Nikita Kucherov scored with four seconds left after Ryan Callahan and Vladislav Namestnikov scored empty-net goals, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-1, in an otherwise very close game.
The majority of the game was dominated by the Hurricanes’ impressive forwards, lead by Justin Williams, and an overall stellar defense, but a timely powerplay goal and even-strength marker from a rookie, followed by Vasilevskiy’s solid goaltending, sealed the deal.
Here are my stream-of-consciousness notes during the game for you to follow along in case you missed the game, or if you watched the game and would like a refresher.
The game begins at a break-neck speed. The Carolina Hurricanes definitely play at a pace that the Lightning will have to work hard to keep up with. The first penalty in the game is a prime example of foot-speed; Justin Williams draws a tripping penalty against Chris Kunitz after blowing by him at the Carolina blue line.
Kunitz for Tripping
The Canes do a great job at supporting their teammates with the puck and keep possession in the offensive zone for the majority of the powerplay. Andrei Vasilevskiy stands tall, however, stopping a couple of great chances. Ryan Callahan also does valiant work deflecting shots and passes while shorthanded.
“Mr. Game 7” has been all over the ice so far in this game, and he has already gotten off three shots, the latest of which was a very good scoring chance that Vasy had to be sharp on. Elias Lindholm, who is playing his 300th career NHL game, gets a prime scoring chance in the slot and shoots it off the post. The Lightning are being forced to weather an early Hurricane tonight.
Sustr for Holding
Carolina gets another power play opportunity after Andrej Sustr gets caught for holding. Lindholm and Noah Hanafin work the puck between them and create some dangerous chances. Jordan Staal in front is able to find a few rebounds but a combination of Braydon Coburn and Vasy keep the Canes from scoring.
Williams for Holding
Finally a powerplay for the Lightning! Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos look dangerous as ever, but you already knew that. Victor Hedman, who has been the Lightning’s best defensive-defenseman, sends a beautiful stretch pass to Stammer, who is stopped on the blocker side.
The second unit comes onto the ice and Yanni Gourde has a great chance from near the goal line, this sparks some momentum for the group, leading to Ondrej Palat beating Scott Darling on the blocker side (again). The puck is slowed down by the jersey of the netminder, so Tyler Johnson has to bury the puck in. Powerplay goal!!!
So, after a period where the Lightning got hammered for the most part (17-10 were the shot attempts in favor of Carolina), the good guys leave the first with a 1-0 lead. Hockey.
The second begins with the Lightning immediately thrown onto their back foot. This leads to...
Hedman for Slashing
The Canes scake all over the ice and almost generate a few dangerous chances, but the Bolts penalty killers do a great job of staying in position and not allowing any seams or shooting lanes to open up. Big kudos to them.
Stamkos sends the puck up to Alex Killorn who has a semi-breakaway chance. He is stopped, but is able to throw the puck towards Tyler Johnson in front of the net. The puck reaches Stamkos again, who is robbed by Darling. The Captain is able to keep the puck and send it to Mikhail Sergachev, who wires the shot past a sprawling Darling.
The rookie, in his 10th game, now has twice as many goals and as many assists as Jonathan Drouin, who leads the Montreal Canadiens in finishes and apples. Sorry, Habs fans, but I assume you’re not reading, and as a Toronto native, it’s too much fun making jokes about you.
Kuch is able to steal the puck in the offensive zone, pass it to Johnson, who is streaking towards the net and passes to Killorn. Killer, unfortunately, is stoned by Darling, who comes out very quickly to cut down the shot and make a great reaction save with his pad. Lightning are coming on strong in the second.
The Lightning lines seem to have been juggled, somewhat. Earlier I noticed Killorn - Johnson - Stamkos and five minutes left in the second a line of Namestnikov - Point - Kucherov was on the ice. Although I do believe the Stamkos line was only because of a incomplete line change, I do like those lines as a whole. Funnily enough, the next line that comes out is the usual Vladdy - Stammer - Kuch line. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
4 on 4
Victor Hedman and Justin Williams both go to the box for two minutes for roughing after a strong shift in the offensive zone for Carolina leads to a battle along the half-wall gets out of hand. The more open play allows for some nice chances for both teams, Sergachev making some both good and bad defensive plays on 2-on-1’s but otherwise, no goals.
Stamkos for Interference
Stamkos heads to the box for pushing Jordan Staal away from the puck while the two were racing for an icing call. Stamkos argues the call but it is to no avail. On the powerplay, Williams is able to walk around Dan Girardi and get a very good scoring chance against Vasy but the Baby Goalie is up to the task.
After the powerplay expires, the Hurricanes cause a melee in Vasy’s crease. Brett Pescse, a defenseman (!) at the goal line, is able to throw the puck back to his defense partner, Jacob Slavin, who shoots the puck past Vasilevskiy, completely screened from all the bodies in front of him. Carolina sure is making a game of it.
The next better part of the period consists of the Bolts crawling into a defensive shell, (or more appropriately a hurricane shelter) and weathering the Hurricanes’ offensive onslaught. The shot attempts for the third period stand at 22-4 with 7 minutes left.
The Hurricanes pull Darling with a little under three minutes to go against the Stamkos line. Dotchin sends the puck to Hedman in the defensive zone, who launches a pass up to Namestnikov in the middle of the ice. Vladdy is able to pot home the third goal in the game. There is still 2:32 left in the game so you never know!
Well, there was more scoring, Ryan Callahan putting in an empty net goal with 1:20 left in the game. Now THAT should ice it.
With Darling back in, Nikita Kucherov turns the knife against the Canes with his 11th of the season. With time winding down in the game Stamkos circles behind the Carolina net and finds an open Kucherov. From point blank range the Russian didn’t miss as he casually flips the puck over Darling
My personal Three Stars would have been:
* Vasy for saving the game countless times
** Elias Lindholm or Justin Williams
*** Heddy for his stellar defensive work all night
But these are good too.
Tonight’s #TBLvsCAR 3 Stars:— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 25, 2017
All of my stats can be found at HockeyStats.ca — they are where I go to keep up with live games.