After playing a game on Thursday that could only be characterized as “sloppy” and “out of character” the Tampa Bay Lightning stabilized themselves with a hard-fought victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 at Amalie Arena Saturday night. On the night where the organization was celebrating their 2004 Stanley Cup winning team, the current Lightning roster came out determined to erase the memory of their 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however, with Columbus scoring first off of a strange deflection that caromed over and behind Andrei Vasilevskiy. Some fault could be placed on Andrej Sustr for failing to clear the puck, but if the deflection (which looked like it bounced off Hedman and Vasilevskiy’s sticks) didn’t take that odd trajectory, then we wouldn’t be targeting Sustr.
Tampa Bay didn’t allow the odd bounce to affect them, and Brayden Point tied it up 24 seconds later. Dan Girardi fired a shot from the point that was subsequently deflected by J.T. Brown and rolled right towards the stick of Point. The young forward roofed a backhand past Sergei Bobrovsky to neutralize Columbus’s early momentum.
Not to be outdone, however, was the Stamkov line. 40 seconds after Point tied it, the Stamkov line went to work wreaking havoc in the Columbus zone. The resulting chaos left Nikita Kucherov wide open to bury a great pass from Mikhail Sergachev. The goal was Kucherov’s 14th (first in the NHL) and gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
The pace of the game had been leaning Tampa Bay’s way until a failed clearing attempt by Sustr resulted in Victor Hedman making a desperation play near the goal line. Hedman’s play left Zach Werenski wide open in the slot where he quickly buried a pass from Markus Hannikainen to tie it at two at the midway point of the first period. The rest of the opening period played out with both teams getting chances but neither converting.
The second period provided Tampa Bay with plenty of opportunities to score and they managed to capitalize on two of them. Columbus got into a little penalty trouble early in the period and the Lightning power play (which was rather unimpressive in the first period) finally found a groove. Between passing and shooting into traffic the Bolts were able to force the Blue Jackets penalty killers out of position. This eventually left Steven Stamkos alone at the left faceoff circle where he buried a Kucherov pass to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
The rest of the second provided fans with a look at what Tampa Bay is when they’re clicking on all cylinders: outskating their opponents and out-chancing while avoiding any serious defensive lapses. There is no better way to sum this up than with Yanni Gourde’s goal. The puck was thrown in deep by Hedman where Alex Killorn out-muscled a Columbus defender down low before coasting behind the net. Gourde wisely skated into the high slot where Killorn fed a gorgeous pass that Gourde quickly capitalized on. His snap shot went over Bobrovsky and gave the Lightning a two-goal cushion.
Unfortunately, a two-goal cushion wasn’t good enough for Tampa Bay as the third period saw them blow (another) two-goal lead. There isn’t really a good way to explain it other than, “Tampa Bay got sloppy and Columbus kept pushing”. The third goal by Hannikainen squeaked by Vasilevskiy and can’t really be pinned on anyone specifically.
The tying goal was a bit more chaotic. A shot on goal bounced in front of the net and right onto the stick of Brandon Dubinsky who put it past both Anton Stralman and Vasilevskiy to tie it at four. The resurgence of Columbus in the third was expected, but Tampa Bay becoming sloppy wasn’t. Especially after the team had shown some strong defensive play this evening.
Overtime had some hair-raising moments, especially during a Columbus power play. The Blue Jackets had a few good shots on goal but were put aside by Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defenders’ ability to clear the puck at timely moments. Tampa had some chances at the tail end of overtime, but Bobrovsky stood tall for Columbus and forced the game into a shootout.
Only one player scored in the shootout. The captain came in clutch in the third round and roofed a shot over Bobrovsky to give the Lightning the edge. This left Sonny Milano as the last shooter for Columbus against Vasilevskiy. The young forward tried to deke towards Vasilevskiy’s left, but the Russian netminder moved right with him and smothered his stick before a shot could get off sealing the win for Tampa Bay.
Shameless plug here. Just look at my tweet. This kid is a joy to watch.
Yanni Gourde is a gem and we are not worthy of his relentless pursuit of the puck.— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) November 5, 2017
Thursday evening showcased a lethargic offense for Tampa Bay and it was worrying to see how out of sorts they looked. Heading into tonight’s game the coaching staff and players kept talking about how they needed to be more aggressive with the puck. Aggressive they most definitely were.
The first 40 minutes of the game were mostly controlled by Tampa Bay, and it was clear from the first puck drop that the Lightning was going to attack Columbus as often as they could. The forecheck and cycle game was apparent throughout and it provided opportunities for Tampa Bay that they ultimately capitalized on.
I refer you to the tweet, my friends.
Kuch is Kuch…— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) November 5, 2017
But OKAY Sergy we see you #CBJvsTBL pic.twitter.com/pi2rrPXdf2
Whatever the hell that third period was
The first half of the third period wasn’t terrible; it was back and forth mostly. The second half of the third though? A mess. Hannikainen’s goal is a mulligan, but Dubinsky’s goal is one the Lightning could’ve stopped well before the shot bounced to him. Columbus deserves credit for forcing Tampa Bay into mistakes, but Tampa Bay did themselves no favors during the events leading up to the tying goal.
Andrej Sustr had a rough game and the coaching staff took notice after the second Columbus goal. The Czech defender played five shifts all game (four in the first, one in the third) for an ice-time total of 3:45. That’s it.
Now, we remember Slater Koekkoek’s first game this season where he had 3 minutes of ice-time, but Sustr has fallen far since becoming a full-time regular back in 2014-2015. He looked weak on the puck (which led to two goals against) and had a really hard time along the boards whenever a forechecker got near him.
I don’t see a reason why you dress a player for only five shifts and 3:45 of ice time. Why not play Koekkoek and give him 10ish minutes? It’s strange and we’ll keep an eye on it.
sigh (Before the shootout)
Friendly reminder that I hate the shootout with a passion— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) November 5, 2017
(After the shootout)
Still hate the shootout lol— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) November 5, 2017