The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2 (Shootout), tonight, in a game that had pace, shots, and a fight. The Lightning should hold their heads high that they outplayed a strong playoff team all night and managed to overcome a hot goaltender to take home the “W”.
The first period between Tampa Bay and Anaheim was a flurry of activity. The Lightning came out strong during the first five minutes of the game; outskating and outplaying Anaheim. Ducks goaltender Jonathan Bernier nearly coughed up a goal within the first minute of play when both he and Cam Fowler misplayed a puck behind their net, nearly allowing Tyler Johnson to pounce on the loose puck and try to jam it past Bernier.
The line behind the early Bolts surge was the Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin line. This trio was making crisp passes, taking good shots, and cycling the puck well causing the Ducks to scramble a bit. Drouin was easily the best player on the ice every time he took a shift and this line was really dictating the pace of play. The return of Point cannot be understated, this kid is just great to watch; he doesn’t have an off switch.
Anaheim opened the scoring during 4v4 play when Braydon Coburn was pickpocketed by Ryan Kesler, who then started a short cycle game below the net before Jakob Silfverberg made a nice pass to Brandon Montour, who one-timed it past Ben Bishop to give Anaheim the early lead. The events leading up to this goal were a bit odd, though; a tipped pass that sailed from Anaheim’s zone to Tampa’s was reviewed to see if Kesler was offside prior to the puck landing behind the goal line. After a review, the officiating crew deemed the play was inconclusive, and Montour was credited with his first NHL goal.
Shortly following, both teams returning to 5v5 play. Johnson and Nikita Kucherov played a little game of give-and-go above the right faceoff circle in Anaheim’s zone. The give-and-go opened some space for the fresh-legged Drouin (who had just finished his penalty) to receive a pass, dance around the right faceoff circle, and skate into the high slot to fire a wrist shot past Bernier to tie the game at 1.
Now the Bolts were clicking. Cooper sent out the Killorn - Point - Drouin line to keep the pressure on the Ducks and keep the pressure they did. Point and Drouin kept winning puck battles down low and cycled the puck around the offensive zone, creating some scary chances for the Lightning. Anaheim did a good job at clogging the shooting lanes since they were scrambling down below the goal line during this stretch of play.
A fight opened up between J.T. Brown and Jason Cramarossa midway through the period. It’s unclear whether the fight was spur of the moment or planned. Brown immediately went after Cramarossa when he stepped onto the ice so I’m unsure. Either way, the fight was a spirited one with both participants landing solid punches. The fight ended when Brown threw Cramarossa down onto the ice to a thunderous applause of the fans at Amalie.
The rest of the first period was back and forth with both teams maintaining possession and having opportunities. Anaheim began getting chippier as the period progressed and there were some suspicious non-calls by the officiating crew. Overall, Tampa played strongly in the first and didn’t allow an odd first goal to sink their moral by battling back to tie it.
The second period was all Tampa Bay. They started the period on the power play (a carry-over penalty from the first period) and immediately went on the offensive. The legs were churning for the Lightning and it was evident in how well they were passing, skating, and shooting. Victor Hedman had a golden chance that rang off the post early and the Lightning forced Bernier to make a lot of quality saves.
Anaheim took a hooking penalty midway through the period and the Lightning didn’t allow their third power play to go to waste. Nikita Kucherov won a puck battle down below the left faceoff circle and floated a soft pass to Alex Killorn, who had found a soft spot in Anaheim’s defense; he then ripped a one-timer past Bernier to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
The Lightning killed off another penalty with relative ease and then proceeded to keep Anaheim locked in their own zone for good chunks of time. The Bolts didn’t allow Anaheim any kind of breathing room, but even with all of their possession, they were still unable to get another puck by Bernier. The Ducks did a great job at clogging both passing and shooting lanes, thus forcing Tampa to either take bad angle shots or over-pass the puck and eliminate any real scoring opportunities.
The momentum turned during a double minor to Anaheim when Kucherov was called for cross-checking. This negated the other half of the power play for Tampa, resulting in Anaheim pushing play at 4v4 for the remaining 2 minutes of the period. Prior to the penalty to Kucherov and the resulting shots by Anaheim, the Lightning had outshot the Ducks 12-0 during the period.
This was one of the better periods the Lightning have played all season, especially in the second. They maintained an aggressive forecheck and forced the Ducks into a lot of bad spots which led to quality chances for the Lightning, however, the Lightning’s inability to capitalize on these chances could come back to haunt them if they fail to maintain this style of play in the third.
The third was largely a back and forth affair where not much happened. Tampa had stretches of maintaining play and Anaheim had their stretches. The Ducks managed to tie the game on a Ryan Getzlaf goal where Kevin Bieksa hit Getzlaf in stride in the neutral zone, allowing him to skate past Andrej Sustr and snipe a shot past Bishop to tie it at 2.
Tampa, however, didn’t wilt. They came right back at Anaheim and put more pressure on Bernier to make save after save. Both teams battled off penalties to keep the game knotted at one. The remaining five minutes of the period saw both teams trade chances and rushes. Anaheim had a few scary chances in the remaining two minutes, but Bishop was able to hold everything together.
Tampa made one mistake during the period and Anaheim was able to capitalize on it. That’s how hockey goes sometimes, the Lightning had dominated play for large portions of the game, but were just unable to get past Bernier. Like I noted in the second; the missed opportunities could come back to haunt the Lightning.
The fourth stanza was played at a frenetic pace. Though Tampa was the team that had the pressure; Anaheim’s only real chance came off a Ryan Kesler wrist shot that rang off the post and made the collective audience at Amalie hold their breath. The Lightning had numerous chances to score, but either Bernier made a great save or the Bolts over passed the puck. The overtime ended with Ryan Getzlaf essentially tackling Tyler Johnson to the ice. Why? Because apparently, Getzlaf needs to feel manly by taking down a 5’8’’ 180 lbs. skater when he himself is 6’4’’ 221 lbs.
Brayden Point – Scores (the kid is 4 for 5 in the shootout this season, I love this kid)
Jakob Silfverberg – Scores
Jonathan Drouin – Saved by Bernier
Ryan (The Goon) Getzlaf – Scores
Nikita Kucherov – Scores
Rickard Rakell – Saved by Bishop
Brian Boyle – Scores (I love a big man with hands and passion)
Corey Perry – Saved by Bishop
This was one of the better games the Lightning have played this season. They dominated play for large stretches of time and Anaheim looked lost at times. If it wasn’t for Bernier having one hell of a game this would’ve been a rout.
A lot was made about Anaheim being the best faceoff team in the league and how Tampa struggles in that department, but Tampa won 54% of the faceoffs in the game and also outshot Anaheim 37-16. If Tampa can match this kind of effort consistently then anything is possible, but consistency has been an issue this season. Still, a well-deserved win for a great effort by the Bolts tonight.