Tonight, the Panthers handed Tampa a point in their 2-1 victory in Sunrise. Any overtime game against a divisional opponent is a mistake at this point in the season, when two teams at fifth and sixth in the Atlantic must claw over each other to rise. But the standings remained the same tonight, with the Bolts lingering at sixth and Florida just above them.
With the Bruins winning in regulation tonight and Toronto losing, Boston has maintained its grip on third place in Atlantic, and Philadelphia has clung firmly to the last wildcard spot.
At 50 games played to Toronto's 47, Philadelphia's bye-week might see Toronto supplant them. The last wildcard slot and third place in Atlantic both require Tampa to earn six points and jump three teams, two of which have three games in hand. Islanders have been surging since their coaching change, winning their fifth game in a row tonight, and have become a contender for those last slots.
What to say that hasn't already been said? On to discuss the game.
Let's talk about Overtime first. Bolts entered the game having lost their last two overtime games due to the exact same situation we saw tonight: a Bolts player took a penalty in overtime, and the ensuing power play handed the other team their victory. This season, Bolts are one of the most penalized teams in the league at 10th, and it's probably not a coincidence that both goals against tonight were due to penalties (the first goal against was shorthanded).
What went into these overtime losses? In the game against Anaheim, Tyler Johnson was called for hooking 50 seconds into OT. Ryan Kesler won the faceoff in the Ducks' offensie zone, and handed the puck off to Rickard Rackell, who scored the winning goal.
In the overtime loss before that to Toronto, Valtteri Filppula took a penalty for goalie interference (although Jon Cooper implied that the call was perhaps unwarranted), and after Auston Matthews sent the puck toward Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nazem Kadri cleaned up the rebound for the victory.
Tonight, Johnson was sent to the box for interference at the two-minute mark of overtime. Keith Yandle passed the puck to Jonathan Marchessault, who sent the puck in at an extreme angle on Vasilevskiy's right.
The victory broke the Cats' four-game losing streak under brand new coach Tom Rowe. Vasilevskiy saved 33 of 35 shots in the loss, playing a consecutive start after his hot hand gave Bolts the victory against the Blackhawks this past Tuesday.
So, perhaps the takeaway is, don't send out the players who tend to consistently get penalties in overtime? Please?
The rest of the game
Vasilevskiy, Jonathan Drouin, and Nikita Kucherov played extremely well tonight, earning praise from the Bolts broadcasters, who handed Vasilevskiy and Kucherov the first and second stars of the game. They gave the third star to Jussi Jokinen, who scored a shorthanded goal immediately before Kucherov tallied on the power play.
Here's how that one-two sequence of the only goals in regulation went. First, Alex Killorn turned over the puck to Keith Yandle behind the Panthers' net during the beginning seconds of the power play.
Yandle realized that nobody was in front of him, and cruised his way easily through the neutral zone, where Kucherov and Hedman were giving him plenty of space to pass the puck off to a speeding Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck spotted Jokinen skating past Kucherov on the left, and sent the pass over for a sharp-angled shot from Vasy's right that he seems to have some trouble stopping. (The overtime goal was scored from almost exactly the same spot.)
I'm going to end the recap on a positive note. Shortly after this shorthanded goal was scored, the Lightning (no stranger to giving up the first goal of the game this season) renewed their determination and continued the power play.
Kucherov, in his position along the right wall, handed the puck off to Killorn, stationed at James Reimer's left. Killorn sent the puck immediately to Drouin, who was skating into the top of the circle. Drouin patiently dragged the puck past two penalty killers until he saw that he'd engaged Reimer’s attention fully. Then he rocketed the puck straight to Kucherov, who took barely any time at all before taking advantage of all the space at Reimer's glove side.
It was a beautiful play, and the moment that I'll remember from this game.