Do you remember your first trip to Vegas? Yeah, me neither. The Tampa Bay Lightning will probably want to forget this visit as well after they lost 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights. Shea Theodore scored the game-winning power play goal with 2.3 seconds left in regulation.
The Lightning are back to 11F/7D with Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr slotting in for Jake Dotchin who has the flu. Forward Tyler Johnson is also out with the flu which is a big loss for the Bolts.
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point -
Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown
Vicctor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Anton Stralman - Mikhail Sergachev
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi
On to the game!
The start of the game sees some chippiness and hard forechecking by both teams. Brayden McNabb lays a big hit right inside the Vegas blueline on Namestnikov. Cory Conacher gets his stick mixed up with Oscar Lindberg after a whistle as the two headed to the bench. Neither instance resulted in anything, but it definitely set the tone.
Steven Stamkos with a one-timer on the power play. This is a recording.
Okay fine, here’s some more words. After McNabb panics in the defensive zone and takes a delay of game penalty by shooting the puck over the glass, the top power play group in the NHL goes to work. After passing the puck down low with Namestnikov, Kucherov sends the puck to Hedman, who blasts a pass to the man with one of the best slapshots in the league. Marc-Andre Fleury had no chance.
After a first few fairly even minutes of play between the two teams, the Lightning start asserting their dominance.
The Bolts kill off a Slater Koekkoek hooking penalty, and then James Neal heads to the box for slashing. Don’t do that against this team...
I told you so! Kucherov sends Namestnikov a no-look pass across the crease. The young Russian makes good on the pass from his Russian brother, spies some open space in front of the net, works the reverse spin-o-rama to get in all alone against the man with three Stanley Cups, beating him blocker side.
Brayden McNabb once again goes after a Bolt, this time planting a solid crosscheck in Namestnikov’s ribs. No call on the play - and Namestnikov had to go to the locker room right away - but the goal still counts!
Will be curious how Parros and DOPS feels about McNabb's cross check there. I doubt they do anything, but that was a malicious play delivered for no other reason than to inflict punishment on Namestnikov.— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) December 20, 2017
The first period ends with the Lightning leading in shots (12-9) and in scoring chances (12-7) and only just trailing the Knights in shot attempts (20-22). Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing solid, as always.
Namestnikov has returned to the game, thankfully.
After a long stretch of the Vegas Golden Knights in our zone, a point shot gets through Vasilevskiy but not Sergachev. The rookie defenseman reaches backward with his stick, pulls the puck off the goal-line and allows Stralman to get the puck out.
WE GOT A TRICKLER pic.twitter.com/olkXQelZkK— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Shoutout Knights on Ice for the .gif!
Another Brayden takes a delay of game penalty; this time Coburn has the honour of giving a Vegas hockey fan a souvenir by shooting a puck over the glass.
Not long into the infraction, James Neal slings the puck through the space between Vasilevskiy’s body and arm. Bad angle goal, but there's not much he can do.
The Lightning allow the Knights to dictate play for more than half a period and (shockingly) find themselves ahead by only one goal and reeling on the back foot. https://t.co/I7B9DUA1jQ— Papi's biggest fan (@HardevLad) December 20, 2017
The Lightning - including me - take a deep breath in the commercial break, time to get back to our game. The Yanni Gourde line comes out and has a strong forechecking shift, then the Stamkos line comes out and starts thieving pucks from the Knight defensemen. The fourth line makes it third shift a charm. Cedric Paquette gets a one-time chance, creating a rebound that falls to J.T. Brown who shoots the puck into the chest of a helmet-less Fleury.
Kunitz slashes Tomas Nosek as he comes down the middle of the ice into the Lightning zone. The Bolts have a penalty to kill with 2:37 left in the second.
Former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault takes a cross-crease pass from David Perron and bites us back in the most ironic way, with a game-tying power play goal for the Golden Knights. Vasy almost got across in time but almost isn’t good enough. Time to get the offense going again in the third.
Clearly the Bolts didn’t like the second period nearly as much as the first. They got shelled in shots (10-18), shot attempts (21-31), and scoring chances (11-12). Throw that period away, forget about it, and come back fresh for the third.
The Lightning start the third period with a reunion of the best second line in the league to start the season. Gourde, Point, and Palat immediately take control of the offensive zone with some help from Sergachev and Stralman and get two good chances, both Sergachev blasts from the point.
Sergachev gives the puck away to David Perron and accidentally high-sticks him from behind. Even though he didn’t mean it, it’s still a penalty. On the penalty kill, Shea Theodore’s point shot sifts it’s way through at least five bodies, off Erik Haula, and into the back of the net. Losing money in Vegas was bound to happen, I guess.
At least Vasilevskiy’s 5v5 save percentage is 100%! Take that, nerds!
The Lightning get a chance to wake back up with Lindberg going to the box for slashing. There is 12:34 left in the game. Coincidence or lucky numbers? On the power play, Stamkos, who is basically standing in the corner just above the goal-line, is able to get a good chance off but Fleury stops him. Other than that, not much going for the Lightning on that man-advantage.
Engelland and McNabb both go after Kucherov, Engelland with a cross-check after a whistle and McNabb with a hip-check long after Kuch chipped the puck into the zone. Neither play was called. On the next shift, Brown goes after Theodore with a hard hit in the corner. The two come together after the whistle, a cross-check is thrown by the Bolt, a spear is sent by the Knight.
Victor Hedman ties the game with a patented blast from the point. The puck appears to get deflected in front but not by a Bolt so the goal remains Hedman’s, with the Captain getting the assist.
Derrick Engelland throws a broken stick at Ondrej Palat while the winger skates by with the puck. That’s another two minutes for you. The following sentence will be presented without comment. The Vegas residents in attendance are chanting “Ref, you suck.”
With Coburn in the box for holding the stick, Shea Theodore scores the game winning goal with 2.3 seconds left on the clock. It’s 12:42am on Wednesday. Goodnight, y’all.
The Good: 5v5, Score, Venue Adjusted
The Lightning did not give up an even strength goal in this game. Does that make anyone feel better? No? Good. Moving on to the bad.
The Bad: The Team
This team thought that they could show up for one period, let their goaltender play the other two, and walk away with two points. This is the National Hockey League. Every team can beat you on any night. If the Bolts think they can play down to their enemy instead of treating them with the respect they deserve, they will not win many games in the second half of the season.
I did some math. The Lightning have 49 games left to play. 22 are against current play-off teams. 24 are on the road, including the Western Canadian roadtrip and five back-to-backs. It’s not the worst schedule in the league, but it is one that can get away from a team - especially if they continue to play with fire like they did at the end of this road trip (against both Colorado and Vegas). They can't expect Vasy and the power play to save them every night.
The Worse: Defenseman Taking Penalties
Do you know how many penalties the Tampa Bay defensemen took? Four of five. Do you know how many times the Vegas Golden Knights scored on power plays with a defenseman in the box? Three. The fourth one came with Chris Kunitz in the box.
I’m not saying that the penalty kill needs to be better (it definitely does). What I’m saying is that the Lightning defense is either young, or not very mobile. Both of those attributes lead to mistakes, mistakes lead to penalties, penalties lead to goals against - especially against a team with speed like Vegas. It’s pretty simple. Sergachev is a 19-year-old defenseman in the NHL, he will make mistakes but we will live with them because of the overwhelming number of good things he brings to the ice.
Braydon Coburn took two penalties that resulted in goals against, including the game winner? I’m sorry but that’s not acceptable for a 32-year-old defenseman making $3,700,000. A veteran cannot take a penalty for holding a stick with a minute left in a tie game against an opponent the Lightning clearly wanted to beat very badly. He needs to be better.
The Whatever: Jonathan Marchessault
He scored his 100th NHL point against the Lightning. 19 of those came when he played for the Bolts between 2014 and 2016. We call that a “cruel irony” milestone.
What a way for Jonathan Marchessault to get the 100th point, and 50th goal, of his career. What a pass by Perron, and Marchy sniped it. We're tied 2-2 at 18:26.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) December 20, 2017
The Lightning end the road trip with six out of eight possible points (that’s good!) and head back to Amalie Arena to face the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night (they’re bad!).