-man unit to create his own breakaway and the game winning goal.
Bear in mind this is a Lightning team that has absolutely stunk at coming from behind in Third Periods the past couple of years. I haven't looked it up, but it feels like the Lightning have only won 3 or 4 games (including tonight) coming from behind in the Third Period the last 2 seasons, and they hadn't done it yet this year. They're learning how to win games when the goals don't come to them. They're learning how to win games when they're hurt. They're learning how to win games when they're tired. They're learning how to win games from behind. Sure, a lot of that education also came in the playoffs last year, but I want you to imagine what this graduate course in weathering adversity could lead to once Johnson, Palat, Drouin, Paquette, and all of Santa's other reindeer come off the IR. If I were the NHL, I'd be terrified if the Lightning can weather this storm and make the playoffs.
Jonathan Marchessault had a goal, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 17:13. He was really good tonight. Caught some bad luck with his stick breaking leading to the 2-on-1 that led to the Rielly goal, but he stuck to it and got the goal to go ahead 4-3 in the Third Period. Note, he now also has more goals than the previously mentioned Filppula.
Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 6:55. It's Gourde's birthday and his NHL debut, and it improved greatly once he got that interference call out of the way in his first or second shift in the league.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:45. He's still not where he was a year ago, and that's a little concerning.
Lightning have multiple personality disorder in Ohio.
Ben Bishop was outstanding, allowing just 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. Part of me wants to see him start again tomorrow versus Toronto.
11:11 TB Marchessault (3), (unassisted)
16:46 CBJ Dubinsky (5), (Calvert, Foligno)
6:13 TB Boyle (8), (Killorn)(SH)
Brian Boyle and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.
It seems like Columbus is always a strange place for the Lightning when they play there, and tonight was no different. The game split pretty cleanly into three acts.
First, the Lightning were awfully sloppy in the First Period with multiple turnovers in the no-no zone within 10 feet of either blueline. Ben Bishop had to be sharp to deny the resulting A chances, but it wasn't as if Columbus was athletically dominating Tampa Bay. The Lightning were just not sharp on their breakout passing or their decision-making with the puck.
For the following 30 minutes, the Lightning absolutely dominated Columbus. The Blue Jackets had next to no puck possession as the Lightning continually pressed the attack down low in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, the Lightning could never expand to a multiple-goal lead, and the specter of Columbus stealing a smash and grab win hung thick over the game. It was only a great effort play by Alex Killorn to create a shorthanded goal that put the Lightning a goal up in the Third Period.
Then there was the final 10 minutes of the game. Awful. Columbus ran roughshod over the Lightning physically while they pressed for the equalizer. Was it fatigue due to the Lightning being down to 10 forwards (again)? Perhaps, but that doesn't explain why the Lightning defense suddenly started losing players in coverage and losing every race to loose pucks. Columbus came within a half inch of tying the game on a puck that sat on the line behind Bishop. Only by the grace of a little slush did Tampa Bay manage to get out of town with the 2 points. I have no idea what to make of the team's effort tonight, if anything. I'll take it, though. Beats suffering a smash and grab loss.
That's a dirty team Columbus has, by the way. It has to be said. Scott Hartnell did his best to break Brian Boyle's ankle with a slash at one point and there were several plays where the Blue Jackets cross checked forwards into the boards on plays that could've been borderline boarding that weren't called. Hartnell deserved to get his clock cleaned by the two straight rights he was fed by Ryan Callahan right after the horn at the conclusion of the First Period. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
Jonathan Marchessault had a goal, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 8:40. He was gifted a turnover that was a perfect centering pass and he made no mistake with it. The guy is a pure finisher. There's no doubt about that.
Joel Vermin played 1:38. He had 1 shift. Made an awful turnover at his own blueline on a cutesy one-touch pass that led to the Lightning getting hemmed in for a minute and nearly falling behind because of it. And, to add injury to insult, he got injured on the play and didn't return. Guess that means Yanni Gourde is a lock to make his NHL debut tomorrow.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 10:54.
Hardworking Lightning nearly pull off the comeback.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 20 shots for the loss. In a night where the goaltenders with the two best GAA's in the league played each other, Holtby bested Bishop by a wide mile. I won't get too upset by a premium skill play like Kuznetsov's wraparound, but Beagle's goal short side off the back of Bishop's arm was as soft as they get. And, as soft goals often are, that goal ended up being the margin.
2:09 WSH Beagle (4), (Galiev)
11:16 WSH Kuznetsov (9), (Carlson)
8:05 TB Kucherov (11), (Stralman, Stamkos)(PP)
After getting embarrassed in their last encounter with the Capitals, the Lightning acquitted themselves far better in the rematch. They jumped all over the Caps early and they absolutely dominated the Third Period, but Braden Holtby was fantastic. The Lightning had a 36-20 shot advantage, even while playing with just 10 forwards, and it was only Holtby's confident play between the pipes and Bishop's soft goal that kept the Lightning from getting a big win.
It's a tough pill to swallow that's made extra bitter by the fact the Lightning lost Tyler Johnson for a week prior to the game and lost Ondrej Palat to what appeared to be an ankle injury early in the First Period. If it's a re-injury of the same ankle, that's two bits of really bad luck that will continue to put the Lightning in a really tough position offensively.
The Lightning finish Segment Three of the season with 12 points in 10 games. They remain 5 points behind pace for the season because of their disastrous Segment Two. A win tonight would've been a boon for the team in helping them to cut into their deficit. As it is, though, it's back to the grind for Segment Four.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 4 shots and 3 hits in 15:05.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:26.
The biggest win of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. In my opinion, even in the absence of goal support, Bishop's play this season is approaching the brilliance of his Vezina finalist season two years ago.
19:52 TB Kucherov (9), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
0:25 TB Filppula (3), (Brown, Callahan)
8:33 TB Kucherov (10), (unassisted)
12:06 OTT Ceci (3), (Ryan, Stone)
19:46 TB Brown (3), (Callahan)(EN)
This was a big game for a number of reasons I'll elaborate on later, and it was obvious it was going to be a big game once the Lightning failed to get points out of the Kings game to close the road trip. I warned after that game the Lightning needed to avoid falling into the trap of playing flat as a pancake to start the first game back from a road trip. Well, my worst fears were confirmed and the first 12 minutes of the game were among the worst the Lightning have played all season. Unfocused, sloppy, turnover-riddled, just bad hockey. Chances were 6-1 in favor of Ottawa after about 10 minutes and only Bishop and Ottawa's own lack of sharpness in finishing kept the Lightning from suffering an early haymaker from the Sens. The Lightning slowly climbed back in the game and then Ottawa gave Tampa Bay a fortuitous two-man advantage where Nikita Kucherov, thank goodness, actually shot the puck and put the Lightning up 1-0. The rest of the game was a tale of Bishop's sharp play and the Lightning capitalizing on enough of their own chances along the way to build a 3 goal lead in the Third Period to seize a more leisurely feeling win for a change. Beautiful.
The standings impact cannot be understated. On a head-to-head basis, the win pulls the Lightning to within 4 points of Ottawa for 3rd in the division. Falling 8 points behind third place in the division would've been crushing. From a micro standpoint, the victory clinched a successful third 10-game segment for the season. As we've hammered home for the past 2+ seasons, you need to get at least 12 points every 10 game segment of the year to comfortably make the playoffs. The Lightning got 12 points in Segment One of the year but crashed and burned with just 7 points in Segment Two to dig a big 5 point hole for the season. One of the first rules for getting yourself out of a hole when you find yourself in one: stop digging. The Lightning did that by getting the big win tonight. You didn't want to see the Lightning going into a game against Metropolitan Division leading Washington needing 2 points just to avoid digging themselves into a deeper hole for the year. On a macro-level, that could've led to full-on disaster. Now the Lightning get a chance, if they can manage points against the Capitals, to cut into the deficit they created for the season to as little as 3 points. Ultimately, that's how the Lightning get out of the hole they've built for themselves. It's not reasonable to expect them to just go on some gigantic 8-9 game winning streak to get back into prime playoff position. They've got to keep putting together segments where they get 13, 14, 15 or so points and pay down that deficit over the span of a handful of 10-game segments.
That task should get easier as the Lightning continue to get healthier. With Ondrej Palat's return tonight, the team is now only missing Cedric Paquette from its regular lineup. Once he gets back, hopefully Jon Cooper can keep some steady line combinations in place and the Lightning can get their full 5-on-5 scoring swagger back while they continue to try and fix that thing they call a power play. If that scenario plays out, we may find the silver lining of this early season was that this Lightning team learned to be more mindful of the defensive side of the puck when they found themselves in their extended goal scoring slump. Knowing how to win games against multiple styles of opponents and being able to win games a variety of ways is the hallmark of a championship caliber club.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in 8:56. He wasn't much of a factor tonight, and now we'll see the challenge that Marchessault has to overcome to stick in the NHL. With guys like Johnson and Palat returning, it's pushing Marchessault down to lower lines with less talented linemates in more of a checking role. How he adapts to that role and his ability or inability to make contributions in it will tell the tale.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:32. On balance, I don't think he'll be asking Nigel Kirwan for the Blueray edition of his game film from tonight.