Things went from chippy to chaotic in a ten-minute span during the second period of Tampa Bay’s game against Vancouver on Tuesday night, but the Lightning held on for a physical 5-2 victory over the pesky Canucks. Cedric Paquette, Adam Erne and Nikita Kucherov all recorded a goal and an assist as the Lightning picked up points in their tenth consecutive game. The teams were throwing hits all night long and a couple of scrums led to 58 penalty minutes between the two squads in an entertaining contest.
The Lightning took to the ice with a couple of interesting roster changes. First, veteran defender Braydon Coburn was scratched in favor of young phenom Erik Cernak. Then, just before puck drop, it was announced that Danick Martel would take Ryan Callahan’s spot in the starting line-up as the ex-New York Ranger was scratched with a day-to-day, upper-body injury.
Both teams seemed eager to get things going offensively early as they traded opportunities. Cernak had a chance as he rumbled into the offensive zone and snapped a shot that was snagged by goaltender Anders Nilsson. It looked like the Lightning would have the best opportunity to draw first blood as Brock Boeser was nabbed with a questionable holding call on Yanni Gourde at the four minute mark.
The Lightning brought the league’s second ranked power play unit on the ice and promptly did nothing. Worse than nothing actually as Nikita Kucherov did a bad thing. He tried to walk the blue line and lost an edge. More importantly, he lost the puck and the Canucks were off the other way on an odd-man rush. Gourde, in an effort to prevent a good chance on net, got his stick up on the hands of Christopher Tanev. The refs called it a hook.
Four-on-four with these two teams would be exciting. So would five-on-three which is what happened a minute later. Just as Boeser’s penalty expired, Alex Killorn whacked Antoine Roussel in the face with the puck. While Roussel often does things that might deserve a whack in the face, it is still illegal. Killorn joined Gourde in the box and the Canucks had a lengthy two-man advantage.
Thanks to an exploding stick on a Boeser slapshot, a couple of errant passes, and good goaltending by Andrei Vasilevskiy the Lightning survived. Vancouver racked up the shots but failed to put one past him.
A few minutes later, Kucherov did a good thing. With a face-off in the offensive zone to Nilsson’s left, Brayden Point cleanly won the draw from Jay Beagle. Kucherov, anticipating the win, crept behind Point and the puck went right to his stick. It didn’t stay their long as Kucherov snapped a quick wrister past Nilsson for his 15th goal of the season.
The lead didn’t last long (roughly 40 seconds). Mikhail Sergachev had the puck behind his own net and tried to skate it out. It was poked off his stick and the Lightning were in scramble mode. The puck ended up at the top of the circles with Troy Stecher. He threw it back in front of the net and Tyler Motte, who had gotten inside position on Sergachev and outmuscled the youngster’s stick check, deflected it past Vasilevskiy.
Those plays are going to happen with Sergachev. With his early success, it’s easy to forget he is still so young and prone to the occasional mistake.
The Lightning rebounded as Martel, who wasn’t even part of warm-ups, received a pass off the boards from Anton Stralman. The waiver claim pick-up zoomed into the offensive zone. A nice spinning, backhand pass sprung Cedric Paquette who slammed the puck past Nilsson to reestablish the lead.
From there the Canucks slowly dictated the pace of play as they were aided by two more Lightning penalties. Vasilevskiy stood strong as he made 15 saves in the period, including one from Beagle off the face-off as the buzzer sounded.
After a nice intermission, and skating on a fresh sheet of ice, the Canucks kept the pressure on as they wrapped up their third power play of the game without scoring. They continued to build their edge in shots, but many were coming in from the perimeter and easily swatted aside by Vasilevskiy. As the first half of the period continued, the Lightning started to climb back into the game thanks to some solid, old-school forechecking.
The fourth line once again led the way. Martel grabbed a loose puck along the boards and it squirted off his stick. It looked like the Canucks would be able to break the other way but Dan Girardi, using all 900 games of his NHL experience, stepped up and kept the puck in the zone. The Canucks were caught leaning in the wrong direction and were slow to react as the puck trickled to Paquette. He fired it on net and Adam Erne, positioned in front of Nilsson, tipped it past him.
Following the goal, Miller worked through a maze of clutching arms and sticks to feed the puck to Cirelli. His shot ringed off the crossbar, but Miller drew a penalty. The Lightning worked the puck around the zone but weren’t able to get a shot off. There normal sharp passing was there, but the shots just weren’t.
From here, things started to deteriorate a bit.
Following a missed too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, Roussel checked Gourde into the partition at the end of the Lightning bench. Gourde did not care for that and he engaged Roussel in a brief round of fisticuffs. Roussel got the better of the exchange and the extra penalty for roughing. Gourde, voicing his displeasure at how the bout was officiated picked up a misconduct penalty.
The result, a five-on-three power play for the Lightning that led to a couple of solid chances. Then, as the first penalty expired things went haywire for about 30 seconds. Jake Virtanen came out of the box just in time to receive a clearing pass and was in alone on Vasilevskiy. The Big Cat calmly turned it aside.
The Canucks came right back with a two-on-one. Mikael Granlund waited for Hedman to slide by him, but forgot that the Swedish defender has the wingspan of a mature pterodactyl. He used his stick to swat the puck off of Granlund’s stick.
The puck found its way to Brayden Point who skittered in on a mini break that was turned away by Nilsson who had a quietly spectacular period.
Things really escalated when Martel had a blindside hit on Stecher. The Canuck was reaching for the puck when Martel steamed into him. Was the head the primary point of contact? It depends on who you root for. The Lightning broadcast crew didn’t think it was, the Vancouver crowd disagreed. Martel was sent off the ice for interference and Stecher was helped off the ice.
The Lightning killed the penalty and then, following an icing call, found themselves scrumming with the Canucks as Virtanen and Erik Gudbranson went after Martel. All kinds of roughing penalties were handed out, as was a sucker punch by Gudbranson (who did not get penalized) and the Lightning had a power play.
The Lightning almost made the Canucks pay on the scoreboard. Nilsson made a heck of a save as Stamkos fired a pass to Point at the front of the net that he just got a bit of a pad on it to make the save. He then denied Miller from point blank after a nifty feed from behind the net by Kucherov. The Russian forward was shaken up after making the pass as Alex Edler shoved him into the boards.
As the play continued, Paquette took a run at Petterson which led to a dust up between Paquette and half of the Canucks on the ice. Anthony Cirelli joined the fun and scored a front facelock takedown on Brock Boeser. The Canucks were the power play beneficiaries this time as Paquette picked up an extra roughing penalty.
The Third Period
With the animosity generated in the second period, things were on edge to start the third period. The Lightning also started the third period with four forwards in the penalty box (Martel, Paquette, Killorn and Gourde) and forty-six seconds of a penalty to kill. Not the best way to protect the lead, but that they did.
Things settled down on the ice and it was almost as if the bickering and punches thrown were forgotten as both teams focused on actually winning the game instead of settling real or imagined slights.
After a strong shift by the Lightning that saw Dan Girardi have his initial shot stopped by Nilsson only to ricochet the rebound off of the Vancouver crossbar, the Canucks finally snuck one past Vasilevskiy. Tanev, from the point, snuck a shot through a maze of bodies and the Lightning goaltender saved the initial shot but couldn’t stop it from leaking through his pads. The puck slowly trickled toward the goal line and Vasilevskiy nudged it over as he spun to try and cover it up.
The Canucks kept the pressure on and Vasilevskiy had to make one of his patented, body contorting stops as he kicked a rebound to the middle of the circles, right where Bo Horvat was gliding in. He tried to chip it at the net and Vasilevskiy stretched to stop where he thought the shot the was going, blockerside high. Unfortunately, Stamkos nudged the shot in the opposite direction and Vasilevskiy stretched his left leg as far as he could and it was just enough to keep it out of the net. Just another day at the office for Vasy.
The Lightning did a good job of limiting the Canucks’ explosive offense. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. They also kept pushing pucks at the Vancouver net. They didn’t sit back with the one-goal lead and forced the Canucks to expend energy defending. It finally paid off with just over two-and-a-half minutes to play. Stamkos, who on a previous shift was throwing his body around in the defensive zone, got the puck at center ice and peddled into the Vancouver zone.
He had a momentary look at Yanni Gourde but elected to shoot it instead. The puck found its way under Nilsson’s arm and into the back of the net. The Lightning had their two-goal lead back and the energy left the building.
Vancouver pulled Nilsson with under two minutes to go and Ondrej Palat put it into the empty net just seconds later. The Lightning were back in the win column and extended their points streak to 10 games with the 5-2 victory.
The fourth line. They threw checks, they forechecked and they added two goals. You really can’t ask for more than that from Danick Martel, Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne. Martel adds a bit more offense to that line than Ryan Callahan does without sacrificing any of his desire to throw his body around. That combination of skill and willingness to be physical will be what keeps him on the roster.
The penalty kill. The Lightning killed off almost a minute of five-on-three shorthanded time early in the game. They then killed off four more penalties throughout the game. They did a good job of keeping their shape while shorthanded, didn’t over pursue the puck, and made it tough for the Canucks to get clean looks at the net.
Andrei Vasilevskiy. Once again he’s the best player on the ice. He turned aside 36 shots, made a key stop on Virtanen’s breakaway and several big saves in the third period.
The third period. Following a chaotic second period and nursing a two-goal lead, the Lightning could have played conservatively and gone into a defensive shell. Instead, once they killed off the period-opening penalty, they dictated much of the play in the third period, outshooting the Canucks 15-8 in the final frame. Even after Vancouver narrowed the lead to one, the Lightning didn’t lose their composure. This was a veteran win for the team.
The penalties. The first period featured four straight penalties. They were lazy (Killorn’s high-sticking) or forced by turnovers (Gourde and Cernak’s hooking calls). Yes, they killed them all off, but those types of penalties got them out of their rhythm and keep players like Stamkos and Kucherov off of the ice. It’s not a successful path forward.
The second period. The last half of that period was a mess and everyone had a hand in it. The Canucks, especially Gudbranson and Roussel, were chipping and chirping all game long. Gudbranson took a cheap shot at Martel that should have penalized. The Lightning were no angels either, as Martel’s hit on Stecher was questionable at best and Paquette’s run at Petterson sparked another brawl. The refs let things escalate a bit too much as well.
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