The Tampa Bay Lightning enter their game at the Chicago Blackhawks on their first three-game losing streak of the season. The team has been in a funk and trying to re-find their success from the early part of the season.
With Ondrej Palat being announced as out for six to eight weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild, the Lightning bolstered their line-up with Syracuse Crunch forwards Matthew Peca and Michael Bournival. While there’s no official word, one has to think that Cory Conacher is also dinged up or he would be in the line-up over Bournival. Bournival has the speed to burn defenders and is a relentless forechecker. Though he is lacking as a scorer at the NHL level, he has picked up his scoring with the Crunch in the AHL.
Peca appears to be the long-term replacement for Palat on the roster and it comes at a good time for him. Leading the Crunch in points this season, Peca has stepped up his offensive production. A left-handed, speedy, two-way center, Peca also has an opportunity to help the Lightning in the face-off department and could be an option on the second power-play unit as well as a possibility on the penalty kill.
As a side note, Adam Erne also would have been a consideration to replace Palat on the roster. However, he has been sidelined with an injury and is currently day-to-day. When he gets healthy, if Peca isn’t working out, we could see a swap of the two players. Both players are working towards full-time NHL spots as early as next October when both will become waiver eligible.
Besides Peca and Bournival being in the line-up for Palat and Conacher, the other change for the game is Andrej Sustr drawing in in the place of Slater Koekkoek on the blueline.
The lines for the Lightning to start the game are as follows.
Nikita Kucherov - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Chris Kunitz - Steven Stamkos - Vladislav Namestnikov
Yanni Gourde - Matthew Peca - Alex Killorn
Michael Bournival - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Anton Stralman - Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Andrei Vasilevskiy in net with Louis Domingue backing him up.
For Chicago, Jeff Glass made his 7th start and 8th appearance. He entered the game with a .905 SV% and a 3-3-1 record. Glass has been a remarkable story. After being drafted in the third round in 2004 by the Ottawa Senators, he never panned out in the ECHL and AHL. After four years of professional hockey, he went to Russia to play in the KHL where he carved out a nice career for himself. He returned to North America in 2016-17 and played 22 games in the AHL and was a back-up for some games for the Chicago Blackhawks but never made an appearance. He made his NHL debut at the age of 32 years old in a win for the Blackhawks.
The first period started off with the Lightning jumping from the puck drop. In the first two minutes, the Lightning created three solid scoring chances from three different lines including a partial breakaway by Bournival that was stopped by Glass.
The Lightning picked up the first power play of the game as Alex DeBrincat was called for hooking Tyler Johnson. Johnson was handling the puck near the offensive blueline waiting for his teammates to get on side. DeBrincat got the stick up in his hands and the Lightning went on the attack.
Both power play units created chances, but neither could cash in and the Blackhawks killed off the penalty.
The Lightning continued to play well after the power play for the most part, but twice got caught giving up odd-man rushes. On the first, Vasilevskiy had to make a big lateral move to stop Patrick Sharp. On the second, a breakaway was interrupted by a Girardi slash giving the Blackhawks their first power play of the night. The penalty could have as easily been called a penalty shot.
At this point, the Lightning were up in shots on goal 9-7 and in shot attempts 12-10.
After giving up one shot in almost a minute and a half of penalty kill that was pretty solid, the Blackhawks got called for a tripping as Stralman was taken down in the corner. The Lightning dominated the 33 second 4-on-4 time before Girardi exited the box to start another Lightning power play. Unfortunately, the Lightning could not get much going and had trouble getting set up in the Chicago zone.
The Blackhawks got their second power play of the game with Killorn being called for tripping Nick Schmaltz as Schmaltz was carrying the puck out of the zone. The Lightning penalty kill started well with keeping the Blackhawks to the outside. However, Johnson trying to clear a puck was called for high sticking putting the Lightning down 5-on-3 for 45 seconds.
The Lightning continued to keep the Blackhawks to the outside and only allowing one good opportunity from right out front. The rest of the chances for the Blackhawks came from the outside. An absolutely outstanding penalty kill effort from the Lightning.
The Blackhawks drew momentum from their power plays and controlled the pace of play for the rest of the period before the horn blew.
The period ended in a scoreless tie with the Blackhawks leading in shots on goal 13-12.
The story of the first 15 minutes of the second period was most definitely Andrei Vasilevskiy. Through 15 minutes, the Lightning gave up 13 shots on goal to the Blackhawks while only generating four shots on goal of their own. Not good.
A long stretch of back and forth play with just a single whistle for an icing on the Lightning when they got hemmed into their own zone was finally broken by a minor high sticking call to Sergachev giving the Blackhawks another power play opportunity. Sergachev was unhappy after being slashed on the arm. When he turned to give the offender a shove, they both got their sticks up, but Sergachev got his man in the face. He was obviously unhappy that the Blackhawks got away with the slash and was given an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Blackhawks were set to be called for a penalty while they were on the power play. However, the Lightning rushed the puck down short-handed. After a shot from the slot by Dotchin was deflected up over the net, Kunitz collected the puck and put it back to the front of the net. The puck deflected off of Glass’ skate as he was trying to get back to the net and into the back of the net. 1-0 Lightning on a shorthanded goal. The assists went to Dotchin and Point.
The Blackhawks looked dangerous on the power play, but the Lightning penalty kill has surged back from the struggles they had while Callahan was out with injury. They’ve been responsible and have done well to keep the Blackhawks to the outside limiting the danger of their power play.
Lightning head into the second intermission with a 1-0 lead, but trailing shots on goal 30-17 after being outshot 17-5 in the second period.
The Lightning started off the third period with a lot more oomph taking a 7-2 shots on goal advantage through the first seven minutes. Stamkos took an undisciplined tripping penalty while going to the bench to give the Blackhawks their sixth power play of the game.
The first half of the penalty kill went very well for the Lightning including time down in the Blackhawks zone by Point and Kunitz. The second half of the penalty kill was a little shakier and included Vasilevskiy having to come up big twice including a scramble around the net before finally killing the penalty.
A lot of the rest of the third period went for long stretches without any whistles. This is the kind of game that the Lightning generally like to have. They feel they can roll lines as well as anyone and like getting into a flow like that.
With two minutes to go, the Lightning got an offensive zone faceoff. Jon Cooper sent the third line out and they were relentless on the puck. After a couple of opportunities, Peca battling along the boards gets the puck out to Gourde at the top of the left wing circle. With the puck bouncing, Gourde let loose with a one-timer that beat Glass to go up 2-0. Upon further review, Peca didn’t play the puck out of the scrum and the goal was ruled an unassisted goal.
The Lightning held strong through the last minute and a half to preserve the shutout for Vasilevskiy to win the game 2-0.
The Lightning still have a lot of work to do in cleaning up their defensive coverages. They gave up too many rushes to the Blackhawks and it was only through the Grace of Vasilevskiy that the puck stayed out of the net.
Matthew Peca showed some glimpses of what kind of player he can be in the NHL. He showed more confidence with the puck than I think he did this time last year in his ten-game call-up. While his minutes were limited with just 10:03 TOI, he did get a shift late in the game on the penalty kill which is a big deal for Cooper to do with a rookie.
Dotchin stepped up big time playing 21:23 in the game with 4:22 shorthanded. Coming into the game, he only had 18:25 TOI shorthanded all season averaging just 31 seconds a game. He also had the assist on Kunitz’s game-winning goal after taking a bomb of a shot from the slot.
Vasilevskiy came back in a big way with the shutout of the Blackhawks. He had given up 23 goals over the past five games, never giving up less than four goals and had gone 1-4-0 in that span. Bouncing back with this shutout is hopefully a good sign for Vasilevskiy moving forward. The offense still needs to get things back together, but Vasilevskiy performing well is a big part of what makes this team go.
The Lightning have a quick turn around with a game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators. There’s a good chance that Louis Domingue will get the call to start the game which would be his second as a member of the Lightning.