This first (extended) half of the 2014-15 season has given Lightning fans ample opportunities to at least scratch their heads in confusion, if not gnash their teeth in anger, over the ineptitude displayed by Tampa Bay's special teams units. Although, even the harshest critics have to admit that throughout out the first 48 of 82 regular season games there have been glimpses of being pretty good, like tonight, at least in the case of the penalty kill.
"Clearly the penalty kill saved us tonight. Outstanding. It's rare to see one five-on-three in a game, let alone two, and long ones. Can't say enough about how those guys kill penalties. They bailed us out tonight. " - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Things didn't exactly get off to a rip-roaring start; there were a total of five shots taken, all by the Lightning, through the first 14 minutes. Vancouver didn't register a shot on goal until there were about five and a half minutes remaining in the period. Little surprise that the teams headed into the first intermission in a scoreless tie, with the Lightning logging six shots to the Canucks' four.
"We didn't shoot pucks tonight. I think we had 11 or 12 shot attempts in the first period which is not near good enough. We passed up a lot of opportunities to shoot pucks." - Cooper
The Lightning started off the second with a penalty box parade that saw them rack up calls against at :28, :38, 1:45 and once more late in the period, at the 18:45 mark. As Cooper mentioned, the PK was up to the task each time.
Meanwhile, the Bolts got on the board at 13:32 on a goal by Valtteri Filppula with assists from Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan.
The Lightning carried the 1-0 lead into the third period.
With the puck down to start the final period, they wasted no time in doubling that lead, with Alex Killorn scoring 11 seconds in. Victor Hedman and Filppula chipped in with assistance.
At 4:16, the margin swelled to three thanks to a goal by Brian Boyle, made possible by the hustle of Brett Connolly who began the play by winning a race to wave off an icing call. He and Brenden Morrow were credited with assists.
The Canucks finally got a puck past netminder Ben Bishop, who would go on to turn away a total of 27 out of 28 shots against, when a scrum of Vancouver and Tampa Bay players crashed the net and just kind of dragged the puck with them over the goal line at 8:09. Credit for the goal was given to Frank Corrado, his first of the season. Assists went to Alexandre Burrows and Chris Higgins.
At 4:45, with Stamkos serving Tampa Bay's seventh and final penalty of the night on a dubious Delay of Game/Face-off violation, Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins pulled goalie Ryan Miller to create a six-on-four attack. The Lightning weathered that threat and Miller returned to his crease with 3:15 remaining.
He was pulled again just a few seconds later and the Lightning added an empty-net goal from Killorn to cap things off at 17:34. Cedric Paquette and Hedman picked up the helpers.
The win is the Lightning's eighth consecutive victory at home, which ties the franchise record.
"You have to win at home and we've had a really good run at home. The arena is full, it's electric, the fans are into it and it gives the guys a ton of energy. It's a lot of fun to play here." - Cooper
The Lightning are off now for the all-star break and will be in action again a week from tonight, January 27, when they travel to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
- Tonight was the last regular season meeting between the two teams, with the Lightning also picking up a 4-2 win in Vancouver on October 18.
- Stamkos has scored at least a point in each of his past seven games against Vancouver, while recording multi-point efforts in the previous five.
- The Lightning's previous three games had each been decided by a single goal.
- Tonight was Luke Witkowski's first NHL game. He skated 20 shifts, 14:29 of ice time and blocked two shots. "I couldn't get a pre-game nap and I was a little nervous warming up, but once I got on the ice and got some shifts, it was just hockey."
- Tonight was also Nikita Kucherov's 100th NHL game.
- Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin will represent the Lightning at All-Star festivities in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend.
- The Lightning honored Moses Brown as the 24th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Brown, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Feed our Children Ministries, Caregivers, Pastor on Patrol, Emmnaul, New Testament Outreach Clinic and Calvary Community Clinic. In 1986, Brown founded Feed Our Children Ministries, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting the Greater Tampa Bay community, orphans, elderly and the poor throughout the world by providing food, clothing, transportation, housing, temporary shelter, counseling, financial assistance and spiritual support. Brown, a minister by trade believes in reaching people beyond the pulpit, and lending a hand on the frontlines. This belief has influenced Brown's philanthropic work in the Tampa Bay community. Under Brown's leadership, Feed Our Children Ministries has attracted over 65 committed volunteers who help deliver the organization's monthly contribution of 80 hours of service, 3,500 meals and tutoring for 45 kids.