The game started off relatively back-and-forth'; the Lightning and the Jets exchanged scoring chances in the first period, including on a power play toward the end of the period by Tampa Bay, but both goaltenders stood up to the challenge and the game remained scoreless.
The Bolts opened the second period on the second half of their power play, but would come up empty. Then, afterAnton Stralman took a controversial tripping penalty on a hip-check at 3:00, the momentum began to shift the way of the Jets. Vasilevskiy was hammered with 16 shots throughout the period (he faced 29 total shots) as the Lightning killed off two penalties - Stralman for tripping and J.T. Brown for high sticking - but the two teams remained deadlocked at 0-0 after the second frame.
"We're playing a really desperate hockey team and they played a playoff style game. They really wanted to win the hockey game tonight and they did. Not saying we didn't want to win the game, but we didn't match anything they brought to the table. They were just stronger, faster, hungrier, and we couldn't match it." - Jon Cooper
The third period is where things got interesting. The Lightning finally broke through at 4:13 on a laser of a shot by Nikita Kucherov. Jonathan Drouin and Matt Carle, who made his return after missing 23 games due to injury, got the assists.
The physicality was obvious throughout the period - and the game - but all hell broke loose when Kucherov received a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct on a very questionable hit on Winnipeg's Toby Enstrom. Tyler Johnson and Jacob Trouba received matching roughing minors in the ensuing scrum.
The Jets went on a five-minute power play and that would prove to doom the Bolts. Drew Stafford scored his 14th goal of the season at 10:00, assisted by Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty. Blake Wheeler scored the game winner unassisted at 12:44 after a turnover by Victor Hedman.
The Lightning will have to regroup before their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday in what is sure to be another playoff-caliber game between the two division foes. While Tampa Bay is already without Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette and Braydon Coburn, they'll likely be without Kucherov who will see disciplinary action for tonight's hit on Enstrom.
"We've got to look at some video, that's for sure. We have to see what we did wrong. We are going to have to analyze it and just come back stronger because we took on Montreal on their home ice just recently, and we know they are going to be coming back looking for some vengeance." - Mark Barberio