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Brayden Point leads the Tampa Bay Lightning in 8-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils

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The young center set a career high for points in a game as the Lightning dominated the Devils

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There was little worry that Tampa Bay would find their offensive groove as the season progressed, but the explosion we witnessed Tuesday evening was a bit unexpected. After falling behind early in the opening period, the Lightning stormed back to take control of the game and ultimately cruise to an 8-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Brayden Point had a career-high five points in the game and Braydon Coburn tied a career high in goals in a game with two. Fun fact about Coburn, the last time he scored two goals in a game was during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers on October 31, 2009 (almost nine years to the day). Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, and Ryan McDonagh all recorded multi-point nights as well.

The first period didn’t start the way Tampa Bay hoped it would. Just 1:01 into the opening frame New Jersey struck first after Miles Wood deflected a Sami Vatanen shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 New Jersey. Just four minutes later, Travis Zajac took advantage of a weird bounce of the puck in the neutral zone that sprung him on a breakaway. Zajac tucked the puck between Vasilevskiy’s five hole to give the Devils a 2-0 lead.

As the Lightning faithful were still reeling from shell-shock, the actual Lightning maintained their composure and began to tilt the ice in their favor. Two minutes and twenty-six seconds after Zajac’s goal, Braydon Coburn fired a shot from the point that deflected off of Devils defender Andy Greene and past goaltender Keith Kinkaid to make it 2-1.

This goal was due to the work of Brayden Point. Point carried the puck out of the defensive zone, through the neutral zone into the offensive zone, and almost got through two defenders before the puck was knocked toward the left wing boards. Yanni Gourde recovered it and sent it below the goal line where Point retrieved it and fed a pass to Coburn. Coburn wasted no time in one-timing it towards the net. Tampa Bay had life.

From this point onward, the game was firmly in the Lightning’s hands. Their forecheck caused an immense amount of issues for New Jersey’s defensemen and produced an array of shots that Kinkaid was forced to push aside. It wasn’t until 13:30 that Tampa Bay broke through again. Mikhail Sergachev bounced a pass off the boards to Adam Erne in the neutral zone. The second-year forward then passed it to Cedric Paquette along the right wing boards.

Paquette entered the zone with possession before stopping and gauging his options. Streaking down the middle of the ice was none other than our lord and savior, Braydon Coburn. Paquette connected on a pass to Coburn, and the big defenseman fired a silky smooth wrist shot past Kinkaid to knot the game at two.

The Lightning continued to attack New Jersey for the rest of the period and it showed with Tampa Bay controlling 57% of the shots at 5-on-5 in the opening frame. The Devils appeared to be a little shell-shocked themselves at how quickly and emphatically the Lightning bounced back.

Tampa showed their veteran poise in the first period, but the second would show their killer instinct.

Thirty-one seconds into the second period was all it took for Tampa Bay to take the wind out of New Jersey’s sails. Brayden Point’s line (with Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde flanking him) pinned the Devils in their zone and simply outworked them at every turn. The entire sequence was just these three outworking their opponents.

It starts with Yanni Gourde out-muscling a defender behind the net and feeding a pass to Tyler Johnson in the slot. Johnson’s shot was blocked and bounced toward the ring wing boards. Johnson then out-hustled two defenders to push the puck back below the goal line to Gourde. Gourde coasted back toward the left faceoff circle before feeding a pass to McDonagh for a one-timer. McDonagh’s shot missed wide left and bounced off the boards where Johnson settled it down for a second before backhanding it toward the net (hoping to catch Kinkaid off guard.

Kinkaid made the save, but the rebound went in front of him. Gourde, who was already lurking in the area after McDonagh’s shot, pounced on the rebound and whacked at the puck. Kinkaid saved this chance as well, but this time the rebound went to Point, who was at the left post wrestling for position with Andy Greene. Point won the position battle and knocked home the rebound to give Tampa Bay their first lead of the game.

The Lightning refused to quit after taking the lead and continued to apply pressure on New Jersey in all three zones. Eventually, New Jersey took a penalty and it was here that Tampa Bay buried the Devils. With Blake Coleman sitting out with a double minor for high sticking , the Lightning power-play went to work.

After Stamkos won a faceoff, McDonagh and Kucherov played a quick game of back and forth before Kucherov blasted a one-timer past Kinkaid. Prior to the goal, however, was another one-timer by Kucherov that Kinkaid made a spectacular save on. Unfortunately, if you give deadly shooters too many chances you’re going to get scored on. Kucherov was only going to be denied once.

Since Coleman’s penalty was a double-minor, Tampa Bay was still on the power-play. Unfortunately for New Jersey, during the remaining power play time Zajac was penalized for slashing which put the Devils into the unenviable position of defending a 5-on-3 against one of the deadliest power-plays in league.

It went about as well as you’d expect. The Lightning put on a passing clinic with Stamkos and Johnson ripping one-timers that didn’t go in. Luckily for Tampa Bay, they have an eternally patient Russian winger who sets up his teammates for beautiful chances. Kucherov fed another pass to Stamkos, after forcing the Devils defenders to slightly move, and Stamkos did Stamkos things, because he’s Steven Stamkos.

Holding onto a 5-2 lead just 8:08 into the second period was not what anyone expected after the first five minutes of the opening frame. The three-goal lead would only last 8:39 before Kyle Palmieri scored off of Ryan McDonagh’s leg on the power-play to close the gap to two. This was the Lightning’s first power-play goal allowed at home all season. They had killed 24 prior to that goal.

(Palmieri is on a ridiculous hot streak to start the season. Nearly everything he touches turns to points.)

This goal did little to tilt the ice in New Jersey’s favor though. Tampa still controlled 57% of the shots at 5-on-5 in the second period and just by looking at the following charts, it wasn’t pretty for New Jersey.

5v5 Shot Chart
Natural Stat Trick, www.naturalstattrick.com
Heat Map 5v5
Natural Stat Trick, www.naturalstattrick.com

Now, the third period was just nonsense. The Lightning scored three more times to extend the score to 8-3. Here, just look at the highlights and reactions.

All hail our lord and savior, Braydon Coburn.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Everyone (nearly) Gets a Point!

Aside from Brayden Point marking a new career high for points in a game, there were a total of 10 players who registered a point this evening—that’s 55% of the active roster this evening. Hilariously, there were two players who were negative in the +/- column (further proving how useless this stat is)—Ryan Callahan (-1) and Cedric Paquette (-1). Both of these players played fine this evening. I just found that little tidbit of information humorous.

Kucherov Returns

Near the tail end of the second period, Kucherov took a shot off the inside of his left leg. From replay, it looked like it hit around the knee area. I couldn’t find an angle that definitively showed exactly where it hit, but it was definitely in the vicinity of his knee. Kucherov immediately went down in pain while play resumed.

There was a raucous crash of boos as the officials didn’t stop play. This is understandable, but the actual rule does allow for this to happen, it’s just up to the officials discretion. If a player is injured and unable to play, then the play will continue until the team with the injured player maintains possession of the puck. The Lightning didn’t maintain possession until Vasilevskiy covered the puck.

Here’s the rule, verbatim (Rule 8.1):

When a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured control of the puck.

Now, there is a small excerpt after this is stated that allows the officials to make a judgement call:

In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately.

So, given that Kucherov returned in the third period after leaving in the second, it obviously wasn’t a serious injury. Though, I think play being blown dead in this situation is a case by case situation based off who the officials are.

Kucherov did return and looked fine in the process. He even scored his second goal of the game. Hopefully, this won’t be a lingering issue.

The Bad

Those First Five Minutes

Tampa Bay wasn’t horrible in the first five minutes, but they sure weren’t exactly great either. Some odd decisions in the defensive zone led to some poor giveaways and put far too much pressure on Vasilevskiy early. He can handle it, but being down 2-0 within the first five minutes is never a good sign. The Lightning dug themselves out of this hole and dominated as a result, but it’d be best if they limit these kinds of starts.

The Whatever

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