Looking for a bit of a spark, the Tampa Bay Lightning called up forwards Joel Vermin and Michael Bournival and inserted both of them into the lineup against the St. Louis Blues. In addition, Anton Stralman returned to action. Those additions sent Vladislav Namestnikov, Slater Koekkoek and Luke Witkowski to the press box as scratches. Andrei Vasilevskiy got his first back to back start with Ben Bishop backing him up. Below are the lines that head coach Jon Cooper used to start the game.
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Brayden Point
Jonathan Drouin - Cedric Paquette - Joel Vermin
J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Michael Bournival
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Nikita Nesterov - Braydon Coburn
Well... things didn’t really change to start this game. On the second shift of the game, Point was skating up the slot with the puck in his own zone. He passed the puck over to Killorn along the boards. The puck went into Killorn’s skates and he had to spin around trying to find the puck. Garrison was already on the move up the ice and allowed Vladimir Tarasenko to pick up the puck after a Blues player poked it down the boards. Tarasenko collected the puck and powered his way across the front of the net and beat Vasilevskiy on the blocker side to put St. Louis up 1-0 less than two minutes into the game.
On the next shift, less than 20 seconds later, Nesterov took a minor for interference sending the Blues to the power play. The penalty kill played well, only allowing one shot on goal, but there were several chances that went wide or were blocked out in front.
Vermin had a great chance on an early shift with Hedman setting him up at the side of the net. However, the puck went into his skates and he wasn’t able to find the handle on it. Vermin had a lot of jump in his step early in the game. That was exactly the kind of play that the team was looking for by calling him up.
After a few solid shifts from the Lightning, Coburn took the second penalty of the game as he put the puck over the glass from his own zone. After a failed clearing attempt from Hedman and then another play where Johnson put the puck across the zone past Vermin, the Blues were able to move the puck from the left circle, to the point, and to Tarasenko in the right circle. Tarasenko one-timed the puck in to the top of the net over Vasilevskiy’s glove for his second goal of the game. Blues up 2-0 under 10 minutes into the game.
The Lightning did respond quickly to the second goal though. The Paquette line found themselves right at the Blues blue line with Vermin stealing the puck at the red line. Vermin immediately passed cross ice to Drouin who had a lot of space at the right point. Vermin and Paquette then split and drove the net. After taking a look at his options, Drouin took a big slapper aiming for the low far side. The rebound came out off Allen’s right pad straight to a driving Paquette. Despite being hit as he took the shot, Paquette got his stick on the puck and found the back of the net to cut the Blues lead to 2-1.
Rebounds have never looked better. #TBLvsSTL pic.twitter.com/MDRvI1atej— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 2, 2016
Nesterov had another awful turnover right at the blue line after a faceoff win allowing a two-on-one for the Blues. Palat was called for a slash on the odd man rush and Vasilevskiy made a super human save off the pass and shot from David Perron. The Lightning went to the penalty kill for the third time in the first period. 32 seconds into the power play, Kevin Shattenkirk took a shot from the center point with a lot of traffic. The puck hit off of Cedric Paquette and then Robbi Fabbri and went right into the top corner. Blues up 3-1.
The period would come to an end with the Paquette line being the only one that really looked good for the Lightning creating multiple chances and the most significant offensive zone time. The period came to an end with the Blues up 3-1 in goals and leading in shots on goal 14-7.
The second period didn’t start up much better. The Lightning got called for a Too Many Men penalty. It didn’t take long for the Blues to strike as Shattenkirk ripped a shot from the center point through traffic and into the back of the net. Bishop would then come off the bench to replace Vasilevskiy. This was the first game of the year that either goalie for the Lightning had been pulled from a game.
The bad bounces continued as the Triplet line had a great shift following another good shift by the Paquette line. Johnson and Palat battled along the boards and Palat finally got the puck free to Johnson. Johnson passed to Kucherov who was just in front of the crease, but the puck went off a Blues skate and away from Kucherov denying him a dangerous scoring chance.
About half way through the second period, towards the end of a good shift by the Triplet line, Johnson got out in front of Fabbri and took a penalty for kneeing sending the Blues to the power play for a fifth straight time. This time however, the Lightning somehow managed to keep the puck out of the net.
Johnson got on the score sheet with 5:35 left on the clock. Palat put the puck up the ice to Johnson. Johnson was accompanied by Kucherov into the zone. Johnson tried to get the puck to Kucherov but the pass was blocked and came back to Johnson. Kucherov continued to drive the puck and set up a bit of a screen that allowed Johnson to snipe the puck past Allen from the slot.
Johnny B. Wicked #TBLvsSTL pic.twitter.com/5H6sXCNYIh— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 2, 2016
The Lightning took their sixth straight penalty of the game as Sustr was called for a slash. The Lightning got out of the period without allowing a goal, but the penalty will carry over to the third period. Garrison was felled by a shot at the buzzer that hit him in the inside of the right knee and he had trouble getting up.
The period ended with the Blues up 4-2 as both teams traded goals in the second period.
The Lightning came out for the third period with some penalty time remaining and they successfully cleared it. The Blues were FINALLY called for a penalty after two full periods. Six seconds into the power play, Kucherov sniped the puck through Boyle’s legs and into the back of the net to bring the Bolts back to 4-3 with over 18 minutes left in the period. Boyle won the faceoff to Hedman, who passed it to Kucherov. Hedman and Boyle were credited with the assists.
For the second straight game, Boyle was put out on the blue line in the third period. Garrison did come out for the third period and took a single shift, but then made his way back to the locker room.
Nesterov had a good shift including a one timer from the slot that just missed the net. But then... he pinched up with no one covering up for him creating a two-on-one chance. Coburn played the pass, but Fabbri was able to get it up and over him as he laid out. Bishop was able to turn and square up to Tarasenko who received Fabbri’s pass. Tarasenko put the puck up and hit the post. The puck bounced towards Bishop and bounced off of him and into the net to give Tarasenko a hat trick. Blues up 5-3.
The Lightning didn’t give up though. With just under nine minutes left on the clock, the Paquette line came up big again. The most consistent line of the night for the Lightning, they fought hard and created chances. Vermin and Drouin were fighting down low for the puck. Vermin tapped the puck to Drouin. Drouin immediately passed it out to Paquette in the slot. With the puck behind the goal, Allen was already down to cover up low. He couldn’t react quickly enough and Paquette got it past him glove side cutting the Blues lead to 5-4.
The Lightning would pull Bishop with about 90 seconds to go, but could not find the back of the net to pull a point out of the game. Blues win 5-4.
The Lightning are struggling. The offensive zone is looking ok, but the defensive lapses are still killing this team. Nesterov had at least two bad plays in the offensive zone that led to odd man rushes for the Blues. One led to Palat taking a penalty and then the Blues scored on the power play. The other led to Tarasenko’s hat trick goal.
The Paquette and Triplet lines were the lone bright spots in the game. The Paquette line had two of the four goals and had significant offensive zone time throughout the game. Vermin looked sharp with a lot of jump in his step and recording two assists. Both assists were secondary assists, but were both good plays to get the puck to Drouin.
Paquette took advantage of playing with two players that frankly are better offensively than he is. He was in the right place in the right time to put both of his goals in the back of the net. Despite their success, Cooper does need to find a better place for Drouin to give him some shooters to set up. All three ended up with two points each.
The Triplet line got stronger as the game went on. Johnson had the second Lightning goal of the night. Kucherov scored six seconds into the power play to cut the lead to one goal. The line combined for eight shots on goal through the night.
After gaining back Anton Stralman, the Lightning lost Garrison after one shift into the third period. Hopefully he was just stiff after blocking a shot off the inside of his knee and won’t miss any time.
The Lightning return home to Amalie arena for the first half of a back-to-back against the Washington Capitals. They then will fly back out to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. They then finally get a rest as they have three days off before playing the Vancouver Canucks next Thursday at home. The Lightning have been on the road a ton to start the season and have played 12 games since the last time they had two days off. Fatigue may be a factor in how the Lightning have done during this four game losing skid. A little bit of rest is what this team needs.