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Ryan Miller stymies Lightning as Ducks steal a 3-1 victory

Ryan Miller stopped 34 shots en route to shutting down the Lightning Tuesday night.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are games that frustrate you, excite you, or bore you. Tonight, the matchup between the Anaheim Ducks and the Tampa Bay Lightning toed the line between frustrating and boring. The Ducks are one of the lesser teams in the NHL this season, thanks to injuries and poor play, so the line of thought was that Tampa Bay would prevail. That wasn’t the case as the Ducks came into Amalie Arena and stole a victory from the Lightning by a 3-1 score.

Aside from a first period that saw Anaheim have an xGF% of 56% the Lightning controlled this game. Their possession numbers in all three periods were good; 55%, 62%, and 56%. They ended the game with an xGF% of 52% and out-chanced Anaheim. Unfortunately, Anaheim’s saving grace has been their goaltending and it was the deciding factor as Ryan Miller put on a fantastic performance to shut down the Lightning.

Even though Tampa Bay did control this game for large swaths of time, they did struggle limiting quality chances against.

Natural Stat Trick, www.naturalstattrick.com

This isn’t out of the ordinary for Tampa Bay defensively, but against a team that has struggled to score it’s a bit of an eyesore. Overall, the Lightning played a solid game defensively, but two goals I would categorize as “flukey”.

The only reason this goal occurs is because the clearing attempt by Sergachev hits Nik Ritchie’s skate. Look closely, the puck is slightly on edge when Sergachev goes to push it past Ritchie and toward Braydon Coburn. Ritchie doesn’t even notice the puck since he was aiming to hit Sergachev the entire time. The puck then trickled between Adam Henrique and Yanni Gourde where Louis Domingue tried to cover it up. Henrique managed to poke the puck free and it trickled into the slot. The only player there was Josh Manson who fired it past Domingue to give Anaheim the 1-0 lead 12:04 into the period.

The Lightning continued to apply pressure on Anaheim and after pinning them in the defensive zone on consecutive shifts, they finally broke through.

Brayden Point continues his torrid scoring by tying it up 6:30 after Manson’s goal.

Jon Cooper stated, “Coming out of the second period just 1-1, I thought we deserved a little bit better fate.” He has a point here, at that juncture the Lightning were leading 21-15 in shots, controlling 58% of the shots at 5v5 and repeatedly pinning Anaheim in the defensive zone. Cooper also added, “Ryan Miller played outstanding for them and was probably the difference maker tonight.”

Tampa Bay did get into a small stretch of penalty trouble when Nikita Kucherov was called for slashing at 19:50 of the second period and then penalized for hooking at 4:13 into the third. The first penalty was killed off without much danger. The second one, however, gave Anaheim the break they needed.

“The second goal was a really good break for them...you don’t see it that often when a shot goes off the glass and comes right back in front of the net and they whack it home. That’s a big break for them.” Cooper said when asked about Anaheim capitalizing on their breaks compared to Tampa Bay. He’s right, again, in this instance. No one had a clue that the puck caromed back like that. It was lucky that Kesler even managed to see it in time to hit the puck. That’s hockey though, you take the breaks when they’re available and hope the other team doesn’t get them.

Now, the third goal doesn’t fall into the previous categories.

No idea what Sergachev was doing here. At first he had Carter Rowney covered, but once the shot came and dropped in between them Sergachev got a tiny bit lost trying to figure out where the puck was. By the time he realized Rowney had it, he was already out of position. As for Domingue, he just misread the play. You can see him go down for the initial shot and then move toward his left; this is what doomed him. Domingue was unable to recover after he realized the puck went toward his right and Rowney simply lifted it over his outstretched glove to make it 3-1.

Tampa Bay didn’t relent with the offensive pressure after falling behind by two goals. Alex Killorn had an in-close chance that Miller thwarted. A short 5-on-3 provide Tampa Bay with a chance to close the gap to one, but a J.T. Miller deflection went just wide of the post after a great setup from Kucherov (Miller’s deflected shot missed the inside post by maybe 2 inches). Interestingly, Tampa Bay went with five forward for the abbreviated 5-on-3 with Miller, Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Steven Stamkos, and Point. Once the 5-on-3 expired, they swapped out Johnson for Victor Hedman for the regular man advantage.

The Lightning continued to pepper Ryan Miller with shots (14 in the third), but the crafty veteran wasn’t letting anything past him. There was a controversial penalty on Brayden Point at the 12:12 mark of the third where he ran into Ryan Miller and was called for goaltender interference. Jake Dotchin was the defender covering him and did hook Point before he made contact, but there wasn’t much of a push by Dotchin in the officials eyes to not deem it a penalty. I can only assume the officials thought Point’s own momentum was the root cause of the collision. Needless to say, the crowd abhorrently disagreed with the call. Tampa Bay did kill the penalty with little problem though.

The Lightning’s last chance to close the gap came when Ryan Getzlaf was called for high-sticking at 17:13. Jon Cooper pulled Domingue for the remainder of the period to provide a two man advantage but Tampa Bay was unable to get anything dangerous on net. This was an aggressive move by Cooper, on that I wish he’d do more often when trailing late in the third, but Ryan Miller was too hot this evening for anything else to get by him.

Sometimes you just get goalie’d, folks.

The Good

Points, Points, and more Points

Brayden Point continued his ridiculous scoring pace by scoring in the second period. He now has 18 on the season which places him tied for second in the league (there’s a three-way tie for first place with David Pastrnak, Jeff Skinner, and Patrik Laine). Whatever Point did over the summer, I need to start doing because he is playing on a level no one was expecting. Last season was Point’s coming out party, but he’s making that campaign look like child’s play.

The Bad

Breaks

As mentioned by myself and Cooper, Anaheim got the breaks and Tampa Bay didn’t. When a goaltender is as locked in as Ryan Miller (or John Gibson, who is the far better goaltender), you need some breaks to go your way. There were numerous chances. Killorn had two great chances, as did Stamkos. Point had a great partial breakaway earlier in the second period. Kucherov had chances that were deflected wide or he miscalculated a pass. Those happen and even though Tampa Bay lost, they biggest thing moving forward is to keep playing their game. Especially with the red-hot Buffalo Sabres coming to town on Thursday.

The Whatever

Y’all have been letting me down the past few games. Let’s hear what is on your minds!