Good teams win tough road games. Good teams win games when they don't play their best. And good teams close out one-goal leads in the third period.
The result on Saturday night doesn't necessarily mean the Lightning are a good team -- they struggled with defensive zone coverage at times were sloppy with the puck -- but in the end, they got the favorable result on the road.
The Bolts, as the rested team, looked it early in the first. An turnover at their own blue line by the Canucks with a Sedin back at the point resulted in a quick up and out, as Palat sent Stamkos in alone on a breakaway. A quick deke to the backhand put the Lightning up 1-0 just 53 seconds into the game.
A penalty to Derek Dorsett put the Bolts on the power play with an opportunity to extend their lead, but Tampa didn't manage anything threatening, as their power play continues to cool off after such a hot start.
The Canucks answered quickly, however, after an Alex Killorn rush ended up with a slow roller on Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack. Lack one-touched the puck off his pads and started a rush the other way with the Lightning changing. A quick shot and a rebound with the Bolts struggling to complete the change and get back in the play ended up with a Chris Higgins goal off a rebound to tie the game 1-1.
Fortunately for the Lightning, the Canucks had no answer for Steven Stamkos, especially while checking him with their top unit. Henrik Sedin line lost Stamkos again, as the Lightning captain buried a backhander from the slot to regain the one goal lead.
Both teams traded power play opportunities, but accomplished little at 5v4. The best scoring chances came on a pair of rushes -- one from Stamkos, who walked around Yannick Weber of the Canucks and nearly potted his third of the game -- and the other, from Alex Burrows on a shorthanded rush that was saved by Ben Bishop.
The Bolts started the second with a gift power play on a Dan Hamhuis tripping call, but their power play continued to sputter and falter. Ondrej Palat made a few uncharacteristically poor plays with the puck and took a penalty negating the man advantage. After the 4v4 time expired, Vancouver scored on a quick rush up ice as Alex Edler finished a 3-on-2 with a wrist shot from the high slot, tying the game at 2-2.
The Lightning continued the parade to the penalty box, first with a too many men call on another sloppy line change and then with a senseless elbow by Eric Brewer on a hit delivered to Alex Burrows, and finally a double minor for high sticking on Matt Carle after he caught Zack Kassian with a stick in the face. The Bolts looked like last year's penalty kill, collapsing to the slot and hoping Ben Bishop would save their bacon -- luckily, he did.
Later, a scrum in front resulted in Tampa Bay getting another crack at their power play. Anton Stralman went coast to coast and was tripped by Kevin Bieksa, who doesn't know the new tripping rule apparently:
I guess Kevin Bieksa didn't hear about the rule change: pic.twitter.com/sAea4b7wv0— Greg Balloch (@GregBallochST) October 19, 2014
The ensuing 5-on-3 was uneventful for the most part, until Steven Stamkos broke his stick on a big wind-up and had to return to the bench to fetch a new one. Tampa Bay effectively stalled in the offensive zone and found him streaking towards the net. He held the puck long enough to freeze the defense and Eddie Lack, both fearing a shot, and found Ryan Callahan alone on the left circle for an easy one-timer goal and a 3-2 lead.
The Lightning struggled to find their footing in the third, mostly weathering a growing Vancouver storm, until Alex Killorn buried a Tyler Johnson rebound off a rush to extend the Bolts lead to 4-2.
The Canucks had a couple more chances on their power play after a needless offensive zone hold by Brett Connolly, including a one-timer from the left side by Nick Bonino. They nearly drew within a goal when a loose puck bounced off Eric Brewer's skate and trickled towards the net, hitting the post before Bishop covered it.
Tampa Bay opted to use their timeout with just over 4 minutes remaining to gather themselves and try to close the game out, but again ended up flailing about a bit in the closing minutes, needing a couple of very big saves from Ben Bishop to keep the two-goal lead. Rookie head coach Willie Desjardins opted to pull Eddie Lack out of the Vancouver net with two minutes and change remaining, and the teams traded chances on Ben Bishop and the empty net, but neither team found a goal and the final ended up 4-2.
- The Vancouver Canucks 12-year home sellout streak came to an end tonight against the Lightning. They had sold out the previous 474 home games prior to tonight.
- Victor Hedman took his last shift with about 11 minutes remaining in the 2nd period. If Radko Gudas is unable to go on Monday against the Edmonton Oilers, Mark Barberio is all but a lock to make his season debut. There is no update on Hedman's status other than "upper body injury" as of this writing. UPDATE: Here's the latest:
Victor Hedman will continue to be evaluated but did not return after blocking a shot with right hand @Sportsnet— Cassie Campbell (@CassieCampbell) October 19, 2014
- All in all, the Lightning penalty kill still looks pretty bad, even in spite of the good results tonight. They gave up shots and chances with alarming regularity, and continue to collapse into the slot way too often, relying on stellar goaltending rather than smart pressure to kill off opportunities. The Canucks fired 13 shots on 6 total power plays, converting on 1/6.
- Your final #fancystats report:
- With so much special teams play, Nikita Kucherov (8:06) and Vlad Namestnikov (8:30) saw very little action, though both did see some time on the second power play unit.
- Ben Bishop was outstanding on a rare night so far this year where the defense in front struggled. He stopped 30/32 shots (.938). Regression is likely still coming -- he got his fair share of bounces and posts tonight -- but everything he was doing right last year he's still doing this year. He looks healthy, confident, and technically sound.
TB finished credited with 40 shot attempts (24 on goal, 9 blocked, 7 missed), VAN with 58 (32 on goal, 18 blocked, 8 missed).— Bolt Statistics (@Bolt_Statistics) October 19, 2014