Behind stellar play from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Tampa Bay Lightning can now rest easy going into the All-Star break as their 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers maintains their position as best in the league.
Though the Bolts didn’t command the game entirely, it was a somewhat surprising performance for a team that has seemed a little gassed recently. The win does give the team a three-win streak going into the break, but some questions remain about the lineup. Call-ups Matthew Peca and Michael Bournival played well tonight in place of some recent Lightning injuries.
Vasilevskiy’s play really allowed the team to have a shot in this one, and he continues to keep his name in the Vezina conversation. He posted 36 saves on 37 shot attempts and stood tall on breakaways and odd-man rushes.
Before the game, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson made it out for puck drop as a part of some of this month’s Super Bowl festivities.
You could say the first half was a little stagnant. There was lots of stoppage of play, some big hits, but both teams seemed a little lost.
The Lightning’s first shot, and likely best scoring chance of the period, came eight minutes into the frame. Forward Brayden Point found time alone high in the slot, but was unable to get past Michael Neuvirth.
Later, Flyers forward Travis Konecny benefited from some broken coverage by the Bolts and escaped with a breakaway. Andrei Vasilevskiy made a big-time save and snared any attempt at a rebound. Brayden Coburn commited an egregious turnover in the Bolts zone shortly after, but Vasy was again there to make the stop.
Konecny’s breakaway spurred the Flyers, and their offense began to gain confidence to out-shoot the Lightning. The Bolts forechecking started to look better towards the end of the period; at times the team felt like they still hadn’t found their footing since coming back from the bye week.
The Lightning offense finally had a chance to get going when Michael Raffle was called for holding, but even then the Lightning struggled to produce. During the powerplay, a turnover at the blueline led to a two on one with Stamkos the sole defender. He managed to get his stick on the pass and deter the odd-man rush.
The Bolts broke out to a one-goal lead within just 20 seconds of the frame. Fittingly, it was Point notching the score for Tampa Bay. It feels as if there has been a fire under Point as of late. Every time he touches the puck it feels like something great may happen. Truly All-Star worthy.
The Flyers continued to sway play from then on, grabbing their first powerplay minutes later. Though Philadelphia saw a decent number of chances, the Lightning killed the penalty. Just 21st in the league in the penalty kill, it was refreshing seeing an injured Bolts team grab a stop.
And then came Matthew Peca with a crafty play to make it 2-0. Speeding off a defender, Peca found himself to the left of the goal mouth and chipped it on net where Yanni Gourde scooped the rebound and netted the Bolts second of the game.
Towards the end of the period, the Flyers grabbed another powerplay after a Dan Girardi cross-check. And then Ryan Callahan happened.
A goal that Callahan is sure happy to grab after only scoring once this season.
Something interesting - according to Fox Sports play-by-play Rick Peckham, the Bolts are plus 29 in goal differential in the second period on the season.
The third was much the same. The Flyers continued to outshoot the Bolts while Tampa Bay remained in penalty trouble.
Vladislav Namestnikov went to the box after the halfway mark of the period after getting tied up. Travis Konecny ended the potential shutout for Vasy when he found the back of the net on the man-advantage. Konecny had been finding himself in decent scoring chances throughout the game so it wasn’t a surprise he ended up putting one through.
Travis Konecny with the extra attacker goal on the power play! pic.twitter.com/KNWeZiK3By— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) January 26, 2018
Vladdy went on to redeem his penalty when he scored on a feed from Steven Stamkos shortly after. The Stamkov line really put the game away for the Lightning and secured the 5-1 victory. Stamkos grabbed his 300th and 301st career assists tonight off of two Namestnikov goals.
Why’d the Bolts win this game?
- Vasy being Vasy.
- Point getting it done.
- Stamkov line creating ridiculous plays.
- Goals from multiple lines.
Oh, and shout out to Brian Boyle who will be in attendance at the All-Star weekend, and see the fantastic photo gallery from Kate Frese of Broad Street Hockey over here.