Coming off of a 5-1 win against the San Jose Sharks, the Tampa Bay Lightning moved to Southern California to take on the Los Angeles Kings in a back-to-back match-up. This contest featured two of the three best records in the NHL with the Lightning coming in at 12-2-2 and the Kings coming in at 11-2-2, and the Bolts won it, 5-2.
Just before the game got underway news broke that Ryan Callahan would be a scratch due to a lower body injury. Gabriel Dumont took his place on the roster. Peter Budaj made the start for the Lightning giving Andrei Vasilevskiy the night off.
The first period started off with Alex Killorn taking a slashing call on the second shift of the game to give the Kings the first power play of the game. The Lightning’s aggressive penalty kill was up to the task and limited the Kings’ opportunities by challenging the Kings in their defensive zone, standing them up at the blue line and clearing pucks quickly when the Kings did get the entry.
The rest of the first half of the period had a slow pace to it with neither team getting very much going. That changed when Victor Hedman took an unsportsmanlike conduct minor which was matched by Nic Dowd after Dowd leveled Mikhail Sergachev with a clean hit.
Both teams went to four-on-four and that’s where the wheels came off the truck... for the Kings. Just over a minute into the four-on-four time, Budaj made an absolutely huge save on the Kings on a tough side-to-side move. A few seconds later, Slater Koekkoek collected the puck and got it to Steven Stamkos. Stamkos saw Nikita Kucherov flying down the middle of the ice. He got the puck up to him and gave Kucherov a breakaway. Kucherov made the deke, got Jonathan Quick to open up the five hole, and Kucherov tucked it under the pads for the first goal of the game. Assists were awarded to Stamkos and Koekkoek.
It didn’t take long for Lightning to strike again after the faceoff. Johnson pulled the puck off the wall on the left wing side of the ice. Dan Girardi moved down from his right point position and received a cross ice pass from Johnson. Alex Killorn moved to the front of the net as Johnson made his pass. Killorn battled in front and got position on the defender. With Killorn’s stick on the ice, Girardi made the pass into the crease for the tap-in goal to put the Lightning up 2-0. Assists on the goal went to Girardi and Johnson.
But that’s not all! The penalties ended and Hedman emerged from the box. Shortly after, the Lightning went on a four-on-three rush. Hedman got the puck in the high slot, skated towards the net and put a wrister high over Quick’s blocker for the third goal. The Kings thought (or hoped) the play was off-sides. It was a very close call and was likely inconclusive leading to the linesmen declaring that the call on-ice stood and it was a good goal. The assists on the third goal went to Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat. That made three goals in just 1:08 for the Lightning.
With the Kings losing the off-sides challenge, they were charged a delay of game penalty. The Lightning sent out the first power play unit and it did not take long them to strike. The puck went from Kucherov to Killorn in the middle of the ice to Stamkos in his office in the left wing circle for the one-timer that beat Quick and put the Lightning up 4-0.
For those who lost count, that’s three goals in 1:08 and four goals in 2:02 for the Lightning in the first period.
The rest of the period went well for the Lightning with Budaj making nine saves and the Lightning leading shots on goal 14-9 after twenty minutes.
The second period picked up much the same way the first period went for the Lightning. Just over two minutes into the period, Kucherov got another breakaway opportunity as Girardi made the stretch pass up to him. They caught the Kings defense changing and Kucherov was in all alone. Quick made the first save and then Kucherov’s follow up shot off the rebound was also stopped. The play ended a few seconds later when Jake Muzzin high-sticked Kucherov to give the Lightning their second power play opportunity.
Both power play units played well and got their chances on Quick, but he was up for the challenge and the Kings killed off the penalty.
The Lightning got another opportunity to go four-on-four. Vladislav Namestnikov was called for slashing while Andy Andreoff was called for cross-checking. This four-on-four opportunity wasn’t quite as exciting for the Lightning and ended up in some back and forth chances and Dan Girardi losing his stick in the boards.
The Lightning continued to dominate the Kings in possession. Up and down the line-up, the Lightning controlled the puck and got shots at Quick. If not for several really big saves from Quick, the game could have been 6-0 or 8-0 for the Lightning by the half-way mark of the second period.
The Lightning picked up their third power play of the game with eight minutes remaining in the second period. Kucherov created pressure by fighting along the walls. Drew Doughty got his stick caught in Kucherov’s feet and pulled him down for the tripping call.
The Lightning managed to get six shots on goal during the power play and every one of them was a dangerous shot. Quick made some outstanding saves as befitting one of the best goaltenders in the world.
Budaj caught a big break as he got beat by Anze Kopitar. Except the puck hit not one, but two posts and stayed out of the zone. Kucherov broke out of the zone and split the defensemen to drive for the net drawing a hooking penalty. The power play didn’t last long as Stamkos was called for interference while going back for a puck. Stamkos’ penalty sent both teams back to four-on-four for 1:25.
The third four-on-four did not turn out so well for the Lightning. They seemed to back off and their four-on-four play was lackluster at best. Tyler Toffoli took advantage and found his way to the front of the net to beat Budaj top shelf. With the deficit down to three and 35 second remaining on the power play, the Kings had a chance to claw their way back into the game. They weren’t able to convert before Stamkos exited the box and the score remained 4-1.
With under a minute to go in the period, the Kings got an offensive zone face-off. They won the puck and the Lightning were incredibly out of sync. The puck found it’s way to the side of the net and Kopitar roofed the puck high into the net. However, Dustin Brown was battling with Braydon Coburn in front of the net, pushing Coburn into the crease and interfering with Budaj. Jon Cooper took a look at the review and decided to challenge the goal for goaltender interference.
It did not take long for the referees to come back and wipe out the goal for goaltender interference leaving the score at 4-1. The Kings did pick up some momentum in the remaining time of the period but failed to beat Budaj again.
The Lightning continued their dominance throughout much of the period. The Lightning couldn’t cash in for another goal and that was largely due to Quick’s terrific skill in the Kings’ net. The Lightning also out-shot the Kings 19-6 in the second period to increase their shots on goal lead to 33-15 through two periods.
The beginning of the third period took on a much more physical tone from the Kings. With the Lightning’s speed and skill having dominated them through the first two periods, they looked to play more physical with the Lightning. The Lightning took it in stride and did their best to keep playing their game and kept the chances pretty even up to the first commercial break.
Coming out of the commercial break, the Kings picked up some momentum. The Johnson line with Point playing with them got hemmed into their zone and got turned around. The puck bounced around and out into the high slot to Oscar Fantenberg. He settled the puck and sniped it high glove side with Budaj moving out to the top of the crease to challenge. His goal cut the lead to 4-2.
The Kings physicality helped to slow down the pace of the game, but that didn’t deter the Lightning from playing their game. After setting up in the zone, the puck was delivered to Namestnikov in the slot. He wristed the puck and put it off the post and in. The referees originally waved a no-goal and had to go to the video to double check it. The puck had hit the post and then the back post and bounced out so quick the referees couldn’t tell. The assists on Namestnikov’s goal went to Hedman and Kucherov and put the Lightning up 5-2 with 7:01 to go in the third period.
The Lightning were put to the test again shortly after Namestnikov’s goal. Quick lost his stick in front of the crease and Gourde knocked his stick away from him causing him to be called for interference and sent to the box for the Kings’ third power play opportunity. The Lightning put in a solid effort while not playing too aggressively on the penalty kill and limited the Kings to a single shot on goal.
Quick gave the Lightning another power play opportunity with under three minutes to go. The Stamkov line was out with control of the puck in the offensive zone. The Kings were clutching and grabbing in classic style and the referees allowed it to go. Despite that, the Lightning showed off their skill and fought through the obstruction tactics to control the puck. Quick though put his stick out along the ice and tripped up Kucherov as he was coming out from behind the net and the referees couldn’t ignore that infraction and called him for it.
The Lightning didn’t push too aggressively on the power play being up three with under three minutes to go. The power play came to an end with the Lightning generating a couple of shots on Quick. Following the power play, Cooper sent out the big bodies with Girardi and Coburn backing up the fourth line to prevent any funny business against the Lightning’s star players.
Great effort by the Lightning. They absolutely dominated the Kings in possession for two full periods. The third period, the Kings changed up to a more physical, obstruction style of play and it really slowed the game down. But that didn’t really help the Kings much as it didn’t not generate that many more shots for them. They managed nine shots on goal in the third period after having nine in the first and only six in the second.
At this point, I would deem the California road trip a success with the Lightning already securing four points. They’ll get a couple days off in SoCal to enjoy the weather and then take on the Anaheim Ducks. Rest up for a couple days and let’s see if we can make a clean sweep of this road trip by taking revenge on a depleted Anaheim Ducks team that beat the Lightning 4-1 in Amalie Arena a couple weeks ago.