The Tampa Bay Lightning had been winning games by controlling the puck. Sometimes, goaltending and an opportunistic offense are all you need.
The Lightning got 35 saves on 38 shots from Anders Lindback and chased Steve Mason (.706 SV%) from the net at the end of the second period, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 in Philly.
The Lightning got the best of the early opportunities of the 1st period with a couple of looks from the slot by Nikita Kucherov that were stopped by Flyers goaltender Steve Mason. J.T. Brown, returning to game action after a shoulder injury, jumped right back on Kucherov's line and the duo showed the same chemistry they built together as top liners for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.
The Valterri Filppula line followed up that shift with good transition offense as Alex Killorn skated in down left wing and snapped a wrist shot that appeared to deflect off Mark Streit's stick and knuckle behind Steve Mason for the 1-0 Tampa Bay lead.
The Flyers followed the goal allowed with an ill-advised offensive zone slashing penalty against Steve Downie (something Lightning fans know nothing about) that sent the Bolts to an early power play with a chance to extend their lead. The power play couldn't get much going, however, as the Flyers were aggressive on the kill in trying to deny clean entry into the zone rather than setting up a kill in the defensive zone. The Lightning weren't able to break through for the odd-man rush or clean wrist shot in transition that opens up when a team kills like that, and the Flyers managed to kill the penalty.
Following the penalty, Ryan Malone took a trip to the box when he hooked former Lightning forward Adam Hall. Hall, who sold the penalty a bit, wasn't called for unsportsmanlike and the Flyers went on a man advantage of their own looking for an equalizer.
Things got worse quickly for the Lightning as a neutral zone faceoff win led to Victor Hedman shooting the puck all the way down the ice into the Flyers end -- and over the glass for a long-distance delay of game penalty and over a minute and a half of 5v3 time for Philadelphia. The Lightning inexplicably tried to hold up the Flyers at the defensive blue line, getting out of position for quick rushes towards the net, but Anders Lindback made a couple of nice stops on Vincent Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell to keep the score at 1-0.
Following the penalties, the Lightning went 10+ minutes in the middle of the frame with no shots on goal until a JT Brown deflection saved by Mason:
End of one: Tampa Bay 1, Flyers 0. Flyers had 15-7 shots edge. They finished with a 12-1 shots advantage after TB goal.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 11, 2014
The Lightning did everything they could to let the Flyers back in it late in the period, but Lindback finished with 15 saves, including a few terrific degree-of-difficulty stops, to keep the Bolts ahead by one entering the middle frame.
With an early power play in the second period, the Lightning were still having trouble breaking through the aggressive Flyers kill, with failed entry after failed entry on the same power play entry play the Lightning have been running all year that usually sees Teddy Purcell or Valterri Filppula carry the puck in after a drop pass through the middle of the ice.
Former Lightning defenseman Andrej Meszaros had chance to get on the board for the Flyers with a nice move to the front of the net, but Lindback made the first save and forced the puck below he goal line where Meszaros couldn't find twine.
After finally trying an entry along the wing, the Lightning extended their lead to 2-0 as Teddy Purcell scored a rather soft goal through Steve Mason's 5-hole. Mason got down much too slow to stop the bad-angle wrist shot from near the right circle, but with the Flyers playing again tomorrow against the New York Rangers, Craig Berube opted not to replace him with Ray Emery.
The Flyers quickly got back into the game on a Jakub Voracek breakaway after bad pass by Victor Hedman towards his own net. With all five Lightning skaters swarming towards the Philadelphia net on a rush, Hedman attempted a cross-slot diagonal pass from the right circle to the opposite point that was deflected, sending Voracek in alone on Lindback where he tucked the puck 5-hole to make things 2-1.
Moments later, 4th line banger Ryan Malone got into a scuffle with Braydon Coburn, receiving an inexplicable extra two extra minutes for roughing from official Tim Peel during the altercation. Head coach Jon Cooper asked for an explanation, but appeared not to get one. The Flyers scored on the ensuing power play when Wayne Simmonds beat Victor Hedman to a rebound of a Claude Giroux shot in the crease. Simmonds jammed it behind Lindback to make things 3-2.
Poor defensive zone coverage by the Lightning contributed to the Flyers tying the game when Voracek split the Lightning defense, meeting only a few lazy stick checks as resistance, on his way to the net to put another one past Lindback to tie the game at three apiece.
The flurry of goals continued in the 2nd period when the Lightning's 2nd line struck again. Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell worked a good entry at the Flyers blue line and Valterri Filppula beat Steve Downie to the goalmouth, potting a rebound goal to quickly give the lead back to the Lightning. Martin St. Louis added an insurance marker later in the middle frame off a rush with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, finishing a 1-timer from the right circle near the end of the period that chased Mason from the net.
Ray Emery replaced Mason in the third period, and while the final twenty minutes saw plenty of back-and-forth play, neither team was able to break through for another goal. Scott Hartnell had a clean breakaway taken away on a questionable offsides call, and Nikita Kucherov responded in kind with yet another unconverted breakaway attempt of hos own, shooting high over Emery and the net. Andrej Sustr also saved a goal when Anders Lindback lost the puck out of his glove in a net-front scramble. Sustr used his long reach to calmly scoop the puck off the goal line, preserving the two-goal lead.
A late delay of game penalty to B.J. Crombeen gave the Flyers some hope, but they managed zero shots on the power play and Ryan Malone added an empty-netter (his second goal of the night) to make the final score 6-3.
- Anders Lindback, after a handful of (mostly) bad outings following the injury to Ben Bishop, was actually quite good in this game. He was outstanding in the 1st period, making 15 total saves including a couple of very good stops on high quality scoring chances in the slot and in front of the net. He finished the night with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 SV%) and really earned the win, just his 5th on the season.
- The victory was spoiled by a pair of injuries to the blue line. Sami Salo went down after blocking a shot and Victor Hedman took a shot to the head from the shoulder of Scott Hartnell when the game was all but decided. Hedman stormed off the ice and into the room, discarding both his stick and helmet on the ice as he skated off, visibly agitated. Per Damian Cristodero,Hedman was feeling no ill effects, but Salo was on crutches. Unfortunately, Hedman is not yet out of the woods, as if this is a head inury (concussion?) the symptoms may take some time to show themselves. Hartnell will undoubtedly at least get a call from the NHL Player Safety Department.
- Matt Carle was plus-6. There are a lot of reasons to look down your nose at the use of +/- ratings, but in a game where 9 total goals are scored to be on ice for six for and zero against is still pretty remarkable.
- The quick strike offense was on display for the Lightning scoring less than 2 minutes after Philadelphia twice on the day. They were, however, outshot (38-25) and heavily out-possessed as well, controlling just 38.0% of all shot attempts at 5v5. Not a single skater for Tampa Bay managed a Corsi For% over 50%.
- Ondrej Palat had his 8-game point streak snapped. He had four goals and six assists over the course of the streak.