The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on the road in a wild and weird game of NHL ice hockey. The teams appeared to be attempting to play as few minutes as possible at 5v5 in the first two periods. Brayden Point scored a natural hat trick in 91 seconds. And Louis Domingue picked up his first win in what will likely be an extended stint as the replacement for the injured Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning started strong possibly feeling the pressure to rally around Domingue and not put him in a difficult situation early as they have done to Vasilevskiy often this season. Whatever the reason, they controlled play for the first five plus minutes of the game including a great scoring chance for Nikita Kucherov in the first minute.
A little over seven minutes into the period, Kucherov took a penalty and the game started to change. The penalty kill looked stagnant over the first half of the kill. That’s been a problem lately and it continued tonight. The penalty killers were content to sag and block shots instead of taking away the passing lanes and forcing play to the perimeter.
The Penguins nearly opened the scoring when Evgeni Malkin received a pass at the right side of the net with Louis Domingue completely on the other side of the crease. Ryan McDonagh stepped up and made a huge save knocking the puck away with his glove to keep the game scoreless. The second half of the penalty was better for the Bolts.
But shortly after killing that penalty, the Lightning took another. Erik Cernak failed twice to complete a pass to exit the zone. The back-to-back turnovers kept the puck in the defensive zone and Steven Stamkos took a hooking penalty trying to prevent a scoring chance after the second turnover.
This time, the Pens took advantage with Patric Hornqvist deflecting a Phil Kessel shot past Domingue. The Lightning penalty kill sagged away from Kessel allowing him to skate in and get a clean look at the net. Hornqvist managed to get a stick on the shot and Domingue didn’t have much of a chance.
The Lightning got their first scoring chance in quite a while on another good look for Kucherov from a really nice pass by Adam Erne. Matt Murray kept the Bolts off the scoreboard with a glove save.
Then things started to get weird. Cedric Paquette and Jamie Oleksiak took matching roughing penalties for scrumming after the whistle. Immediately after, Mikhail Sergachev batted a pass out of the air in the defensive zone and it somehow went over the glass. He couldn’t do that again if he tried but it gave the Pens a 4 on 3 penalty.
Early in the penalty, Kris Letang and Ryan Callahan got tangled up in the slot and the officials called matching high sticking penalties, which is apparently a thing. Letang skated directly into Callahan and it looked like textbook interference away from the puck but that wasn’t the call.
Anthony Cirelli took Callahan’s place on the penalty kill but wasn’t as comfortable in the unusual 4 on 3 alignment. After a scramble around the net, Kessel recovered the puck for Pittsburgh and beat Domingue to put his team up two goals.
From there, the Pens took control for most of the rest of the period. Jake Guentzel nearly extended the lead further after Callahan and Dan Girardi combined for a bad defensive zone turnover but Domingue came up with a big save.
The weirdness continued at the end of the period with Kessel taking a slashing penalty followed Malkin tripping Stamkos who came on as the sixth skater during the delayed penalty giving the Lightning a full two-minute five on three. But the Pens weren’t done committing penalties. Nine second into the 5 on 3, Matt Cullen went to the box for tripping.
Brayden Point scored immediately after the Cullen penalty cutting the lead in half with three seconds left in the period. Brian Dumoulin played Point to pass and instead, Point attacked the net and beat Murray cleanly up high.
The second period started exactly the way the first ended, with Point scoring another 5 on 3 goal to tie the game. This time, Kucherov worked the puck to Stamkos at the point who passed it to the left side of the net for an easy dunk. Murphy was shading toward Kucherov and Stamkos and couldn’t get over to cover Point.
The two goals came so fast that the Lightning still had over a minute left on the penalty to Cullen. But they needed hardly any of that time as Point completed the natural hat trick on a shot from the slot. This time, JT Miller and Kucherov get the assists.
In total, the three goals took 91 seconds, which is the second-fastest hat trick in the modern era and the fastest in Lightning history.
Fastest Hat Tricks: NHL History— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) November 16, 2018
Bill Mosienko Mar 23, 1952 :21
Jean Beliveau Nov 5, 1955 :44
Jack Darragh Jan 16, 1919 1:00
Derek King Oct 15, 1991 118
Harry Oliver Jan 11, 1927 1:25
Brayden Point Thursday 1:31
Unwilling to relent in its weirdness, the game continued with a game-tying goal for Hornqvist shortly after Point gave the Lightning the lead. The puck trickled out from behind the net. Domingue had multiple chances to cover it but couldn’t get his glove on it. Hornqvist took advantage and banged it home to tie the game.
The Penguins, having learned nothing apparently, took another penalty. Garret Wilson collided with Domingue behind the net and sent the Bolts goalie to the ice awkwardly. Visions of Eddie Pasquale being forced into action flashed before my eyes but luckily, Domingue wasn’t hurt on the play.
Gourde took advantage of the power play putting the Lightning back ahead 4-3. He ripped a one-timer from the Kucherov spot at the top of the right circle past Murphy at the far post.
Guess what happened with just under nine minutes left in the period? The Pens took another penalty! This time it was Malkin for a slash. He complained about the call despite the replay showing he clearly snapped the Lightning player’s stick in half with a downward slash.
This time though, the Bolts couldn’t take advantage. The power play struggled to get set and never threatened.
After a whole minute of 5v5 play, Mathieu Joseph took a high sticking penalty in the neutral zone. The Pens had plenty of time to get set up at 6v5 on the delayed penalty and nearly scored before the Lightning could control the puck to get the whistle. Once on the power play, the Pens applied some pressure but couldn’t find the net.
Would the teams get through the final three minutes of the period without taking a penalty? No! Jamie Oleksiak took an ugly boarding penalty on Joseph who fortunately, wasn’t injured on the play. The Lightning threatened including three good looks for Stamkos but couldn’t convert.
The period ended with the score 4-3 in favor of the Lighting.
The third period mercifully contained mostly 5v5 play. The Lightning played well for the first half of the period controlling play for the most part and outshooting the Pens. That’s always encouraging to see when a team has a lead late in the game.
The tide started to turn in the final ten minutes as Pittsburgh stepped up the pressure. Zach Aston-Reese got a breakaway one on one with Domingue. The Lightning backup was up to the task and made the save. A few minutes later, the Pens created another chance. This time, Hornqvist had a great look at a hat trick but couldn’t collect the puck from in his skates and Domingue was able to get back across the net to make another save.
The Lightning nearly iced the game with three minutes left on an excellent shift by the third line. Cirelli set up Joseph for a great look but he whiffed on the shot. When he collected the puck, he nearly fed a pass backdoor to Alex Killorn who would have had an open net but they couldn’t connect.
The Pens pulled Murray with 2:30 remaining but couldn’t generate much. The Lightning were able to clear the puck several times but couldn’t hit the open net. Killorn had the best chance with a minute left but missed on a backhand flip from center ice.
Fittingly, the game ended with one last penalty on the Penguins. Cirelli skated away with the puck, drove hard to the net, and forced a Penguins defender to take him down with six seconds left to avoid giving up a goal.
This wasn’t a pretty win. The first two period were particularly ugly with penalties making it impossible for either team to find a rhythm. But the Lightning made the most of their opportunities and collected two points on the road snapping their mini losing streak. The road trip continues on Saturday with a 1 PM game in Philadelphia.