The Lightning were facing an uphill task after a week off. Following the bye week teams have posted a record of 3-10-3. They were also facing a team in a similar desparate situation. Dallas is also trying to overcome a slow start to claw their way back into the playoff race. As Coach Cooper said after Friday’s practice, “it’s urgency time”. Six points out of a playoff spot heading into the game, the Lightning desperately needed two points.
They had to settle for one as Jamie Benn’s overtime goal led Dallas to a 4-3 overtime victory.
The First Period:
Coach Cooper went with Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes and it paid off as the big Russian was sharp early on. Dallas had the bulk of the shots early in the opening frame, but the young netminder was up to the challenge. Perhaps his best save came on a wraparound attempt from Jamie Benn. Vasilevskiy used all 6’7 of his frame to slide over and beat Benn to the post to keep the puck out.
Despite having the ice tilted against them, the Lightning struck first. Jake Dotchin took a shot from the point that Kari Lehtonen stopped but kicked a juicy rebound to a crashing Victor Hedman. The big defender made a nice move to stop his momentum and wrist the puck past Lehtonen.
The two teams traded chances as the ice opened up a bit. Cody Eakin banked a pass off the boards to Jamie Benn who had position on Coburn, but the captain of the Stars rang it off the crossbar. Shortly after JT Brown found himself on a partial breakaway but ripped the puck wide of the net.
Pressing the Stars’ blueline with speed, the Lightning started to generate chances of their own. In particular the Tyler Johnson, Vlad Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov line was giving Dallas fits for most of the first period.
Johnson, in his first game back from injury, helped the Lightning convert on the power play. With Esa Lindell in the box for high-sticking, Brayden Point hit the blue line with speed and was able to sneak the pass to Johnson in front of the net. The diminutive center brought the puck to his backhand and lifted it over a sprawled Lehtonen for his 17th goal of the season and the 200th point of his career.
The Stars got a goal back almost immediately on an innocuous looking play. Dan Hamhuis backhanded a pass towards the Lightning net and Antoine Roussel managed to get his stick on it and deflect it past Vasilevskiy.
Roussel tied the game with his second goal of the night as the Stars out hustled the Lightning down the ice. Tyler Seguin threaded a pass through Anton Stralman and Roussel redirected the bouncing puck past Vasilevskiy. Ondrej Palat was a little slow in backchecking Roussell allowing the agitator a clean look at the net.
Tampa looked to regain the lead right of the gates. Lehtonen had to make a nice stop on Boyle who was alone in front. Boyle snuck in front of the net and redirected a pass from Palat right into Dallas’ right pad.
From that point Dallas would dictate the pace of play, bottling up the Lightning in their zone and in the neutral zone denying Tampa any chance to get their offense going. Luckily for the Coach Cooper’s boys, the Stars weren’t able to find the back of the net.
They came close when the Lightning were caught on a line change. John Klingberg found Brett Ritchie with a long pass. Ritchie broke in behind the Lightning defense and alone on Vasilevskiy who stood tall and made the save.
There was a worrisome moment when Jake Dotchin got his skates tangled with a Stars forward, lost his balance and slid hard into the boards. He was very slow to get back to his skates and looked a little rattled as he finished his shift. Luckily for the Lightning he returned to his regular spot next to Hedman a few minutes later.
Nikita Kucherov helped the Lightning regain the momentum and the lead. His puck handling led to Devin Shore committing a holding penalty against him. Back on the power play, the Lightning kept the puck in the zone and cashed in. Johnson made a nice pass while being checked to the ice. Hedman was the recipient of the pass and wristed it past Lehtonen from between the circles to put the Lightning up 3-2.
Tampa continued to do a good job of bottling up the Star’s speed and preventing them from tying the game. Even on the penalty kill, the Lightning seemed to have the momentum as Johnson created a turnover and a breakaway shorthanded. He wasn’t able to get a good shot off, though, and the lead stayed at one goal.
The Stars weren’t going to go easy on their home ice. Antoine Roussel had scored three goals in his previous 27 games. Tonight he scored three in just over two periods.
Rousell netted his hat trick just under five minutes into the third period after the Lightning botched a clearing attempt. Namestnikov failed to chip the puck over the blue line, the Stars got the puck down low and Tyler Seguin found Roussel in front of the net. He shot the puck through Andre Sustr’s legs and over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder.
Namestnikov’s gaffe cost him his spot on Johnson’s line. Coach Cooper reunited the Triplets and bumped Vlad down to Boyle’s line. The change helped as both lines generated offensive chances. Point also got into the action, glancing a shot off the post.
With 8:30 left to go in the game there was a nasty collision along the boards. Johnson lost an edge slid into Adam Cracknell. The Dallas forward’s right ankle was caught underneath Johnson and twisted severely as he fell to the ice. He had to be helped off the ice, unable to put any weight at all on that leg.
All four Lightning lines pressed the Stars throughout the third period. Boyle, JT Brown and Hedman all had chances that were stopped by Lehtonen. Despite their hard work (and 11 shots on net) regulation ended with the game tied.
Lightning dominate possession. Dallas gets one shot and it goes in.
Raw Charge Three Stars of the Game:
3. Tyler Johnson 2. Victor Hedman 1. Antoine Roussel
Victor Hedman has back-to-back multi point games...Brayden Point’s assist gave him a 3-game point streak...it was Antoine Roussel’s first career hat trick...Dallas had been 0-20-2 when trailing after two periods...Nikita Kucherov had 0 shots on goal...Dallas broadcaster Dave Strader returned to the booth after missing almost a year undergoing cancer treatment