A rare Monday night tilt pitted the visiting New York Rangers against the Tampa Bay Lightning. For a period it looked as though the Rangers might play spoiler to the Lightning’s winning streak, but those thoughts quickly dissipated after Tampa Bay took the lead in the second period and cruised past New York en route to a 6-3 victory. Steven Stamkos recorded his franchise-leading 9th career hat trick and his 700th career point (in 696 games), Anthony Cirelli scored twice, and Louis Domingue stopped 23 shots in the win.
Early on there was a slight chippy feel to the game. New York was clearly aiming to knock the Lightning off their game with a physical approach, but the strategy was rather hit and miss for the first half of the period. Tampa Bay relied on their aggressive forecheck to bypass New York’s physicality and generated some early pressure, but were unable to get anything past Henrik Lundqvist.
Tampa Bay’s passing in all three zones caught the Rangers in a few odd situations, but their recovery managed to mitigate the Lightning’s chances. Whenever Tampa Bay did make a poor pass the Rangers were there to jump on it. Early on, there was a two-on-one that the Rangers missed wide, a partial breakaway that Domingue stopped, and a few other situations that were ultimately negated thanks to the Lightning defense taking the puck away.
An early power-play for Tampa Bay after Ryan Strome went off for hooking produced little for the Lightning. A tripping penalty on Victor Hedman near the midway point did provide some momentum for New York but they too were unable to convert. Regardless, New York continued to attack once play returned to 5v5 and were rewarded for their efforts.
Kevin Hayes throws it on net and it deflects off Ryan McDonagh’s skate and past Domingue. It’s a fluke, but good things happen when you throw the puck at the net. It’s a mantra every coach embraces and sometimes you get lucky. Tampa Bay almost evened the score shortly after when Victor Hedman fired a shot on net that deflected off Mika Zibanejad. Unfortunately, Lundqvist managed to stop it.
Marc Staal was called for interference after he tied up Nikita Kucherov away from a loose puck and Tampa Bay wasted little time to even the score.
Steven Stamkos doing Steven Stamkos things, folks. The biggest thing to take away from this is how Tampa Bay established control. Hedman rings the puck around the boards where Yanni Gourde wins a puck battle against Frederik Claesson. Once Claesson realizes he lost the battle, he jumps back into his defensive zone. This frees up J.T. Miller along the right wing boards to gauge the coverage that New York is showing. From there, it’s one pass to another and then it’s in Stamkos’ wheelhouse.
New York came right back 58 seconds later when Kevin Hayes essentially said, “This is my puck, it is mine and I shall find a way to score.”
Cedric Paquette got bodied off this puck—period. He had time to gauge his options, and though I don’t have an issue with him carrying it toward his right, he has to be stronger on it once Hayes pressures him. Hayes sets up Jimmy Vesey for a shot but Domingue denies him. Hayes is in the right position since Paquette didn’t recover from the initial contact and swipes it past Domingue to give New York the lead once more.
Shortly after Hayes second goal the Lightning had an odd-man rush where Victor Hedman nearly tied it, but it rung off the iron instead. Tampa Bay continued to apply pressure and managed to draw a cross-checking penalty on Chris Kreider. The ensuing power-play produced one dangerous chance but did little else. Luckily, Neal Pionk was penalized for roughing Nikita Kucherov with 31 seconds left. The 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 power-play that ensued did nothing. Tampa Bay struggled to maintain possession and looked lethargic compared to how crisp they were on Stamkos’ goal.
The Lightning needed to do one thing to get back into the game; tighten up their execution. They did just that as they blitzed New York. Tampa Bay controlled 69% of the shots at 5v5, out-chanced New York 16-5 with high danger chances being 7-0 in the Lightning’s favor, and out-shot them 16-5 in the period. New York managed a small span of three minutes near the midway point where they had control, but outside of that Tampa Bay did whatever they wanted.
Tampa Bay’s pressure caused all kinds of problems for New York as the Rangers were caught chasing in their own zone often. Tampa Bay used this pressure to pepper Lundqvist with shots, but he’s a future Hall-of-Famer for a reason (he kept New York alive often). The Lightning’s pressure did force a penalty at 5:45 when Pionk was called for tripping.
Steven Stamkos, yet again, did Steven Stamkos things.
This goal is literally absurd.
I still can't get over how Stamkos gets that much power and torque while he's basically on the heel of his back foot for this shot--AND HE STILL FIRED THIS HIGH ON THE SHORT SIDE. I literally laughed when he scored this. It's that absurd. https://t.co/o3m2aKm2hL— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) December 11, 2018
This was Stamkos’ 700th career point, in his 696th game. Stamkos is the first player from the 2008 draft to hit 700 career points. Steven Stamkos is a Lightning great and his career isn’t even over yet (he’s third in franchise history in points and he isn’t even 30 yet). Imagine where he’d be if it weren’t for the two leg injuries.
There was hilarious talk earlier in the season about the Tampa Bay Lightning captain. “He’s invisible, he doesn’t play hard, not a great leader, he’s washed up, and he should be stripped of his captaincy”. So, these are A) horribly short-sighted, B) flat-out wrong, and C) hilarious. Folks, hockey players in general are streaky. This sport quite literally thrives off of that. Every hockey player goes through streaks or has slow starts to the season, even the stars of the league. Regardless, when a player of Steven Stamkos’ caliber hits a cold-streak, the wise thing to do is to sit back and wait for him to bust out of it. Players like him are too talented not to. If you haven’t noticed, Stamkos is currently third on the team in points at 33 (in 32 games, so he’s still over a point-per-game), second in goals with 15, and third in assists with 18. Stamkos is fine, folks.
After New York’s aforementioned surge at the midway point of the period, Tampa Bay came right back at them with a physical shift from the fourth line. Shortly after, Tampa Bay scored through transition to take their first lead of the game.
Two things; Kucherov makes this goal happen with his nifty pass to Point, and Henrik Lundqvist whiffs on this one. Lundqvist doesn’t whiff on these often, so, you take them when they happen but there was nothing dangerous about McDonagh’s shot here.
A few minutes later, a two-on-one broke in the Lightning’s favor as Ryan Callahan carried the puck in with Steven Stamkos flanking him. Callahan chose to shoot instead of pass and it nearly squeaked through Lundqvist. He managed to fall back onto the puck before Stamkos could try to jam it home for the hat trick. The second period ended with the score and all the momentum in Tampa Bay’s favor. They dictated everything in that period.
Metrically, the third period was pretty ugly for Tampa Bay. New York controlled 73% of the shots at 5v5 and out-chanced Tampa Bay 6-3. The problem for New York was that a lot of this was after Tampa Bay scored two more goals—thus, score effects.
After a back and forth first half of the third, Tampa Bay struck with Anthony Cirelli putting all the work in for his seventh of the season.
“Excuse me, Mr. Claesson. This belongs to me.”
Y'all do not appreciate Anthony Cirelli enough.— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) December 11, 2018
I tweeted this after Tampa Bay killed a penalty in the first period. Cirelli does so many little things that a lot of people don’t pay attention too. The kid is fantastic in all three zones.
Y'ALL DO NOT APPRECIATE ANTHONY CIRELLI 4-2 TB.— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) December 11, 2018
Excuse the enthusiasm, but the goal had me a bit excited. Cirelli made Claesson look foolish here and Claesson’s expression after the goal tells it all.
Jon Cooper had nothing but praise for Cirelli’s play and the depth the team has displayed, “You gotta look at the Cirelli’s that have come in and really contributed for us...the way he plays, he can drag the team into the fight and it’s hard to go out on the next shift and follow his shift and not give that same kind of effort.”
Y’all need to give some more love to Anthony Cirelli.
This was Stamkos’ night, though. The Captain made sure of that 24 seconds after Cirelli made it 4-2.
Say hello to the new franchise leader in hat-tricks, Mr. Steven Stamkos—his nine career hat-tricks gives him sole possession of first place in this category (he was previously tied with Martin St. Louis at eight). That’s our Captain.
New York pushed back after Stamkos’ goal, but were denied on multiple chances by Domingue. New York’s physicality from the first period came back during the latter half of the third and it ultimately led to a fight between Eric Cernak and Matt Beleskey.
I’m not saying Beleskey outright lost, but Cernak sure didn’t lose this one. The rookie defender sure showed that he wasn’t going to be intimidated in this bout.
Unfortunately, Steven Stamkos can taketh, but Steven Stamkos can also giveth.
What Stamkos meant to do here made sense, he just didn’t get enough on the backhand pass and the puck essentially just died shortly after he got rid of it. Filip Chytil does a fantastic job out-waiting Braydon Coburn’s out-stretched body and feeds Jesper Fast for the tap in goal. New York deserves all the credit here, they took advantage of a bad turnover and converted on it.
That doesn’t mean you can stop our boy, Anthony Cirelli though.
Prior the the final goal, New York was pressuring Tampa Bay relentlessly for roughly two straight minutes. They pulled Lundqvist with a little over 2:15 left to play and they repeatedly pinned Tampa Bay in the defensive zone and cycled it around. They had more than a few chances on Domingue, but he denied all of them. Then a break happens and Tampa Bay capitalizes on it. It’s just the cherry on top that it was Cirelli who got the goal.
O Captain, My Captain
Stamkos has played in 32 games, has 15 goals, and 33 points. He is now the franchise leader in hat-tricks. He has 12 points in his last seven games with right of them being goals. The Captain has hit a hot streak and hopefully he can keep it going.
If there was one big issue with Tampa bay this evening, it was their propensity for turning it over. On the scoresheet they were credited with seven giveaways, but there were more than that with the poor passes they would occasionally do, especially in the first period. It was mostly cleaned up for the second and third period (aside from Stamkos’ turnover on the third goal), but it’s something that has been a constant over this stretch with Domingue in net. Toronto is coming to town on Thursday, that team isn’t going to miss on some of the opportunities that New York had.
Let’s hear what you have to say!