The Carolina Hurricanes came into town this evening looking to win their first game at Amalie Arena since 2013. Suffice to say, tonight was not their night. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in a game that was ultimately decided by special teams.
Entering tonight’s game, Carolina had the 26th ranked power-play (9.5%) and the 28th ranked penalty kill (66.7%). It, ultimately, was the reason Carolina failed to secure two points this evening. At even strength, the Lightning were outscored 2-1 but not out possessed (51.16% CF% for the game). Scoring chances were also controlled by the Lightning (25-15 scoring chances and 9-5 high danger scoring chances). Outside of a dominant opening period, Carolina struggled getting consistent zone time.
As for the Lightning, they were fortunate to be in a tie game after the first 20 minutes. Carolina controlled 61% of the shots at 5-on-5 and had two power-plays that generated plenty of pressure on Louis Domingue. After being denied on an earlier attempt, Micheal Ferland deked out Louis Domingue after Tuevo Teravainen fed him a pass. The play started when Sebastion Aho knocked down a clearing attempt by Victor Hedman. This caught Tampa Bay off guard as Mathieu Joseph was the only player that stayed with Ferland. Unfortunately, Joseph misjudged the pass from Teravainen and was in a poor position to disrupt Ferland.
It wouldn’t take the Lightning long to respond as Tyler Johnson continued to wreak havoc on the Carolina Hurricanes. While on the penalty kill, Joseph recovered a loose puck near the left wing circle and skated the puck out of the defensive zone (literally, he just waltz’d out); defending him was Justin Williams. Joseph turn up the speed and skated around Williams before feeding a pass to Tyler Johnson in the slot.
As you can see from the photo, Jaccob Slavin sold out to stop the pass from Joseph, but no one was even close to Johnson (leaving a 20 goal scorer wide open isn’t a wise decision). Johnson buried it to knot the game at one. This was also Joseph’s first NHL point, and this play was 100% him. Always a joy to see a rookie get his first point. Now, go and get your first goal, kid!
The second period was the opposite of the first. Tampa Bay roared back to control possession 68% to 31%. Carolina’s biggest surge was during their two power-plays. The first was a Johnson tripping call just 26 seconds into the period, and the second was an Alex Killorn hooking penalty 8:38 into the second. Tampa Bay killed both of these off to bring their penalty kill to a perfect 4-for-4 the evening.
Tampa Bay would jump on another opportunity just 6:07 into the period after Carolina turned the puck over at the Lightning blueline. Mikhail Sergachev poke checked a pass attempt toward the right wing boards where J.T. Miller recovered it. Miller immediately passed it to Adam Erne in the neutral zone. Erne skated it past center ice before he made a perfect saucer pass to Tyler Johnson as he entered the offensive zone. Johnson settled the puck down and weaved through two Carolina defenders before roofing it past Petr Mrazek to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
What a pass by Erne. Seriously, he couldn’t have placed it any better.
Tampa Bay’s lead would only last 6:41 before Martin Necas tied it up with his first NHL goal. Tampa Bay shot themselves in the foot here. Steven Stamkos received a pass from Hedman as he entered the offensive zone but lost the puck in his skates. A poke check from Valentin Zykov pushed the puck out of Carolina’s zone where Martin Necas recovered it. Warren Foegele raced up the ice as he received a pass from Necas in the neutral zone. Foegele, Zykov, and Necas came in against Anton Stralman. Stralman tried to cut off the passing lane, but Foegele fed it across to Necas before Stralman’s stick was in position. Necas one-timed it past Domingue to tie the game at two.
Two turnovers, two goals against. That’s how it goes in the NHL.
The second period ended with Tampa controlling possession, but still struggling with turnovers (Sergachev had a rough evening in this department).
Both teams traded some chances during the opening minutes of the third period, but neither managed to capitalize. At 5:55, Carolina was penalized for their only penalty of the game as Martin Necas was called for holding Cedric Paquette. If Tampa Bay was going to win this game, they had to convert on this man advantage.
They did just that when Yanni Gourde scored from the slot after Calvin de Haan misplayed a puck behind the Carolina net. The play started with Tyler Johnson chipping the puck behind the Carolina defense and forcing play below the goal line. De Haan had the puck on his stick but whiffed on his clearing attempt. The puck then rolled away from him as Ondrej Palat recovered it and passed it to a wide-open Gourde. Gourde wasted little time as he rifled it past Mrazek to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 12:58 left in regulation.
Tampa Bay and Carolina would trade offensive zone time as regulation wound down, but in the final five minutes - it was all Carolina. The Hurricanes pinned the Lightning in the defensive zone for prolonged periods of time, but Domingue was there to thwart any dangerous chance thrown his way. With 2:27 left, Carolina pulled Mrazek to give the Hurricanes a 6-on-5 advantage. Carolina peppered Domingue with shots but were unable to create anything dangerous. Dan Girardi made a block, Ryan McDonagh made some great plays with his stick, Tyler Johnson sold out for a block, and through it all Louis Domingue was the rock that didn’t allow the wonky deflections or high danger chances go in.
Johnson completed his hat trick after Nikita Kucherov recovered a loose puck along the right-wing boards and chipped it off the boards for Johnson to chase down. Game, set, and match.
19 Straight Penalties Killed
Yes, you read that correctly. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the only team in the NHL who have yet to give up a power-play goal. Hell, they have outscored opposing power-plays 2-0 through their first four games.
After being the only real black mark on a spectacular season last year, this season’s penalty kill looks like a far more disciplined and patient unit. This isn’t to say Carolina didn’t get their chances on their four power-plays - they most definitely did. They put 11 shots on net during the man advantage. However, Tampa Bay’s penalty killers remained patient in their assignments and jumped loose pucks when the opportunity arose. It isn’t going to always work (being overly patient in a shooting/passing lane is going to give teams with very talented shooters way too much time), but as long as Tampa Bay continues to stick to their assignments, then we might see a penalty kill reminiscent of the 2014-2015 season (top 10 in the league that season).
Also, Tampa Bay is allowing their goaltenders to see the puck more this season compared to last year. Too many times did Vasilevskiy, Budaj, and Domingue have to maneuver themselves in odd ways just to see where the puck was. These guys are NHL goalies. If they see the shot they’re more than likely going to stop it.
Great game from Domingue. He got deked pretty hard by Ferland on the first goal, but that was a turnover and not completely his fault. He also had no chance on that 3-on-1 when Necas scored. Outside of that, Domingue was downright fantastic. Square to the shooter, controlling his rebounds well, having quick lateral movement, and sealing his posts were all keys to Domingue posting a 0.950 save percentage this evening. If he’s gonna get 20-25 games this season and plays like that consistently? Sign me up.
Carolina only scored off of turnovers this evening. Sergachev had a rough evening in the department. Stamkos did as well. Kucherov had odd ones too. Overall, the Lightning only turned it over nine times this evening, but it’s been an underlying problem through the first four games. Tampa Bay has to tighten that part of their game up if they want to maintain possession. If not, then they’re going to get burned. They lucked out this evening in that regard.
Once again, it’s all up to you folks to tell me what you thought!