The evening started off rocky with news that Jonathan Drouin would be out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury. He had good chemistry with Cedric Paquette and Joel Vermin over the last few games. That trio was one of the bright spots, creating offensive pressure often and producing two goals and four assists at even strength between the three.
With Drouin out, J.T. Brown drew into the lineup, and Ben Bishop got the start after yesterday’s one goal shootout victory against the Washington Capitals. Palat, Stralman, and Coburn wore As as Alternate Captains for the Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Lightning lines to start the game were as follows:
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Brayden Point
Vladislav Namestnikov - Cedric Paquette - Joel Vermin
Michael Bournival - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Slater Koekkoek - Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn - Luke Witkowski
Just two minutes into the game, the first penalty of the game came as Sustr was called for hugging a Cane in front of the net. The Canes didn’t get much going and the final thirty seconds of the penalty were killed off by Brown rushing into the Canes zone and getting off a dangerous shot. Paquette and Stralman followed up to help keep the puck in the zone and get another shot on net before the penalty expired.
Young Sebastien Aho got in trouble as he reached out on Johnson and tripped him up, giving the Lightning their first power play of the game. The Lightning got a shot on goal and Namestnikov had a great shot that ended up being blocked by Boyle in front of the net. The Canes successfully killed off the penalty.
It didn’t take long for the Lightning to go back on the power play. Koekkoek played the puck near the boards and then started falling. As he was going down, Lee Stempniak elbowed him in the face and the back of his head hit the boards. Stempniak went to the box of shame.
The power play was shaken up a bit with Boyle getting shifts and creating havoc in front of the net. Hedman was aggressive early, taking shots from the point to take advantage of Boyle and Killorn in front of the net. The latter part of the power play was stymied by the Canes preventing zone entries, being aggressive, and attacking the puck carrier.
Two shifts later, Braydon Coburn went to the box after he sent the puck over the glass from his own zone. Joel Vermin blocked a shot from the point and was able to gather the puck and take a great shot on Ward short side that was stopped with the glove. The Lightning killed the penalty and kept it scoreless.
After the flurry of power plays and penalty kills, both teams settled down a little and got more into the flow at even strength. The balance of play was pretty even through the remainder of the period. After the first period, the Lightning led in shots on goal, 12-10, and in faceoffs, 10-7. Only four of the Ligtning’s shots came at even strength, with five coming on the power play and three short handed.
The second period started up with a little back and forth but not much offense being generated for either team. The Lightning got stuck in their zone with Carolina taking advantage of the close bench to change out guys very quickly while maintaining control in the offensive zone. Killorn got beat by Jeff Skinner driving the net and got caught hooking him to send the Lightning back to the penalty kill.
The Lightning allowed two shots on goal on this power play, but Ben Bishop managed to stop both. He also got some help from the penalty killers with some key clears to eat up time and ultimately kill the penalty.
To continue the theme of the night, the Hurricanes took a hooking penalty shortly after their own power play expired. The fourth line was playing physically on the forecheck and kept the Canes from clearing the puck out of the zone. They eventually corralled the puck and got it out to Vermin in the slot coming off the bench. However, he was hooked and couldn’t get a shot away as the Canes touched up the puck to send the Lightning to the power play.
The first half of the power play was killed off without much happening for the Lightning, because the Hurricanes stood at the blue line and kept the Lightning from entering cleanly. The second half of the power play saw the Lightning get two shots on goal with several others blocked or deflected wide of the net. The Hurricanes killed the penalty and both teams continued on scoreless at the midway point of the second period.
Throughout the second period, the Lightning really struggled to get much going. In the first fifteen minutes of the period, they managed two shots on goal and both came on the power play.
The Lightning did manage to get two more shots on goal before the end of the period. One came at a very bad angle by Namestnikov. The other came from Brayden Point. Sustr pinched in from the right point and took the puck to the corner. He fed the puck into the crease for Point and Point directed it at the net. Ward was quick to drop down and closed the door on Point. The period came to an end scoreless with the Canes leading shots on goal 16-14.
The third period started off with Joel Vermin heading to the locker room after he was hit by a puck deflected into the bench. He appeared to have been cut on his left ear and needed some work. The early going of the period was very back and forth with the Lightning managing to even up the shots on goal over the first six minutes of the period. With Vermin in the locker room, Kucherov got extra time on ice filling in on the third line.
There was also some (unwanted) excitement as Sustr tried to pass the puck off the boards. The puck was deflected off a Canes skate and went right in on Bishop who was just getting back into his net after playing the puck. Thankfully Bishop was paying attention and got his stick on it to keep it from going in.
Brayden Point later headed to the box for a holding minor. The Lightning survived the early portion of the penalty kill thanks to a couple of lucky bounces and the post. The rest of the penalty kill was a bit calmer and the Lightning killed the penalty.
Vermin and Paquette’s line had a great opportunity with Vermin battling around the side of the net for the puck. He got held and drew a penalty. The first minute of the power play was bad as the Lightning could not enter the zone after losing the initial faceoff. With 22 seconds to go, the Lightning picked up another penalty when Palat got high sticked.
The 22 seconds of the 5-on-3 expired without the Lightning scoring. Hedman started to change up his strategy for zone entries. Most of the time, he approaches the blue line and drops the puck off to someone coming behind him. During these two power plays, he took a couple opportunities to walk the puck in the zone himself with the Canes being more passive with him. The second time, he was able to walk in and get a great shot in close that Ward stopped. Joel Vermin also got a shift on the power play, but the Bolts couldn’t convert sending the team back to even strength with five minutes to go in the period.
Shortly after the penalty, the Lightning got into a bit of trouble. Koekkoek lost control of the puck in the corner and got away with pulling his man down. A scramble ensued around the net and Bishop got caught way out of position. However, the Canes could not get a handle on the puck and Bishop was able to get back into position.
The last few minutes of the period continued the back and forth action for both teams. Ultimately, neither team could come up with a goal and off to overtime we’d go! Second OT night in a row for the Lightning after winning in the shootout against the Washington Capitals.
Cooper started out overtime with Johnson, Vermin and Hedman. Vermin also had a shift in overtime against Washington. On the second shift, Kucherov was given a ton of room to challenge Ward as the Canes defenders criss crossed and didn’t immediately pick him up, but Ward was up for the stop.
DiGiuseppe finally beat Bishop for the game winner.
The Lightning continued their even strength struggles for the second game in a row. The Lightning did a little better staying out of the box tonight, only taking four penalties. The Hurricanes gave the Lightning plenty of opportunities with five penalties of their own. The Lightning have been over 20% on the power play for basically the whole season. Statistically, they should have gotten one this game but could not convert.
With Jason Garrison out of the line up and the blue line struggling as a whole, Hedman and Stralman continued to get leaned on for heavy minutes. Hedman finished the game at 26:35 and Stralman at 25:33. Seven out of the last eight games, Hedman has been over 25 minutes. Stralman also had his third game in a row of 25 plus minutes since returning from injury. Prior to his injury, he had only one game over 25 minutes. Hedman also had five shots on goal to lead the team.
Witkowski was limited to just 10:55 in the game but overall looked pretty solid. He got involved in the rush a couple times and was very smart when he did so, not allowing himself to get caught by a rush the other way. Koekkoek ended up with 14:59, not far behind Coburn’s 16:10 and Sustr’s 17:35. Cooper and Bowness are trying to keep those three around the ice time that they should be at normally by pumping up Hedman and Stralman’s ice time.
Among forwards, Palat ended up with 23:47 while Kucherov had 21:42. Perhaps one of the more surprising players, though, was Vermin. He only ended up with 10:46, partly because he missed a good chunk of the third period after getting hit in the ear on the bench. The surprising part is that he ended up with 1:36 on the power play and 2:10 shorthanded. Additionally, he took a shift to start the overtime period with Johnson. Cooper isn’t often in the habit of trusting rookies, but he seems to have made something of an exception for Vermin. With the way Vermin is playing, he’s making it incredibly tough for GM Steve Yzerman to send him back to Syracuse.
As is typical of a 1-0 overtime game, the three stars were Cam Ward (the winning goalie), Di Giuseppe (the goal scorer), and Bishop (the losing goalie). Ignoring the Hurricanes, my Lightning three stars of the night were Bishop, Hedman, and Stralman. Have I mentioned that it’s nice to have Stralman back? It’s nice to have Stralman back.
The Lightning have finished an absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule. They have played a stretch of 14 games in 25 days since the last time they had more than one day off between games. That included two back to backs. In that stretch, the team has gone 7-6-1. They had a solid winning streak and a horrid losing streak during that stretch. To come out of such a grueling part of the season with more points than games isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Lightning currently sit in third place in the division.
Now the team will head home from Raleigh and get a well deserved three days off before they play the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night in Tampa. Without a doubt, many players are playing through minor injuries. They’ll finally get an opportunity to rest up, heal up, and get back to full strength. They’ll play two games at home and then have another three days off before starting a three game western Canada road trip.