When you outshoot a Western contender like St. Louis nearly 2:1, you'd hope for a better result than the one the Tampa Bay Lightning got on Tuesday night.
Still, the Blues needed a herculean effort in net from Brian Elliott to stay in this one, and capitalized on a few quick scoring chances in regulation and overtime to steal the two points out from under a Bolts squad that deserved a better fate after a fantastic defensive effort against a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were all over the presumptive West contenders early, peppering goaltender Brian Elliott with shots and frustrating the St. Louis breakout with a quick, aggressive forecheck. The Blues rarely gained the red line in the first, and when they did, it was only to dump it in and change.
Cedric Paquette continued his torrid scoring pace, potting his 11th goal of the season in his 42nd game off a rebound in tight from an Alex Killorn shot. Jonathan Drouin picked up the secondary assist.
The period ended with a late penalty call on the Blues, who managed a measly two shots on goal in the first twenty minutes dominated thoroughly by the speed and skill of the Lightning.
That pattern continued into the second period until David Backes got involved:
Following that scrum and a scrap between the two captains, the Tampa Bay Lightning somehow (?) ended up on the penalty kill; fortunately, St. Louis 5v4 unit proved almost as amemic as Tampa Bay's toothless unit. Still, the Blues were able to build even strength momentum off the penalty and played well in the second period, evening up the shot counter and forcing Ben Bishop to make his best saves on the night.
St. Louis won the shot battle 10-6 in the middle frame, but couldn't hold serve in the third even facing a one-goal deficit; Tampa Bay once again littered Brian Elliott's crease with rubber that he somehow managed to keep on the right side of the red line. The Bolts, even while protecting a lead, threw 14 shots at Elliot and handful of grade-A scoring chances that were all turned aside.
Finally, a defensive zone faceoff loss and a quick shot from distance from Vlad Tarasenko was enough for the Blues to equalize in a game they had no business being in. That sent things to 4v4 overtime, where an outstanding individual play by Jaden Schwartz on the first shot of the period ended Tampa's chance of salvaging the full two points and capped off a robbery of a victory for an otherwise manhandled St. Louis Blues team.
- It's easy to overreact to the final result, and yes, the goal of every game is to win it. But focusing on the process, it's hard to be too upset with the way Tampa Bay played in St. Louis, doubling up a very stout team in the shot battle and generating a fair amount of great scoring chances that were stymied by stellar goaltending from Brian Elliott. Play this way the rest of the road trip and the Lightning will come out with more than their fair share of points.
- Ben Bishop, just minutes away from a shutout, ended the game with 16 saves on 18 shots faced (.889 SV%). He played well with limited work; both shots that beat him came on outstanding individual efforts; first, a laser beam from Tarasenko off a draw and second a nifty move in tight by Schwartz.
- The Lightning held the Blues to 18 total shots on goal. They came into the night averaging 31.3 per game (7th in the NHL).
- It's still too early to tell if it will stick, but the trio of Cedric Paquette, Jonathan Drouin, and Alex Killorn continue to feast on opposing third lines in a way Lightning fans haven't seen since the days of Downie-Moore-Bergenheim. As the third unit rolled out with defensive heavyweights having to deal with Steven Stamkos and the Palat-Johnson-Kucherov unit, providing "tertiary" scoring is another feather in the cap of this very deep Lightning team.
- The Detroit Red Wings were idle and the Montreal "paper tiger" Canadiens somehow managed to lose to the Buffalo Sabres (at home!) so the Lightning maintain their grip on 1st place in the Eastern Conference. For now.