Today in Philadelphia, Andrei Vasilevskiy had his second shutout in as many games, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by a Lightning goaltender since Dwayne Roloson in 2011. At times, given the six penalties that the Bolts had to kill during course of this game, Vasilevskiy held players in by sheer force of his pads and his will. The game ended with shots at a ridiculous 32-18, with Steve Mason saving 15 of the shots for a final score of 3-0.
Cooper began the game with an 11F/7D lineup. At first I pondered that it was a decision inspired by facing the Flyers, who have been offensively tough this season, but Fox Sports announced that Brian Boyle was out with an upper body injury despite taking warmups. This was the first injury of many, and the game hadn’t even started. Luke Witkowski, who played in Boyle’s place as a 7th defenseman, acquitted himself respectably in his nine minutes of ice time by making a block and two hits.
Before we get much further into the game, this is the happiest Bolts fan in Philly today:
Johnson's stick gets knocked into the stands...and is caught by a person in a Johnson shirt. In Philly. pic.twitter.com/mVbzbrxkm4— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) November 19, 2016
Recalling afternoon games of the past, I mostly remembered that they are a mess of sloppy defending and sloppy passing, because nobody's really ready to play at 1 PM. Going into this game, my big question was: would this game be dangerous, with terrible possession and lots of injuries, or would that fine edge of desperation ("Playing under pressure is just a Tuesday for us," Jon Cooper has said) carry the team through?
The answer was: the game was dangerous, with terrible possession and lots of injuries, but thanks to the outstanding penalty kill (especially Ryan Callahan and Vasilevskiy), the Bolts won. Callahan (2 blocks, 4 hits, 2 SOG) made outstanding defensive plays to support Vasy, coming through to hand the Flyers a perfect 0/6 power play.
The story of the game:
The penalties started at the 5:30 mark, when former Flyer Braydon Coburn boarded Chris Vandevelde. Vandevelde limped off the ice, and the Flyers got a power play.
After that first penalty kill, the Bolts took a ten-minute break between shots on goal, and by the mid-point of the game (due to yet another power play), they were down in shots 3-5. Victor Hedman also shone during the penalty kill. During the second one of the game (where Kucherov was called for interference on Michael Raffl), Hedman powered through nearly the entire Flyers PP unit to send the puck toward Mason.
The Bolts got a power play in the first after Sean Couturier checked Callahan, and the second power play unit opened up scoring for the game. The play started by Valtteri Filppula catching the puck against the boards and sending it to Alex Killorn, who skated in and spotted Tyler Johnson crossing the right circle. He sent over the pass on the “royal road” (as Alan likes to call it), and Johnson tapped it into a nicely unprotected net.
Tuned into the Lightning game. Johnson opens the scoring with this goal. pic.twitter.com/r4W8UN2gH3— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) November 19, 2016
At the 16:20 mark in the first, Jonathan Drouin got injured -- elbowed in the head by Brayden Schenn, and went immediately back to the bench. He would not return until partway through the second.
Then came the third Flyers power play, after Johnson high-sticked him near the end of the first. Once again Vasilevskiy killed it, with help from an energetic Callahan. Blocks are 8-1, Bolts, by the end of the first, and shots were 12 - 6, Flyers.
During the intermission report, Johnson explained the wacky power play configuration. "We kinda had to ad-lip on the power play,” Johnson told Fox Sports, “Because we were in the middle of a change on the breakout. Killer made a great play on the blue line picking up the puck from Val. Then he made another great pass to me and that was that. For us, we'd like to not be on the PK quite so much. I got in a little trouble there too. When we play a fast game we're on top of it."
At intermission, the broadcast reported these fun facts: when Kucherov scores, Bolts are 7-0-0, when he points, Bolts are 10-1-1. Then, "That's why it's important for him to get on the board." Uh -- wait. Corellation is not causation!
During the second period, I started getting worried about injuries. Drouin wasn’t back on the bench. Callahan left the bench after getting high-sticked in the face. Cedric Paquette, who led the forwards in hits with 6, ground himself into a pulp and hobbled around on the ice for much of the period. I didn’t even notice when Brayden Point’s visor cut him in the lip, and he had to leave to go get stitched up.
In the second, JT Brown took exception to a Radko Gudas hit on Callahan (who got high sticked immediately after the hit), and decided to take up arms.
Former teammates Brown and Gudas drop the gloves pic.twitter.com/LlZ2R9MRdx— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) November 19, 2016
Brown and Gudas show respect after their fight pic.twitter.com/XJ0TIasBW5— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) November 19, 2016
Possession remained firmly in the hands of the Flyers in the second, but Vasy also held firm. Shots stayed doubled up in favor of the Flyers. But, at the 7:40 mark of the second, Palat scored.
Vladdy with a nice zone entry, drops the puck to Palat and starts the screen. Flyer falls down another turned around, Palat goes stick side— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) November 19, 2016
Palat puts the Lightning up 2-0 in the second period. pic.twitter.com/oBVsl7e0Kj— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) November 19, 2016
Bad thing: During the fourth Flyers’ power play, at about 16 minutes into the second, Nikita Nesterov dribbled the shot straight to Wayne Simmonds, who skated beautifully out of the zone and almost got a shorthanded breakaway.
The third period started with a penalty kill, and it was another successful one. Things were looking up for the Bolts — instead of nine forwards on the bench, they were back up to 11 when Drouin, Point, and Callahan returned. Point was on the bench wearing the cone of shame — a full cage to protect his stitched upper lip.
Drouin thanked Shenn’s elbows at the 4:26 mark with this lovely goal:
Here's another look at the Drouin goal pic.twitter.com/09oNoRveeF— Jeremy Houghtaling (@JGHoughtaling) November 19, 2016
In the third, Tampa was assessed two more penalties, and made two more successful kills to end with a perfect 6/6 PK. Shots ended in the period at 3 - 11, Flyers, but the story of the third was Vasilevskiy.
#tblightning Vasilevskiy said this is the best he's felt since he's been in the #NHL. "I'm playing more games, feeling more confident."— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) November 19, 2016
Vasy held on to earn the shut out and first star of the game.
Bolts are 4-0 on this road trip, despite horrific news about Steven Stamkos and fewer and fewer healthy forwards. Boyle is out, Paquette was skating hurt, Drouin nearly re-concussed himself, and Callahan was banged up. The next game is in Nashville, against a team renown for its big, tough western-style play. How will they do?
Should Cooper stick with Vasy in net, given his hot hands? Should he continue to run 11/7?
These are the questions going into Monday. Rest up, team!
And here’s our happy ending:
Johnny's stick, meet Josh.— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) November 19, 2016
Josh, meet @tjohnny09.
Of all the fans in Philly... ⚡️ #TBLvsPHI pic.twitter.com/CvaKMC5NyO