Either the yips gripped the kids or the Hurricanes just stifled any real offensive threat, but the Lightning were rather lethargic offensively. The Lightning managed only four shots on goal and one real scoring chance. Second round pick Alexander Volkov’s goal was waved off for a crease violation after Vladislav Namestnikov threw a backhand on net. Carolina scored within the first five minutes when Justin Williams’ wrist shot from the bottom left faceoff circle rung off the crossbar and then bounced off Michael Leighton’s back into the net.
Other than Williams’s goal, Tampa Bay did a solid job limiting any dangerous shots towards Leighton. The scariest moment was when Andrej Sustr threw an errant pass across Carolina’s blueline which missed Libor Hajek and bounced off the boards onto the stick of a Hurricane player. Luckily, Sustr was able to hustle back into the defensive zone and eliminate a cross ice pass, killing the play.
Aside from the offensive struggles the first period was riddled with penalties. A total of five slashing penalties were called between both teams (three on Carolina and two on Tampa Bay), which falls in line with the NHL’s stance on cracking down on these types of infractions. Overall there were seven penalties called in the first (4 Carolina, 3 Tampa).
Additionally, the power-play for the Lightning was uninspiring. No real shot generation or possession during any of the power-plays Tampa had.
The yips seemed to have subsided as the Lightning came out much more aggressive to start the second. Unfortunately, Volkov was called for slashing which put the Hurricanes on yet another power-play. Carolina put on a passing clinic as they moved the puck around the Lightning’s zone. It culminated with Teuvo Teravainen one-timing a shot past Leighton to put the Canes up 2-0.
The rest of the period was a penalty-filled mess with neither team really gaining any kind of edge possession wise. Seven more penalties were called in the second; two slashings, two trippings, a high-sticking, a hooking, and an interference all were announced at some point during the frame.
Luckily, the Lightning were given a 5 on 3 power-play roughly three quarters of the way through the period; during the ensuing man-advantage the Bolts were finally able to cycle the puck around and put some shots on net. Adam Erne scored from the slot when Cory Conacher fed him a soft pass from below the goal line; the shot beat Alex Nedeljkovic high on the glove side.
The goal added a bit of spark to the Lightning as they picked up the physical play during the following shift. Cedric Paquette got a little ahead of himself and was called for interference. The Lightning killed the power-play and pushed play into Carolina’s zone where Jake Chelios was called for tripping with 55 seconds remaining in the period. Cal Foote took a slap shot from the point which deflected over the net and Vlad Namestnikov shot from below the right faceoff circle which just went wide. The Bolts generated some momentum leading into the third period.
The third period was a cleaner affair penalty wise. Early on the pace of the game was back and forth between the Hurricanes and Lightning. Carolina would get some offensive zone time then Tampa would do the same. As the period progressed Tampa noticeably started to push the pace and locked Carolina in their zone for long periods of time.
This culminated in the most controversial play of the game; the Bolts were cycling the puck in the offensive zone and putting shots on Carolina’s netminder (Callum Booth who had replaced Nedeljkovic for the third period). A rebound bounced towards the left of Booth and he tried to move towards it, Volkov cut in front of him and his left leg bumped into Booth’s shoulder. Booth flailed down while Volkov recovered the puck and backhanded it in to tie the game at 2…or so it appeared to the home crowd.
The contact Volkov had with Booth was ruled goaltender interference thus negating the goal. The remaining three minutes of the period were almost exclusively spent in the Carolina zone. Coach Jon Cooper pulled Leighton with 1:05 left in regulation and despite some last second chances the Lightning were unable to capitalize. The Bolts fell 2-1 in their preseason opener to the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that they improved in during each period.
There were 18 total penalties in this game; 1-8. That’s ridiculous. During the post game press conference Coach Cooper stated, “There’s 30 minutes of special teams. I don’t think that’s what’s intended.” and he’s right. The referees have been instructed to enforce the rule book while the players are doing what they’ve always done. These conflicting styles met head on tonight and it showed. Now, none of the penalties called could really be argued; however, the sheer amount was a bit jarring. Hopefully as the preseason progresses the referees and players find a middle ground on how penalties will be enforced.
As for the younglings taking part in tonight’s game there were a few who stood out to me. Volkov, Alexei Lipanov, Boris Katchouk, Namestnikov, Cal Foote, Adam Erne, and Libor Hajek were all very noticeable during the game. Cooper changed up his lines as the game progressed and stumbled upon a gem with the Katchouk-Lipanov-Volkov line. In the third period this line was dominating Carolina and creating scoring chances left and right. It was akin to how the original Triplets line was three years ago. Those three were extremely impressive.
Erne made a strong case for a roster spot. If he doesn’t make it I’ll be surprised. Physical, fast, hard on the puck, and relentless in pursuit Erne was probably the Lightning’s best player tonight. His goal was a simple one; just a quick snap shot from the slot which beat Nedeljkovic, but he was right in front of the net using his big body to create space. Erne is ready for the NHL.
I also stated early in the game that Anthony Cirelli was playing well. Unfortunately, after the first period he didn’t become noticeable. I’m unsure if it was the yips or his ice time, but the rest of the game was very pedestrian from him.
Lastly, we’ll talk about Cal Foote. This kid pretty much did everything tonight. Power-play? Yep. Penalty-kill? Yep. Top minutes at 5v5? Yep. Foote logged 21:56 of ice time this evening; the most in the entire game. He didn’t look overwhelmed either, he made smart passes and wasn’t out of position very often during the game. I was highly impressed with how he played.
It’s the preseason and it’s a lineup of kids playing their first exhibition games. It’s nothing but a learning experience for them. The ones who impressed will hopefully continue to which will make the coaching staff’s roster decisions even more difficult, but that is exactly what you want to happen in this scenario. Are any of them likely to make the opening day roster? Erne is the only one I think deserves it, but the other aforementioned players (except Namestnikov, he will be on the opening day roster no matter what) definitely made a statement with their play this evening.